It's amazing how fast this "free" time unemployment has left me fills up.
My mom's current project has really turned into my current project, too. Maybe it could pan out into a job. Who knows? But...here's the vision.
Location: Downtown Austin.
Market: 30-somethings, downtown entertainment seekers, people who don't want church but DO want that elusive "meaning."
Concept: Part coffee house, part bookstore/gift shop, part Austin-centric art gallery, part rentable space/music venue, part community-building enterprise.
That's a lot of parts, but they all feed into each other. The vision is a non-profit devoted to building community in Austin. The core business is a place to buy gifties and sandwiches and books. Pretty stable business platform. Mom's been running this sort of thing for years now. The "Part Two" is the idea of providing space for book groups, dancing workshops, lectures, seminary student classes, musical performances, open mic readings.
The "Part Three" is a concept I'm still learning called "The Emergent Church." This is DIY spirituality, assembling spiritual meaning outside of the chapel. Maybe it's not Christian (if I'm involved, it's going to have to be religiously open). Like the UU church, a place to ask questions, have conversations, and find your own meaning.
Can it work? Yes, I think so. Can it be a roaring success? I don't know. I'm not sure how the "Emergent Church" factor will play in.
I've had a very strange conversation with the minister at First Baptist about this...a round-table discussion with two priests, two churchy volunteer types, my Seminary grad mother, and myself as the token agnostic-pagan. It was an odd group...but a very positive one. Church is changing, even disintergrating, but people still need community and meaning.
What are the hurdles? Money, volunteers, community. Money is the hardest one, but there are ways around this. Volunteers...it won't take that many, maybe a core of 30 or so to keep things moving, and another 30 or so that show up to help with concerts and lectures. Not hard. Community, well, that's a challenge. A lot of people will have to want to be involved, even in a so-so way.
I'm seeing outdoor church services, an interfaith podcast from Austin, room space for pagan groups (because dammit, those are my people :), bellydancers and drum circles on the veranda once I figure out what a veranda is, and long theological conversations with strangers on Sundays.
Can I get a job doing this, and scrape together the pittance I need to keep a roof over my head? Possibly. Will I have insurance? Eh...maybe. As it is, my scatterbrain skills in marketing are coming in remarkably handy, and I'm learning a lot, and contributing a lot. But on the other paw, I can't afford to do this much longer.
Anyway...the ask, because it was coming--would anybody be interested in the un-church, lots of coffee and croissants, and conversation-time with no religious strings attached? The more of my friends I have with me when this starts (not as volunteers, even, just as people interested in this sort of environment) the better. The core group is going to shape the theology of the overall group, and I want an open theology, with sexy dancing Buddhists and convivial athiests (I'd have thought that was a contradiction in terms, except that I share a bed with one).
Who knows when this will happen. Maybe september. That seems likely, if it does happen. It's a good vision, I'm thinking it's an actual workable business, with a very little bit of sponsorship from angels and corporations. In the meantime, the challenges of proto-business are a lot of fun, even if they don't leave me enough time to keep caught up on Life, the Universe, and Everything.