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White Rock ThirdSpace challenges ‘crisis of isolation’

Peninsula church group builds community outside faith
ThirdSpace organizer Bruce McAndless-Davis speaks with Simone Feldman, a first-timer at the cafe, Wednesday morning. (Aaron Hinks photo)

To adapt to a culture that one minister suggests is becoming indifferent to organized religion, Peninsula United – an amalgamation of Crescent United, First United and Sunnyside United churches – has found a new way to serve the area’s desire for a sense of community.

Located at 1381 George St., ThirdSpace is an inclusive community hub organized by United Church minister Bruce McAndless-Davis and a team of Semiahmoo Peninsula volunteers.

Hosting various programs throughout the week and month, the decor of the facility may strike a guest as peculiar, especially for those who have become accustomed to traditional Christian programs or church-related projects. Instead of images of Jesus, crosses, stained glass or stacks of Bibles, the space is decorated with art, plants, children’s toys and a television.

Although Christianity is the foundation of those who organize the space, promoting the religion is not the objective of the programming or services offered, McAndless-Davis told Peace Arch News over a cup of coffee Wednesday.

He agreed people seem to attend church for two reasons, one to strengthen their relationship with God, and the other to strengthen their relationship with community. ThirdSpace, he said, is there to build the latter.

“Some folks are comfortable and happy with what they have always had at church. That’s fine, we’re not stopping that… This is all about going out into the community and serving the needs here,” he said, noting a challenge in today’s world is a “crisis of isolation.”

“We provide a space for people to connect with each other and make new friends, develop deeper community. Not just be friendly, but develop deeper, lasting connections.”

During PAN’s hour-long discussion, two people visited the space for their first time.

Simone Feldman, who lives nearby at Five Corners, was one of those guests. Despite being Jewish, Feldman said she started going to First United Church for its musical events because “it’s got great acoustics.”

“For me, I need connection. Sense of community so we’re not so isolated. I really like the conversational piece,” she said at ThirdSpace.

Feldman heard ThirdSpace was going to host meditation classes, which caught her interest.

“I’m into meditation. The spiritual part of connecting and a little bit of God in there, and a little bit of coffee and milk. It’s always good together,” Feldman said.

One of the first initiatives ThirdSpace started was the introduction of PFLAG – formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – in the South Surrey community.

The creation of the PFLAG chapter in South Surrey was an important one for McAndless-Davis, who has a teenager who’s transgender.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed my shirt,” McAndless-Davis proudly said, pointing to his T-shirt that features a printed graphic of a pride flag made from coloured light-sabers. “It combines two passions, Star Wars and inclusivity.”

He said PFLAG has been a “powerful” experience, adding that it’s routinely attended by eight to 20 parents, family members and “often grandparents” who seek more information about LGBTQ. Meetings are held at Sunnyside United Church.

PAN published an article about the PFLAG/Sunnyside partnership last November and received some backlash in response to a front-page photograph of a transgender woman holding a LGBTQ sign in front of the church.

Told of the criticism, McAndless-Davis said, “It’s really sad and it’s even a bit infuriating… If our faith is not about caring for our neighbours and loving each other, then what is it about? I think that’s at the very core of our faith and any faith.”

It wasn’t the first time the issue has caused dissent. In 2003, the United Church of Canada’s general council affirmed acceptance of LGBTQ as part of the “marvelous diversity of creation.” Following the decision, some congregations elected to leave the church over the issue.

Prior to setting up ThirdSpace last spring, Peninsula United struggled to find a location, McAndless-Davis said, noting landowners were reluctant in leasing property.

“We had trouble, there still are retail spaces open that we could have afforded and wanted to use, but the landlords were a little hesitant…. I think the idea of a drop-in. They were imagining homeless people, which, frankly, would be most welcome here. But that’s not our primary target.”

ThirdSpace drop-in café is open Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to noon. A list of free programs can be found at

Aaron Hinks photo ThirdSpace curator Bruce McAndless-Davis speaks with Simone Feldman, a first-timer at the café, Wednesday morning.

About the Author: Aaron Hinks

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