May 9, 2017

Seats at the Table

What is it about tables? We all hear the anecdotes and research about the importance of family dinner around a table. But what about dinner around a table with our church family, or even our community?

The Diocese of Texas started a project several years ago called Sharing Faith Dinners. As its website states, “Sharing Faith dinners invite people to gather around a meal and participate in life together. At each dinner, a moderator will prompt participants to share stories of their faith journey with printed questions. Sharing Faith provides a welcoming and safe way to engage one another, articulate our faith and build relationships.”

Most often, I’ve seen these dinners focused on an individual parish, with little or no overlap between neighboring congregations. What if we started to partner with other churches (Episcopal or not!), and invited each other to conversation over dinner. Or, what if we really went crazy and invited our community?

I recently learned about a project started in Chicago, called On The Table. An initiative of the Chicago Community Trust, On The Table invites residents to dine together, discuss community issues, and work together solve problems. It started four years ago with no ambition except to celebrate the Trust’s 99th anniversary. On the Table has thrived. In 2016 more than 55,000 Chicago residents gathered around more than 3,500 tables. Next week (on Tuesday, May 16, 2017), residents from around Chicago will gather again. If you’re in the Chicago area, check it out!

But as I look at the list of partners, I don’t see many churches (and no Episcopal churches).

What if we, as an institution and as individual Christians, took that model (community dinners to discuss community issues) and incorporated it in our parishes?

And what if we, as an institution and as individual Christians, sought to join others around tables (not our own tables!) in these important conversations happening in our communities?