Making the Table

By on April 11, 2016 in News & Musings

Tables can be messy places. I had an esoteric religion professor once ask me to think about how “Tables can unite or divide us.  Imagine an interview, where it acts as a line to  mark power as apposed to our table, which unites us in conversation now.” As a freshman just starting to study religious culture and community, I immediately imagined the scene above and thought “Great, so this is the mumbo jumbo I have to look forward to for the next three years.”

A seminar on hospitality, study-travel trip studying the bible in Greece and Turkey, an independent research project on hospitality and religious community and a talk in our chapel about Paul’s Corinthian Verse on Love and Community later I’ve definitely come to appreciate the role that welcome plays in creating unifying sacred space—and the roles that tables play in fostering that welcome.

When I moved back to Minneapolis from my year of service in Newark, New Jersey I decided it was time to search for a congregation. I did my fair-share of church shopping. I’m not Lutheran (it’ll be our little secret) so I went to a few Catholic Churches, another Lutheran one and even a non-denominational one. Once I moved to Lyndale, however, I decided it would be easiest (and most realistic for early Sunday mornings) to check out that little yellow one around the corner.

The other churches  were nice. People were kind, noticed I was new and provided warmth—at arms distance. There was no dysfunction like the dinner above.

It was the Zion coffee hour that spoke sense of belonging I desired as a young person and infant religions academic. The hospitality was unaggressive, non-stifling and wholesome. I saw the interest in teaching ESL to local youth, to become more literate about mental health and support people in transitional housing. Almost immediately I saw this welcome aligned with the values I already had and had a seat at Zion’s table.

A few months later, I’m reading at Service, watching Luther after Worship and discussing my next steps to medical school over Lutheran church coffee. I would say that if that isn’t loving Christian Community, I’m not sure what is.

michaelMichael is a recent Ole grad and newbie to adult life. When he’s not reading academic religion books for fun, he’s probably climbing rocks or making hummus from scratch.


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