How Table Talk Shapes Our Hospitality and Generosity
In the book A Meal with Jesus, author Tim Chester points out the abundance of meals in the gospel of Luke. Luke writes, “the Son of Man [Jesus] came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). That’s a clear mission statement. But any mission needs an effective strategy or method of implementation. So, Chester points out, Luke also tells us, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking…” (Luke 7:34). How did Jesus carry out his mission of seeking and saving the lost? What was his strategy or methodology? Meals. Jesus chooses to make the rich grace of God real and tangible as he breaks bread with friends and with those whom religion had marginalized and alienated. “Food isn’t just fuel… It’s gift, generosity, grace… a central ingredient in our experience of God’s goodness.”i
In January, 2015, under the leadership of Rev. Dan Bonner from the Center for Urban Congregation Renewal, Trinity crafted its current vision statement: “Growing in love and service through relationships with God and community.” I have always been passionate about our vision statement because it reminds us that Christianity is more than a belief system; our faith is about how we live in relationship with God and with those around us.
During the month of August, Pastor Tracey will be preaching a series on David, Israel’s most-beloved king. Each message will focus on David’s heart and will help us look deeper within our own hearts.
As you heard during worship on July 29, this September, Trinity will be launching a once a month Monday gathering called “Fusion.” Fusion is the result of our one-year conference grant process (Ready, Set, Grow) helping us to identify how to expand our outreach and grow our faith community. Monday Fusion will reach out to those who are not attracted to a traditional worship format. Did you know that I receive, on average, one email per week about the dramatic and critical decline in Sunday morning worship attendance? Data and demographic research reveals that churches that cling solely (or even primarily) to Sunday morning worship as the connecting point for new people are unlikely to survive. (I hope you will check out Ryan Wynkoop’s financial update beginning on page 2 which notes that, over the past year, 78 people on average per month engage with Trinity beyond the Sunday morning worship hour.)
Fusion will offer opportunities to connect to God, one another and our community… fulfilling Trinity’s vision of growing in love and service through relationships with God and community. Fusion will be “a space to Connect, Discover, and Grow.”
According to our Indiana Conference United Methodist Church Development, experiences of “Church” that are flourishing are built around cultivating community through listening, table conversation, sharing food, and serving others. Listening is listed as #1… which is why Morris DuBose has been leading our Unfinished story events over the summer. Telling and hearing our stories develops connections; it builds trust and relationship.
Fusion will be an interactive experience so, during the month of August, our Sunday morning worship will offer a brief interactive opportunity at the end of the morning message. There will be a simple format to help us dialogue with the people around us. You will not be asked to share in front of the congregation and participation is completely up to you. But we invite everyone to step outside their comfort zone! We hope that, through this short-term experience, it will allow our Sunday morning worshipers to have a fuller understanding of the mission of Fusion and why it is of value. To facilitate dialogue, we strongly encourage you to sit farther forward in the sanctuary, and perhaps even consider sitting in the center section. We have a large sanctuary and are often very spread out making it difficult to connect to those around us. Also, on Aug. 19, Morris DuBose (who is coordinating speakers for Fusion) will bring our Sunday morning message.
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Recently I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Contemplate This with Tom Bushlack. He interviewed Myra Rucker. Lots of topics were covered in the podcast, but one statement Myra made really stuck with me. Myra, who now lives in MN, was raised in rural Texas in what might be considered a stereotypical rural Texas community. Her father was a college professor and physician. They moved around and each new place added layers to her diverse life experiences. She was the only African-American in her first yoga class. She spoke at great length about how her diverse experiences have allowed her to cultivate a more balanced perspective as she observes how groups of people sometimes hold one another suspect (or at least at arm’s length) and how we can get past those suspicions and stereotypes. When Bushlack, the podcast host, asked Myra about how people can be challenged to grow and become more gracious toward those who are different, she made the statement that really stuck with me: that “sometimes the best thing we can do is not make things worse.” Sounds a little like the Hippocratic oath, doesn’t it?
As a pastor, I fear that often Christian evangelism has made things worse. People are “preached at” rather than “dialogued with.” People are judged and “corrected.” I doubt that is ever very helpful. Certainly we want to spread the message of Jesus; but that message – at its core – is about love and grace.
Trinity continues to take deliberate steps to connect with our neighbors. We want to do so from a posture of hospitality and grace. Of course we want people to hear the gospel. We’d love for people to attend – even join – Trinity. But we need to start with hospitality and graciousness. Some people have had negative church experiences in the past. If they find the courage to step through our doors, we never want to make things worse. We want to begin with simple gestures of welcome and hospitality.
Over the next year, they’ll be many opportunities for you to volunteer at Trinity as we reach out to welcome our community. I hope you will be a part of these important efforts.
The Unseen City Tour is one of those opportunities. This year Trinity will be a stop on the Friends of Downtown Unseen City Tour on Thursday, May 17, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. We hope people will appreciate touring our beautiful, historic church building. But just as importantly, we hope they will feel welcomed by us when they walk through our doors.
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