I have just returned from Sunday worship at the Free Store at Camp Christian. Wendy Taylor is the pastor and she is calling this experience "The Open Table."
As I have no church right now, I am supporting her in her ministry in every way that I can. She has a vision of a church which is based in mission which will then lead into a worshipping community. The primary mission is the "Free Store" which she has been supervising for 5 years and now we are starting this experience.
There were 10 of us that gathered today at the table at 11:30 am. Our time began with breakfast and then a prayer, a story, a project, communion and a closing prayer exercise. It was everything that we had talked about wanting it to be - active, communal, casual and inspiring. Wendy first told us the story of Martha and Mary and then her own experience yesterday of being caught up in "service activities" of the free store and missing a relationship experience with a talkative and needy man. It really spoke to me as I reflected on how easy it is for us to think of service as what we do instead of being present to another person. It is in our presence with others - often "just" listening - that we are most vulnerable and probably most effective in sharing the love of God.
Our project was that we put together jars of bean soup starter to be handed out at the Free Store. It was fun and led to conversation among us and more ideas for the future being shared. At the end, after communion (bagels and cider) we walked to each get a piece of wood for the fire as we reflected on the "Prayer of Saint Francis." And I could only think that this was a different kind of church - and I like it - I really liked it.
The past 10 months have been a time of reflection for me about what worship is and what service is and how God is always inviting us to engage and grow in our faith. For the last two weeks, I worshipped at First Christian Church in Ada with a similarly small group. It is a church that is either going to transform or die. But in the meantime, those who attended were inspired and inspiring. And they continue to serve in the ways that have given their church identity and meaning and purpose for over 125 years. Now today, it is a church that may be just beginning and we will see what happens.
Either way, I was blessed by being with saints who seek to serve and are open to the movement of the spirit.