When I think of the things that consistently draw me into relationship with Jesus, and those things that have been anchor points for that relationship throughout my life, the notion of table fellowship is beyond doubt the most consistent theme throughout my life. Whether I think of the table fellowship that resulted from my home growing up being the neighborhood home, which meant invariably during the spring and summer months one of the three sons almost always had someone over for dinner or in our home, or whether I think of table fellowship as the celebration of Eucharist, it’s always been there. To me, table fellowship is the heartbeat of who I am as a Christian. It is the great leveler of all social dynamics. This has become even more the case over the last five years since I have committed my life to living in community with and advocating for those with diverse physical and developmental embodiments. Let me share with you the story of dinners at The Julian Way and how the Holy Spirit profoundly uses table fellowship.
As a part of my ministry at The Julian Way, the organization founded by my wife Lisa and I to develop community designed by and for those with disabilities, we try and do a Julian Way dinner at least once every quarter. This is an opportunity for all those whom we are in contact with to come to our home in north Dallas, the Cochran House, share a meal together, and discuss how life is going. The conversation doesn’t always have to center around disability and how we are experiencing our physical embodiments, but it often does. Two things happen during these dinners that I find particularly profound. Number one, knowing that someone else identifies with your experience allows a person to open up in a way they might not be able to do. This is particularly the case in the lives of many disabled persons. Often times, whether it is scheduling a ride on the door-to-door bus, or dealing with state-based help systems, a disabled person is required to live an incredibly bounded life. These Julian Way dinners are completely a space where our friends and neighbors with disabilities can speak freely and frankly about their individual experiences. I’ve seen the Holy Spirit do amazing things through this candor.
The second thing that occurs at these dinners is the time that is given. Many persons with physical disabilities take a long time to eat, and invariably move much, much slower than the world around them. At The Julian Way dinners, the majority of the room is disabled. It’s amazing what happens when you are no longer slow, because everyone is slow. And again, the freedom and table fellowship that occurs when nobody is worried about precisely when we are done is amazing, almost Eucharistic in its beauty, simplicity, and ability to forge communities together.
The openness and transformative nature of The Julian Way dinners made me rethink the way I think about Communion in a worship context. There is something about the majesty of the liturgy that I definitely want to maintain because I think it is deeply holy to say the same words, essentially, that have been said by millions of people for thousands of years. But what if we considered Eucharist as family dinner? The communion of saints are our grandparents with their gentleness and wisdom ready to share at a moment’s notice. With everybody around the table as family and not just as stranger. What if the table is shaped so everybody can roll underneath it and reach what they need to reach? And what if we’re not worried about getting out in an hour and it takes as long as it will take? To me, that’s table fellowship. How would it transform you?