In the autumn of 2014, an unknown author – according to the page source code, it was Stefan Lesting, a blogger and expert on church and Web 2.0 – wrote on the blog frischfischen.de:
»In my opinion, it would also be conceivable and immediately innovative for Kirche to convert their locations into coworking spaces for church employees partially. (…) I think it would be exciting to take a step towards Catholic coworking spaces and, if necessary, book the next desk on the road with the help of an app.«Stefan Liesig on frischfischen.de.
Two things are fascinating about it. Firstly, an author who is not familiar with the scene writes the term ›coworking‹ correctly, without the hyphen separating it. Secondly, he expresses transferring the decentralized possibilities by using coworking spaces to an organization like the Catholic Church in Germany. Five and a half years and a global pandemic later, some companies have only just reached this point.
Last year, and again this year, two Berlin Free Churches wrote to me to ask whether coworking could be a field of activity for them as a church. They were interested in using the space that became available more efficiently and, at the same time, creating a contemporary offer for the people of their community. So the idea of combining coworking and church is very topical and occupies people.
Soon we will also see the first coworking space in a church in Germany. At the moment, there is
no* example of a church coworking project in Germany. Except for profaned churches desecrated and no longer used for worship, as the former St. Elisabeth Church in Aachen. Today, it is the »digitalHUB« seat – the digitalization association, which operates its own coworking space.
* UPDATE Monika Neht from the »Kirchlicher Dienst in der Arbeitswelt der Nordkirche« sent me the reference to two church coworking projects in Germany, which I did not know yet. I would therefore like to mention them as a correction and addition. 1️⃣ One is the »Villa Gründergeist« in Frankfurt (Main) in Hesse, Germany's first Catholic coworking space according to its own claims. It is run by the Diocese of Limburg, for whom the coworking space is also an ecclesiastical innovation center and a social hub for future social issues. 2️⃣ The other is the »FishHub«, a coworking project of the regional church in #Stuttgart in #BadenWürttemberg. This coworking space, similar to the examples from Austria and Switzerland mentioned below, aims to support and promote startups with a vision of social impact and sustainability, as well as ideas in the context of the ›digitalization and ethics‹ debate.
Churches and synagogues in
the USA are ahead.
It’s different in the USA: The synagogue in Flatbush, a district in the New York borough of Brooklyn, offers workspaces that can be booked for half or full days. Also in Brooklyn is the »St. Lydia Church,« which functions as a café and coworking space (Pauline Roussel portrayed it on Coworkies.com). In Los Angeles, there is the »Epiphany Space,« in Chicago the Jewish »SketchPad,« and in Manassas, the »Haymarket Church« offers coworking.
In Dallas, there is the coworking space »SyncLife« at the Central Christian Church, founded by Daryn DeZengotita. She is also the founder of »Table Coworking« and activates unused spaces during the day as temporary coworking spaces. Before she started SyncLife, a church coworking space, she had already founded one in the United Methodist Church White Hall in eastern Dallas. Cat Johnson interviewed her in 2018 for Allwork.Space.
In Austria, in 2018, the City Pastoral Department of the Archdiocese of Salzburg founded the »Mirabell 5« coworking space to provide a place for local social entrepreneurs who actively develop solutions to social challenges, poverty, discrimination, or environmental pollution. One year earlier, the Coworking Space »Blau 10« of the Reformed National Church in Zurich’s Old Town was launched, focusing on local social entrepreneurs.
In Germany, the »Kirchlicher Dienst in der Arbeitswelt« (KDA) of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Northern Germany (Nordkirche) seems to be thinking coworking intensively in churches. In 2019 church representatives from Schleswig-Holstein visited the »Cobaas« in Preetz, the temporary »CoWorkLand« site in Husum, and the »Alter Heuboden« in Felde. That was also the occasion for the 5th District Church Conference of the Nordkirche last year:
Who in Germany throws
the first stone?
There are many reasons for church-run coworking spaces or cooperation between coworking spaces and churches. Churches could bring unused spaces back to life and create a perceptually connected place where people come together. They would show a contemporary interpretation of a church with a concept based on community, solidarity, and openness.
For coworking spaces, especially in cities, there are new opportunities to start or grow. Instead of having to move to barely affordable locations, in now often remote parts of the town, because one can no longer afford anything else, one would have access to very central places in the neighborhood, mostly planned around churches. Cooperation could save money, especially at the beginning of the coworking space.
In rural areas, the church has many vacancies, probably even more than in the city. In addition to churches, parsonages with parish halls are also suitable as coworking spaces. My grandfather was a pastor, and the parish hall in the vicarage in my memory was always open to people who wanted to use it. Today, I only know this approach of openness and trust in the community from coworking spaces.
For the people who could work in the coworking spaces, it would also improve a lot. Whether in the country or the city, they would have a shorter distance to their workplace. That means less stress, a healthier life, less traffic, less CO2 emissions, and more time for family and friends. They would also be more involved in their neighborhood, which helps local civil society.