Welcome to the Table
What’s for dinner tonight? What time is dinner? Do I have to eat that?
These are questions that plaster the walls of my kitchen. Sometimes I meet them with equanimity, and sometimes I meet them with irritation. For the next several weeks, we will be exploring the intention and spirit surrounding the practice of sharing a meal.
I am not a table setter. I want to be. I really like having a place set for me. I like the sense of sitting down with everything I might need within reach. I like the sense that there was one who went before me, anticipating those needs. I like the sense that I might meet the needs of those at my table.
But setting the table makes me nervous. Sometimes I will make dinner—something nutritionally balanced, ethically sourced, responsibly grown, and thoughtfully prepared—and feel rising panic over placing tables settings. It’s just plates, silverware, napkins, and cups—but it overwhelms me. Most of the time I just grab handfuls of everything and shove them in the middle of the table. I am not proud of this.
There is something profound about setting the table. It is an act of welcome. It is an act of hospitality. It is an incarnational engagement with grace.
At the Julian Way, Justin and Lisa Hancock teach about what it means to welcome those with different embodiments to the table. What follows are parts of an article that Justin Hancock wrote about coming to the table. Click for the full article.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Table Blessing:
God who ate, teach us to gather at the table, for it is at the table that we admit and embrace our need for nourishment, for welcome, and for each other. Amen.