It’s a joy sharing our experience with others. In recent weeks we’ve received several how-to questions about Potluck Church, and it got us wondering if those who read this blog might also have similar questions. So, here are three quick questions and answers:
How do you arrange the tables?
At present we place four 96” x 30”, plastic, heavy-duty folding tables together into a large rectangle and set up to 18 chairs around the large rectangle. Then we cover it with two barely overlapping king-sized white sheets to give us the look of a unified tablecloth. This allows us to all sit together and have one conversation around what feels like one table. In the center with the Christ candle we will have some sort of simple table decoration that will set our theme or enhance our worship time together in some way.
Do you have music in worship?
Other than times when we listen together to a piece of music that relates to our theme or scripture, or the annual Christmas caroling trip, we typically do not have music. The simple reason for this is that no one around the table currently has expressed an interest in sharing their gifts of music with us. Our worship is an authentic expression of the spiritual gifts present around the table when we gather. Music would be a wonderful way to worship in Potluck Church. This question reminds me that Matthew 26:30 tells us after Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Last Supper, they sang a hymn before they went out to the Mount of Olives. What a meaningful way to end such a meal!
How do we decide who prays?
We typically have an opening prayer and another dedicated time of prayer as we end our conversation and turn toward the bread and cup. Both of these are often spoken extemporaneously. Sometimes a topic or liturgical season will lead us toward a printed prayer that is recited. Whatever the style, type or method of prayer, we simply ask for volunteers in the moment. “Who would like to pray for our meal tonight?” Or, “Who would like to say a prayer for these prayers that we’ve shared?” Most nights someone will quickly speak up. If no one feels called to pray aloud, we will have a time of silence to say our own prayers from our hearts. By inviting everyone around the table into opportunities for leadership, we make the worship together.
What questions do you have about Potluck Church? Send me a message and we'll try to answer them as best we can.
At Potluck Church we gather together at one table. There are rare weeks when our table does not comfortably hold enough chairs. A few weeks ago we experienced one of those times. In a hurry, we added an extra table on the end to allow us to accommodate three more people, but we had no extra tablecloth on hand. To me, it felt like a kids table tacked on the end—like we had two-tiered seating. We joked that those chairs were “the cheap seats.” In hindsight I wish that I had offered to take one of those “cheap seats”—to do as Jesus encouraged and take a lower seat.(“All who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matt. 23:12, NRSV) But that’s hindsight for ya.
Every indoor worship space has a maximum capacity—a population number at which point the room no longer feels comfortable. And the rule of thumb for the traditional church is 80% occupancy of what the pews will technically hold. At 80% clergy are encouraged to either expand the sanctuary or offer more worship services. The warning is that visitors will turn away if the church grows past 80%.
But what is the percent capacity for a dinner church? For a worship where everyone sits at the table? If we are to be a church that claims all are welcome at the table, then an actual seat at the table with space for a plate seems critical to our way of worship.
We are in the final moments of eclipse countdown right now as we welcome visitors and prepare to experience totality today in western Kentucky. This will be my first solar eclipse, so I don’t quite know what to expect, but I imagine that it will be a spiritual moment for many of us—to recognize a sense of unity that we all share on this little planet in the universe, and to see the power of creation’s ability to put on a show for generations of creatures, great and small.
In the early days of Potluck Church we began by asking the question “Where did you see God this week?” Worshipers would share as they felt led to answer. Sometimes there were great silences, followed by confessions that God had been hard to see in their weeks. Then one among us suggested that we change the word “see” to “experience,” because “see” is too limiting of a word. And so now we ask a different question—a question that might allow us to talk about the eclipse as a place where we experience our creator not just in what we will see in the sky or on the ground, but also in what we will feel, and hear and sense with our whole beings and in our connectedness.
Thank you in advance, Creator God, for the opportunity to experience this eclipse moment today with you and in unity with all of your creatures.
In the early months of worshiping together as Potluck Church, we intentionally took our time to slowly establish a culture of trust. We each led by example in opening up our lives to one another and daring to share our doubts. But very quickly we came to realize that building trust was not hard around the table. Something about the table and the meal and the sharing of food opened us up to one another—even newcomers and strangers—in a deep way.
In a research article, “A recipe for friendship: Similar food consumption promotes trust and cooperation,” Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach write about how their study found that people who eat similar foods are more trusting of one another. Even though our meals are potluck, and our plates are somewhat varied based on self-selection, just the act of eating from a common table together, in itself, builds significant, deep, and seemingly lasting trust.
[See article: http://home.uchicago.edu/~kwoolley/Woolley&FishbachJCP.pdf. Hear more on NPR’s Morning Edition (Feb. 2, 2017): “Why Eating the Same Food Increases People’s Trust and Cooperation” http://www.npr.org/2017/02/02/512998465/why-eating-the-same-food-increases-peoples-trust-and-cooperation]
☐ grape juice
☐ a right-sized loaf of bread
☐ a Christ candle
☐ tablecloth or sheet
☐ table and chairs
☐ a welcome or “meets here” sign
☐ ice, water, and other drinks
☐ paten and chalice, or a plate and cup
☐ plates, cups, and utensils
☐ salt and pepper
☐ serving utensils
☐ hand sanitizer
☐ thought-provoking table décor or seasonal centerpiece
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?”
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.