Church at Table is an umbrella term used for any form of church that gathers around a shared meal.
The Church at Table is a common reality, especially in the early church. Inspired by the direction of Jesus seen in the gospel and 1 Corinthians, the first few generations of Christianity gathered around a table. The time was spent remembering Jesus’ sacrifice through the breaking of bread and drinking of wine. It was also an experience of deep fellowship with one another, training in the essentials of the faith, encouragement in the mission of the church and prayer. In this space around the table, community was established as people did life together, cared for each other, connected and served each other in the love of Christ.
Through the centuries this practice diminished from a full meal to the modern Eucharistic practices. The diminishment of the centrality can be seen post-Reformation, when “church” became a place you went on Sundays to worship and hear a sermon. Dinner Church seeks to recapture and recreate once again this essential practice of being church at table.
Jesus own ministry in the Gospel accounts provides numerous examples of activities that took place around shared meals, including teaching, praying, healing and miracles and eating. Think of the many instances where food was involved; Simon Peter’s house, Zacchaeus, Mary and Martha, the feeding of 5000, the Wedding at Cana, the institution of Holy Communion. More so almost every resurrection appearance Jesus makes involves food; Easter evening Jesus asks for something to eat, breakfast by the Sea of Galilee, be known to the disciples in the breaking of the bread at Emmaus. Food, dinners, the table itself was a means of grace as people gathered.
Modern experiences of Church at Table, such as Dinner Church, are rediscovering this simple but powerful expression of Church. People are welcomed, well-fed and well-loved as they hear the good news and respond with faith. People that would never darken the door of a historic church will come for a meal. Many inherited churches find this a missional initiative that is accessible and familiar, reminiscent of pot-luck suppers.