Radical Tables

January 16, 2018

By Rev. Michele Ward, Social Engagement Minister & Coordinator

What does “Radical Hospitality” mean to you?

When I think about the value of radical hospitality, I think about the communion table. The welcome that we practice during communion each week is a declaration of God’s uninhibited welcome to each of us. Before we extend the invitation during our Sunday service at 4 pm, I usually say words like this:

“This is not my table, the table of this congregation, the table of BSM, or the Presbyterians. This is the Table of Jesus Christ, and he is the one who welcomes you tonight. Whether you come from the north, the south, the east, or the west, there is room for you at this table. Whether you are full of faith, full of doubt, or somewhere in between, Christ meets you here. Whether this is your first time here or you come to this Table each week, Christ has prepared a place for you.”

I declare a wide welcome at the communion table because that welcome is the same no matter where anyone goes in our building, no matter who they are, why they are here, and where they come from. Jesus ate with all kinds of people without care for social stigma or status. I offer a wide welcome, regardless of religious heritage or confirmation of belief, at the communion table because it’s the same welcome our staff, volunteers, and guests offer each other whenever the red doors are open. I offer a wide welcome because God first extended it to me, long before I even knew this profound grace. I offer a wide welcome because Christ taught us to do so, regardless of our differences.

During our sanctuary’s open hours for Breaking Bread, the communion table turns into a hub for information, encouragement, and compassion. Staff members sit at the table, waiting to offer support and conversation to our guests. The table has the words “do this in remembrance of me” carved into the front. They face out towards our guests as they mill in and out of the space, reminding us all that Christ is here at that table, welcoming us all. Christ spoke those words during his final meal with his disciples, referencing the elements of bread and wine during a Passover meal  – the elements that would become the sacrament of communion for the Christian Church.

I repeat the command “do this in remembrance of me” on Sunday whenever I break and pour the elements of bread and juice. When I repeat this phrase, I do not say these words as if they are meant only for the moment of communion on Sunday. These words are meant for every act of radical hospitality, every moment of unconditional regard, and every opportunity for surprising one another with transformative possibility.

Before I invite everyone up to join in the communion feast, I say these words:

The table is ready. All that is missing is you.”

These words are true, whether you are coming to the mail table, the personal care table, the dinner table, the menders table, or the communion table. Everything is ready, and all that is missing is you. Come and “do this is remembrance of me” underneath the windmills each week.