At my parents house growing up, we had an antique wooden table that had once belonged to my grandparents. It was a hefty piece of furniture large enough to accommodate me, my parents, and my three brothers, with enough room that we wouldn’t be elbowing each other every time we took a bite. But as my brothers went off to college, they brought home friends and significant others for Sunday dinners, and before long that kitchen table got so full even Brandi Carlile and Maren Morris would feel claustrophobic.
Luckily we had a contingency plan in place. On these special Sundays my dad would go back to the laundry room and grab a dusty plank that was leaning up against the wall. We would take everything off the table, pull on it from both ends, and put the leaf in the middle. The first time I witnessed this process I was astonished that all this time I had been eating on a technological marvel: an expandable table.
As Disciples, the Table is one of our primary symbols. It is the place we encounter the Risen Christ in, among, and with each other. But it has also been a place of exclusion for many people. Throughout the history of the Church, people in power who recognized the life-giving nature of the Table put in place rules and barriers designed to control who could partake. Here at Central we believe that the Table is set by Christ, not by us, and so we have no right to keep anyone from it. From my very first conversations with the Search Committee, I could see that being Open and Affirming was a very important part of this church’s identity, because it reflects our commitment to expanding the Table so that it has room for everyone.
This month, we will have an opportunity to recommit to that identity, and to explore what it means to widen our welcome. The Northern Lights Region’s Second Saturday event for September is “Shining a Light on the Table: Exploring a Wide(r) Welcome.” It’s a webinar for churches across the region looking to become more Open and Affirming, whether they’ve not even started the process or been officially O&A for years. I’ll be helping lead this event with Rev. Laura Jean Allen of FCC Helena and Melissa Guthrie Loy of the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance, so it would be great if Central Christian could show up and be a light of inclusion in our region.
Information about the event and how to register is available at northernlightsdisciples.org/second-saturdays
Looking forward to another month of wide welcome,