A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Worshiping Around the Meal Table
I’ve never been good about choosing favorites: a favorite movie, book, food, musician, etc. So much depends on my mood, season of life, and other factors. For me, it’s more like having a short list of things that are particularly meaningful than choosing one singular favorite.
This week, I was asked in a couple of different conversations what is my favorite thing about First Pres. This week, the right answer off my short list for that came quickly. “I love that we are a congregation that combines the best of being a traditional church with the best of being a church start-up,” I said. “We have a long and rich history as a congregation and hundreds of faithful and engaged members who have been at the heart of our mission and ministry for years and even decades.
“But we are welcoming and affirming of all different kinds of people, including those who are new to our church or to any Christian church. And we are able to both cherish our history and to delight in experimenting with new ways to do our ministry together. Those are rare gifts for a church to have, and they are among the things I love most about us.”
As you (hopefully!) already know, this week we are going to try a new experiment with our Sunday morning worship service: not only will we have a combined service at 10 a.m. with elements of both traditional and contemporary worship styles, but we will be doing so outside in front of the church!
Immediately following the service, we will enjoy a festive picnic together there in front, as well. So, we have decided to try worshiping together at the tables we will set up for the picnic , rather than replicating Sanctuary seating outside. This not only makes things simpler logistically, but it allows us to embrace one of the oldest and most important images of Christian worship, going back to gatherings soon after Pentecost: having worship not simply around a dedicated communion table, but an actual meal table.
Most of the earliest Christian worship took place in and around common meals; the sacrament of communion was often a part of it, but it was part of a larger gathering and service centered on sharing a meal together around ordinary tables.
So, when you come to worship on Sunday, I encourage first to come dressed in whatever way seems comfortable for you at an outdoor service and picnic.
Second, find a spot at one of the tables that will be set up in front of the church, and I encourage you to look for one that includes at least one or two people who you don’t ordinarily worship with or perhaps even know very well.
And third, come with an open spirit to this new configuration of worshiping God, and see what God’s Spirit does around the tables with us in worship and community!
Grace and Peace,