A Theology of Place.

Or, how a coffee shop can change who you are.

An Average Day in the Life.

Today I got to Portland Brew around 2:30, and grabbed a mug of coffee. The front room has these huge windows, and I grabbed a seat facing them.

This is far from the first time I have watched the exact same sunset.

In August of 2018, I was starting a Master’s degree that was largely online, and I needed somewhere to work other than my house. I chose this random coffeeshop, and since then have spent an ungodly amount of time here.

Most of those hours were spent listening to music.

To this day, Mac Miller’s Swimming tastes like drip coffee.

If I hear anything off of Joji’s BALLADS 1, it is December of 2018 and I am depressed, walking through the freezing cold into Portland Brew with an armful of books.

Hannah Hunt by Vampire Weekend sounds like a spring day spent sitting on the porch and reading for fun.

Bon Iver’s RABi takes me back to the many times I have hid tears (of sorrow, of joy, of loss) in one of the corner seats here.

Just as much as this coffeeshop has fit my life into it,

the place exposes me to the lives of those sitting around me. I’ve seen regulars ordering the same thing for the millionth time, or first dates that go really well, or breakups over a cup of iced coffee.

Throughout these two years,

I’ve consistently found myself reading some thick textbook at my favorite table here, feeling maybe more than a little impressed at my ability to understand the book, but then looking up to see the people in Portland Brew, and wondering if any of what I’ve learned actually matters to them.

Today, I find myself thinking about place, and it’s role in the life of the people of God.

As a kid reading the Bible, I always mentally skipped the names of places, from Judah to Philistia, or Galilee to Corinth. It just never quite seemed important, in large part because I didn’t know any of those places.

When I tell the story of God bringing about wholeness in my own life,

I will have to mention the summer camp I grew up going to, Forest Home. I’ll talk about Lipscomb University’s campus, and the Flathead valley of northwestern Montana where I did a summer internship, and now, the house on Grandview Ave where I’ve lived for the past year and a half.

God’s Place in Our World.

I find myself thinking that maybe good theology starts not with big words and even bigger concepts, but with place. Asking not “who is God?” or “what is God up to?”, but “what is God up to here?”

I won’t pretend to fully understand it, but I just get the sense there’s something holy in that.

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Lorne Jaques

Writer. Teacher. Pastor. Interpreter of strange times, and aspiring polymath.