How connected do you feel to other people at church? If you wish you felt a bit more connected, there are many ways to get there – and I want to give a shout-out for the Tuesday’s Welcome Table weekly dinners as one delicious, delightful way to feed your body and your spirit while getting to know people better.
Each week, Michael reports to the church kitchen on Tuesday afternoon with carefully selected, plant-based food, mostly in his own reusable containers (you’ll see very little plastic packaging). He and I, and often another helper or two or three, chop and cook and serve a vegan meal (with plenty of gluten-free options) for whoever shows up. How many people are coming? We’re never quite sure! It has ranged from a handful to about thirty-five folks.
At six o’clock, we hear the bells ringing across the street. Everyone is invited to serve themselves from the buffet and take a seat at the table(s), which are arranged to allow for a single group conversation unless we have an extra-large crowd. We can squeeze at least 20 people around four round tables! As we eat, the conversation is relaxed and usually some theme emerges. One week, we found ourselves sharing stories about close, or close-ish, encounters with organized crime families. Laughter is always abundant, and I have gotten to know several new people as well as learning new facets of people I have known for years.
We make room for the voices of everyone at the table, and I will long remember a four-year-old who is new to our congregation and thrilled to eat a vegan meal in community. “I will be a vegan when I am twenty, when I am ten, and I’m A HUNDRED,” she declared proudly.
Michael encourages us to linger at the table, not leaping up to wash the dishes and move on to the next thing. Stories bubble up and invite other stories. Once, the conversation veered to the game of Werewolf, a youth group favorite, and the best way to explain how it works was to play a round.
You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy a good vegan meal, but I’m finding that the meals are changing the way I think about my food choices. The meals have been so good, and I feel so good about eating them, that I’m choosing more vegan options during the rest of the week. I’m also more aware of the packaging around my food. I am someone who doesn’t love to cook, especially just for myself as I live alone, but the joy of preparing a meal with others is helping me find more pleasure in preparing good, healthy food for myself, too.
If you are curious about joining us but feel nervous about going to a big dinner by yourself, you can sit next to me. The most important thing about the Welcome Table is the people, and YOU are invited!