Why this church opened its own coworking space - Technical.ly Brooklyn

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Nov. 12, 2014 3:59 pm

Why this church opened its own coworking space

St. Lydia's, a dinner church in Gowanus, opened the space in September, helping to make the congregation financially sustainable.

Coworking underway in St. Lydia's Gowanus space.

(Photo by Brady Dale)

A church in Gowanus has established itself this year in a permanent space, supported in part by coworking during the week.

We spoke to Julia Stroud, Community Coordinator at St. Lydia’s, at the still somewhat new space on Monday, who explained that the church’s services have operated out of a few different homes in since it first started holding services on the Lower East Side in Fall 2008.

While we were there, three coworkers were using the space, along with Stroud. All three of them were doing tech-related work at that moment: one did tech consulting in higher ed, one was a developer and one was setting up a stealth-mode startup of some kind.

Stroud is the second person to hold her role since St. Lydia’s pastor, Emily Scott, founded the church, whose services are oriented around shared dinners.

St. Lydia's, Coworking space and Church, Brooklyn

The St. Lydia’s foyer, looking out onto Bond Street. (Photo by Brady Dale)

While their services bounced from space to space around the city, the church’s staff worked from coworking spaces. First, the Brooklyn Creative League and then DUMBO Startup Lab, Stroud explained. As the community reached a point where it believed it could sustain its own space, the team hit upon the idea of coworking as a way to make the space financially sustainable.

Inside, the setup is simple. A kitchen at the back. A few longish tables through the center of the room and a few seats without tables at the very front.

There’s no big couch or conference room or ping pong table. There is a tiny backyard. One of the most striking differences between St. Lydia’s and other coworking spaces: each table is covered with a tablecloth.

Scott told us via email that a furniture upgrade is coming. They’re getting custom-made tables that switch from dinner tables to work carrels.

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St. Lydia's, Coworking space and Church, Brooklyn

St. Lydia’s kitchen. (Photo by Brady Dale)

The place has 25 seats right now. Scott estimates it will max out at 40 full-time members and 60 part-timers. All spots work on a sliding scale. Full-time starts at $160 and part-time at $50. (More details on that here.)

Stroud said they have eight members now. About a third of them are also attendees of the church. One unique benefit of coworking at a dinner church is leftover food. The space also has a weekly potluck lunch for its members.

Stroud said the leadership team believed that coworking was a good fit for the overall purpose of St. Lydia’s, in building community and operating a holistic space. The church moved to the space in July. Coworking started in September.

Here’s our list of all the coworking spaces we know of in Brooklyn, which we’ve been updating with our coverage.

St. Lydia's, Coworking space and Church, Brooklyn

Seasonal decor. (Photo by Brady Dale)

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Brady Dale

Brady Dale is a tech reporter, comedian and storyteller. In July 2015 he joined the New York Observer. Brady was Technical.ly Brooklyn's lead reporter from August 2013 till June 2015. A native of Pittsburg, Kansas, he went to Cornell and worked as a progressive community organizer for over a decade before quitting his job to pursue writing.

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