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This Table, The New Center

by Rev. Stephen Patten, Community Wellness Minister, UrbanMission -

As we prepare to set our traditional Thanksgiving table at UrbanMission's Open Table Community dinner, we have so much to be thankful for. We are also mindful of what this table has come to mean to our community in south Pomona; how it has contributed to our discernment as a church and given birth to so many beautiful relationships.

At UrbanMission, this table is the beginning and end of every week. From our Sunday morning communion to our Sunday evening Open Table Community dinner, both offer a common sacred nourishment where Christ is present in the food, in the conversations, in the questions, in the brokenness, in the hunger and the homelessness, in the laughter, and in the relationships.

This table is a proclamation of God’s sustainable PROMISE. For over 2000 years, Christians have clung to this table and the promise that it offers. This table is rooted in tradition but also, full of vision and forward thinking.

This table is OPEN, not just for the feeding of ourselves on Sunday morning, nor is it a table for a privileged few. As Christ challenged the guardians of ritual, we are challenged to keep this table open, asking, “What are we doing to create more diversity around, and access to, this table?”

This table is TRANSFORMATIVE, offering liberation to all, even to those not present, to those who are out there in the streets, in alleyways and doorways, in the highways and byways of life, those locked away in our prison and jail systems. This table is their table. As such, we hear Christ challenging us to build a bigger table, one that stretches to every corner of need for nourishment. And every time we extend this table further, challenging ourselves to new notions of communion, we cause God’s transformative and liberative power to be loosed, in the Church, in community. The transformation of the Church, any church, begins here, where a radically hospitable table is set. This table is the CENTER of our lives, our faith, our community. So, let's not talk about those on the margins needing to find their way “here.” We cannot expect that all who need the nourishment of this table will find their way to us. We have to consider carrying this table to them. Set the table in their midst, dine together, calling this table the new center, where “us” and “them” become a radical community of relationship.

This season, I am thankful for Disciples Seminary Foundation as being the catalyst for growing radical communities of relationship. DSF shows us how to set this table by example. Through educational resources, via unconditional love and support, DSF contributes so much to the work of building this broader table of Christ's Kingdom.


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