Social rules dictate that religion and politics shouldn't be discussed in mixed company or among new people, but local Lifetree Cafe coordinators encourage just that during weekly meet-ups.
Lifetree Cafe is a Colorado-based organization that distributes materials to help facilitate conversations on a local level about important world topics. Each week, anyone is invited to join an already dedicated group of about 20 people who meet in Delaware and Columbus locations to discuss topics ranging from gay marriage and immigration laws to the beauty of nature.
"A conversation cafe is designed to bring people together for discussion rather than debate, because the point is to build relationships with people who don't necessarily think the same way that you think," said Mariann Strozier, who, along with her husband, founded a local Lifetree group through Meadow Park Church of God in September 2012.
Strozier said she is looking to get more people in on the conversation when Lifetree moves its Delaware meeting location to Powell on Wednesday, July 10.
The group that met from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Pathway Church in Delaware now will gather at Tim Hortons, 3700 Discovery Lane.
"The Delaware location is moving because we want to reach people who may not feel comfortable coming into a church setting," said Meg Scaggs, Meadow Park Lifetree co-director. "We also want to begin building relationships within the southern Delaware County community, because we're planning to launch a second campus of Meadow Park Church in that area in 2014."
During the meetings, a host guides the conversation with prepared questions, and a true-life story is always told through a film to bring the topic to life.
Although the meetings are allotted just one hour, Strozier said the conversations sometimes are so riveting that participants will linger long after the ending time.
Because there is a moderator and everyone weighs in with the understanding that debating won't be tolerated, Scaggs said Lifetree meetings are a safe place to share ideas and learn different viewpoints -- but just sitting back and watching is fine, too.
"You're welcome to talk, but if you don't want to, that's totally OK," she said. "You really are welcome just as you are, and that's really the cool thing about it, because there is no pressure."
Upcoming topics for July include coping with grief, UFOs, "toxic faith" and mental illness.
In addition to the Wednesday-night meetings in Powell, Meadow Park also hosts 6:30 p.m. meetings each Thursday at the church. A separate Lifetree organization also holds meetings at 7 p.m. Mondays at Tree of Life Christian School, 5000 Arlington Centre Blvd. in Upper Arlington.
Strozier said no matter which meeting a person chooses to attend or what knowledge or opinion one brings to the topic, everyone should walk away feeling enlightened and accepted.
"When people have disconcerted opinions about things, they tend to isolate from one another rather than come together and have a healthy discussion about it," Strozier said.
"That's our purpose. We want to be a connected to the community that we serve, and if we keep allowing differences to divide us, we can't possibly have any kind of connection or goodwill feelings toward each other."