Meet in an accessible, welcoming place—a place that feels good to enter. If you have a table and chairs, that’s great! If not, spread a tablecloth or bed sheet like a picnic. Set a food and drink table to the side with salt and pepper, napkins, ice, and hand sanitizer. Real plates, utensils, and glasses add to the “slow food” nature of the meal. Set a place for Christ with a paten (plate) of bread and a chalice (cup) of juice or wine at one seat. Place a candle (the light of Christ) in the middle of the table and matches or butane lighter at one seat. If copies of the Bible are available, set them on the table. If some table décor comes to mind to help set a theme or celebrate a season or holiday, place it on the center.
Above all, just make a place to worship. Don’t let the details become obstacles to getting started. Just do it!
Pray for the gathering that will be built in the room—the people that will come, the worship that will be made, and the communion with God that will take place.
The assignment was to write about our model for ministry—a metaphor, a story, or a role. Some wrote about seeing the minister as a teacher, a resident theologian, or orchestra conductor.
For me, it was my family’s thanksgiving host. Woven together by the host, our thanksgiving table invites family members to offer together their old, familiar favorite dishes or their brand-new experiments, to make an amazing meal of giving thanks. She makes sure that all are included, and, if someone doesn’t have a place to go for the meal, she adds more room at the table for a widower neighbor, a cousin’s boyfriend, or a single friend from town.
Ministry can offer us all the opportunity to bring what we have to offer—our gifts, talents, wonderings, our doubts, and questions--and weave it all together into something greater than the sum of the parts. Our ministry together can expand our definition of “family” and make room at the Lord’s Table.
And when there are leftovers at the end of the day, we are left asking, “Who else is hungry? Would anyone like a plate of leftovers to take to someone?”
Early on, we talked about the need for a safe space to share our faith journeys, confess our failings, and wonder and doubt together. We agreed on some ground rules, like listening with respect, appreciating the sharer’s courage, seeking to understand, and coming to the table with a curious mind and an open heart.
This culture of respect still continues these years later—even through conversations about almost any current hot topic you can imagine. We admit that we don’t know everything. We encourage each other and challenge each other. We strive to find the common ground that we can.
But regardless of whether we discover agreement in words, there is the greatest common ground to be claimed in the Lord’s Supper—the act of communion. Throughout all of our conversation, whether we agree or disagree, we lean into the breaking of bread and lifting of cup. Sitting at the Lord’s table, and finally passing the cup and bread to one another, we receive reconciliation. We embrace the great mystery of God that is beyond our comprehension; we recognize that we are all children of God, and we love one another.
There is the potluck meal, of course—the setting for our worship. And we always have the open communion of the Lord’s Supper—the bread and cup. What gives the worship its structure is less a liturgy, and more of a series of questions:
Would anyone like to pray for our meal?
Where did you see/experience God this week?
What is your prayer today?
Is anyone feeling called to pray for our prayers tonight?
What is your word of blessing upon this gathering?
What word or phrase will you take with you from this worship tonight?
About the time we pass around the cookies and cut the desserts, we ask questions that help us explore scripture or our discussion topic for the evening. Questions are so powerful—often more powerful than answers. So, we live the questions together. Somewhere in this midst of all of this, we hope that worship occurs and that God is pleased.
What if Jesus’s constant dining and feeding and dining and feeding—in Luke alone, there are 5:29, 7:36, 8:55, 9:13, 10:7, 10:39, 11:37, 14:1, 19:7, 22:14, 24:30 and 24:42—were intended as more than a social service program, more than a standalone activity of a fellowship committee, more than a symbolic act to be mimicked in a worship service? What if the meal was Jesus’s way of forming the fundamental worship of the church?
And what if, today, the church didn’t just talk in metaphor about an abundant table open to all but instead gathered around an actual table where folks from any station in life pulled up a chair to experience the Lord’s Supper in the context of a robust meal and worshipped God? What if our worship was not just a spiritual nourishing of mind and soul but also a physical ministry that fed the hungry body, too?
Over and over, I found myself in conversations, hearing the need for a relational, communal and intergenerational worship experience. And I wondered about the possibilities of a faith community whose root worship experience is table fellowship. Might sitting around a table and tasting the real food and sharing our stories and faith questions change what we eat, how we care for our bodies and whom we welcome at our tables? Would it change how we tend the earth that provides us food? Could I come to more know Jesus through this potluck church? And, if we leave a seat for Christ, would He come and dine with us?
I knew that God was calling us to spread a table and see what Christ did with it. The response has been vocationally affirming. Since October 2013, others have felt this call, as well, and have joined us in this experiment into “Potluck Church.” We’ve gathered weekly for worship, meeting with three to 13 people.
The vision is to reach folks who have a faith that values wonder (i.e., living the questions) and table fellowship and who, for whatever reason, do not typically worship in a traditional setting on a Sunday morning. Yet, the supper table on a weeknight seems to them a fitting place to meet in worship, break bread and explore their faith in community.
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.