God’s Table is Set

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, July 8, 2018

By: Andrew Moore

For my last two years of seminary, I lived with four other students at the Berkeley Center, home to much of the community life of Berkeley Divinity School. We house residents were responsible for providing hospitality at the Center. We’d make coffee each morning for Morning Prayer. And we’d prepare the Community Dinner for 125 people each Wednesday night.

I love to cook, so this ministry of hospitality was a natural fit for me, but I’d never cooked in such large volumes on a regular basis before. When I first began, the weekly trips to Restaurant Depot and the math involved in multiplying recipes were utterly overwhelming. I’d always found cooking to be relaxing, but it seemed like cooking for a crowd might be more stressful than soothing.

But I quickly discovered that as the five of us gathered in the kitchen each week to chop onions, trim meats, and make sauces, the joy of being together made the task that had seemed overwhelming become downright manageable. Sharing the responsibility of feeding the community, of creating a space of hospitality and welcome where people could come together over a hot, home-cooked meal, quickly became one of the most rewarding experiences of my time in seminary.

God invites us to feast at the heavenly banquet, to come together as the beloved community around a table. In one of the services of Eucharist from the Iona Community in Scotland, all are invited to share communion with the following words:

This is the table of company with Jesus, and all who love him. It is the table of sharing with the poor of the world, with whom Jesus identified himself. It is the table of communion with the earth, in which Christ became incarnate.

Sharing a meal is a sacramental act, it allows us to see God in one another and in the world. The meal may be shared at the altar or around a table at home. Wherever it might be, God is present.

Here at St. Mary’s we have many opportunities to feast with one another. Whether at our monthly Parish Suppers and Breakfasts or through the new Pastoral Care Meal Ministry, we get to share God’s hospitality, to feed and be fed, to break bread and see God.

So come, God’s table is set. Come and feed God’s people and, at the same time, be fed by God.

Gather Around a Table

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, July 1, 2018

By: Ashley Cameron

How often do you get to sit down at a table surrounded by the people you love? As someone who up until recently lived in an apartment without a dining table, those times were few and far between.

Which honestly was isolating and soul sucking for me. I grew up where family dinner happened at least four to five nights a week. We all gathered around the table to share a meal and share about one another’s day, challenges we were facing, accomplishments we achieved. Sometimes we sat in silence but were still present with one another.

This past Monday was my birthday. In the weeks leading up to it, my friends kept inquiring how I wanted to celebrate. After some thought, I decided that this year I didn’t want a big party but an intimate dinner with my closest friends.

I deeply desired to gather around a table and truly reconnect. Not only did I want to celebrate another year but celebrate our friendship and love for one another. However, the best part of the evening was “phonedora’s box” – a wooden box with a lid that said, “you have to put your device in ‘phonedora’s box’ on your table. C’mon, you know you could use a little digital detox.” They’re right, who doesn’t need a digital detox these days?

The five of us had no choice but to put down our phones – not scroll through Instagram, not answer a quick text, or pull up photos to enhance a story but be fully present in life-giving conversation.

As a birthday gift, my friend gave me The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell. Kristin creates a place in her own front yard – the Turquoise Table – where family, friends, and neighbors can slow down, sit, and develop community. She writes, “people are hungry for connection and a place to belong. And the truth – we were created to be in community by a God who loves us extravagantly… In order for us to even get a glimpse of what that kind of majestic love looks and feels like, we have to experience it through connection with others. So God gave us one another.”

Next time you’re feeling isolated, frazzled, or disconnected, invite one or two or three to gather around a table. Let’s unplug and build our lives around one another by opening up our hearts to connect.

View from the Front Desk

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 24, 2018

By: Elizabeth Baker

I’ve gone to church my whole life. When I was 2 years old, my mom tells me that I stood up after a hymn and yelled “more singing!” I was active in children’s choir, youth group, local missions, and later, international missions. It has always been an important part of my life.

When I was in college, my father began taking classes at seminary in preparation to become a United Methodist minister. Throughout school, and for several years after, he served as an associate pastor and two years ago now, he became the head pastor at a church in Lynchburg.

Between growing up in church, and later, watching my dad serve various congregations, I thought I had a fairly strong understanding of all that church work entails. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I applied for this job, when really I had no idea.

I knew that I would be putting together bulletins each week; I knew that I would be answering the phone and doing various tasks around the office. But nothing could have prepared me for the blessings that I experience each day. I get to chat with the amazing parishioners who walk through the door dropping off donations for various outreach partners; with the fellowship team who lovingly plan each parish supper and reception; with the buildings and grounds committee, who ensures that our gorgeous property remains well-kept. I have the privilege of working with the clergy and pastoral care teams, and watching them work tirelessly to visit, call, and write to those who are mourning, celebrating, or ailing. I see celebrations of life and celebrations of marriage come together in the most beautiful ways, guided by Andrew and Bob. I watch as Amelia and the preschool teachers lovingly care for each and every child they meet; as Ashley and Matt plan outreach projects and missions that engage both youth and adults; as Mike and Deedi process your generous donations; as Ryan painstakingly chooses appropriate, beautiful music for each service; as Paul, Gersain, Chuck, and Duke keep our buildings meticulously clean, and lend a hand wherever needed. I could go on and on. Further, I’m constantly in awe of this staff, and how well everyone works as a team to make certain that no one is overwhelmed, everyone is cared for, and that we make time for fun!

Churches are special places; I’ve always known that. But I had no idea just how special they could be—how much really goes on behind the scenes—until I came to St. Mary’s. And I’ll always be grateful for the grace that I witness every single day.