As we did last year, we again gathered this year during Lent for an evening meal fellowship on Wednesday nights. Not very creatively named “Table Church.” Simple and it’s what we do. We gather at 6 with the idea of “bring a munchie, bring a friend.” To gather for the meal, fellowship, discussion and prayer all shared around the table. Last year we had 6 people the first week but had 20 by the end of Lent. And we talked about continuing a mid-week evening gathering but for slot of reasons we never really got there. This year we again gathered during Lent and our focus was prayer.
We gather and use an opening litany that is in some ways informed by the practice of St Lydia’s in New York, but is clearly our version. Each week I move tables into the shape of a cross and put out simple fabric table covers. Some are things I have found in our church where nothing was ever thrown away. Some came from the fabric wholesaler where one of our participants works. And I also have some mirror tiles upon which we will place tealight candles. There is a cross in the center and bread on the table. As I am setting the space I pray for the gathering and those who have been coming, and those the Spirit may decide in her wisdom to send.
As people come, some of those present hand out candles, or copies of our one page worship guide. We gather to change our hearts and minds and to recognize God’s presence and we admit those times we’ve been too busy or self focused to be who God desires. Sometimes we sing. Sometimes we don’t. But then we bless our bread and share the body of Christ. And we have a wine steward and grape juice steward who serve after which we bless our drink as the blood of Christ for us. Then we eat! Some weeks we have way too much food. Some weeks we have just enough. And we have to remember that the really tasty thing we ate must wait until everyone else had a chance.
That can be hard. Because unlike last year when our table mates were pretty much our insiders, this year, our table mates are a lot of kids and new faces from the neighborhood. And some are here for a week, some for the long haul. And some are really hungry, others have a sense of food insecurity. And life insecurity. And some people are lonely and hungry for people time.
Over the weeks of Lent I focused our time around prayer having just read the book “Help, Thanks, Wow” by Anne Lamott. For an intergenerational gathering where people come from many levels of connection to faith, it seemed that demystifying what we call one of the Lenten disciplines could help all of us.
Each week I read a snippet from Anne’s book and offered a little reflection and then we broke into groups. Those who wanted to do an interactive thing, and those who wanted to chat. Our interactive time would be spent in an arty way. One week when we talked about how we ask God for help, I talked about how hard it can be to then let go of our worry and let God handle it. We made God boxes. Cigar boxes decorated with tissue paper, or decals, glitter, paint-whatever spoke to you. And we talked about putting our prayers in the box. The kids had a great time and a couple weeks later a couple told me they are really using them. J
The week we talked about thanks we then dipped fingers in water and made the sign of the cross on our neighbor telling him or her “ you are a child of God.”
The week we talked about “wow!” a couple people brought things to share that showed their “wow” and their art taught us.
The next week we made Busted Crosses. Hollowed out wooden cross forms that people could decorate with markers and then hot glue repurposed stain glass pieces and shattered CD pieces and make a sort of mosaic. We talked about how though we can feel broken, God makes us a new creation in the cross. And even though we may not think it is possible, beautiful things happen. In us.
During Holy Week we put together the items for personal care kits for Lutheran World Relief that the congregation gathered. Our goal had been 12 but we made 28 and have other supplies to share with those in need here. Including some of our own. And we thought about what it means to say Amen-may it be so-to our prayers.
All of our interactive things show that no matter how old our hands are, they can work and teach together.
The other part of each week was to close with prayer. First we wrote our prayers and I prayed them. Then we wrote our prayers and each person prayed their own. Then we tried just saying our prayers out loud around the table and letting the next person know it was their turn. I have begun gathering the written prayers if people allow and have turned a bulletin board by our tables into a prayer wall. Other people in the church are starting to notice it.
There is a chaotic-ness but also a grace. And at the end of Lent I was curious as to who was coming because it was Lent, and who came because it was Wednesday, and who wanted to keep coming. Of the 24 there, half said they wanted to go on. So we did. And I expected about 12 last nite. But I put out a new sign “Candy Gone? Christ is still risen-meal prayer 6:00” Then I watched.
The kids and young adults and our other neighbors came and we had 26! I actually worried about food but it worked out. I had decided we would talk about those early Christians and the challenge of making disciples. Of getting beyond fear. But really instead, while I ended up saying that, I talked about growing pains. People of all kinds having to find a way to get together and share and learn and build relationships. As literally, people were elbow to elbow, and we had added an extra table, and one girl was getting hung up on the table cloth and every time she got up her friends were telling her to stop pulling their stuff away. And someone else discovered that all the meat stuff had pork and he doesn’t like pork, and someone took that deviled egg you wanted, and why are we out of juice and now there is only water? And I wanted to light the candles…and we could chuckle and see ourselves in the book of Acts or in those famous words in Corinthians.
And some of us worked at planting a tomato planter with one of our people who is a retired horticulturalist. And we talked about tending a small area where we hope to grow a little of our own food. Others played “Two truths and a lie” and shared what they learned about each other. And we prayed and got a sweet treat or leftover Easter candy for the road.
And in the end as people are making sure we have it next week, which makes my heart smile, I wonder. Just what is God up to? And I am not sure I need to know. I just need to keep praying and showing up. And whether it is here for a season or good, it is what God wants.
But next week, God, can you send some chicken? I know a few people are praying for that, at least inside.