The dinner was simple, just three homemade salads –a green salad, a pasta salad, and a watermelon/bacon salad. The tables were set outdoors in the garden with simple lights strung overhead. Those who gathered were a mix of folks from churches, the neighborhood and Facebook connections. This is Simple Summer Dinner Church.
Simple Summer Dinner Church is a five-week experiment. As I write this, we just completed week four. The experiment grows out of my curiosity – could church happen around a table in a garden? Would people come? Would they share? Would they be willing to pray and break bread? Would they find it brought them closer to God? Would it be life-giving to the hosts (me and my husband, Jeff) and not just “one more thing to do.”
I am interested in new forms of church. Not because I don’t value old forms but more because it seems possible that the new forms might reach new people.
I am also curious if this kind of church (around a table with food, conversation, prayer and communion) might be a faithful expression for those who are feeling a tug toward something different in their spiritual lives.
The “something different” might be…
- A space to be fed. Its natural to link food and conversation and it is part of the ancient church. It feels right to do church around a table while we eat and drink together.
- A place where there is more community and less hierarchy. While a great sermon and amazing music matter on Sunday mornings, what matters at dinner church is everyone has a place to eat and share.
- A gathering that is more relational, slower, more able to just be. I love having time just to listen to people – there is no rush to “get to what is next,” – instead there is time to hear one another, the sounds around us, and God speaking into our lives.
I am enjoying this. It feels real, healthy, doable, & life-giving. I am glad my friends who serve at churches on Sunday have come for their own spiritual life. I am hopeful we will grow and come into our own identity
- Getting the word out is a challenge. Because it is a new idea, it takes people hearing it several times till they become open to trying it out.
- Figuring out the format was more stressful the first week but has become really natural as we have lived into it.
- Making the food is part of my gift to the community. While I make the food, I think about the church and what sitting around a table means. Like preparing a sermon, preparing the food is getting ready for who will come.
- Having people help get things ready (or taking the lead in cleaning up) makes for a better gathering – it moves people from spectators to participants and lets the gathering be lightweight and low maintenance for me and my husband.
- Sitting around the table together is important – it builds community and real conversation. It is better not to get up and move for discussion but to stay together around the table.
- Having time for silent prayer is meaningful. After we share our prayer requests we invite people to spend a couple minutes praying and then I offer a communal prayer. That silence lets us listen to the sounds of the night as we lift up what we have heard shared around the circle.
More to come –