By Rosy Robson, a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Throughout the summer, I have been witnessing people and ministries doing ordinary, traditional things in ways or settings that are different, creative, and innovative. These people are not necessarily re-inventing the wheel, but are turning the wheel differently. Habitat Tavern and Commons, set to open in the coming days, is one of those turning-wheels-differently places.
With much imagination and innovation, Jonathan Myers and Matt Addis are creating a space for both community and beer in downtown Asheville, NC. The idea for Habitat comes from recognition of the centrality of the table in bringing people together. “Divine events are happening around tables with pints of drinks in hand more often than not,” Addis said. Myers and Addis are crafting a space for such events to occur with delicious microbrews.
Reclaiming a hundred year old building, they’ve been working on restoring and renewing what will be Habitat’s home in the Five Points Neighborhood of Asheville. The space has two distinct parts: the Tavern side, where the beer is brewed and served, and the Commons side, a multifunctional space that breathes possibility for larger scale conversation and collaboration.
What will they use such a space for? “It’s about creating space for something to happen,” said Myers. An ordained priest with experience in community organizing, Myers hopes that Habitat will be “a space where waiting and celebration can happen, mourning and grief…a place where the full experience of human life can be explored.” Myers and Addis have been building relationships with their neighbors and community, and the possibilities for what will happen at Habitat are endless. Yoga classes? Movie nights? Meeting space? All of the above and more? What exactly will happen within Habitat’s walls is unfolding. “We’re still learning how to be in that space. We’re meeting lots of people. We’ve been welcomed with open arms,” said Addis. I left my meeting with Addis and Myers inspired by their attitude of openness and responsiveness towards how Habitat will be a part of the community.
Social scientist Robert Putnam (author of Bowling Alone) argues that over the last hundred years, there has been a decline in the number of connections between individuals in society resulting in a lack of social capital and disorientation between and among institutions and individuals. Social capital is built in what social scientist Ray Oldenburg terms “third places,” environments that are distinct from home and work and that root community life. Habitat Tavern and Commons is indeed one of those third places, an incubator for social capital through conversation and gathering with beer in hand.