Gathering Around the Crowded Table Again

Our Fed & Informed Potluck luncheon on Sunday was wonderful. Our Fellowship Hall was full, our tables were filled with delicious food, and I know that I was not the only person to feel a little emotional at the normalcy of it all. Committees, teams, and groups shared about what they’ll be doing over the next quarter. The energy was tangible.

We were gathered again, around the Crowded Table.

This was our first Fed & Informed since before the pandemic began. In November of 2020, I wrote a little reading for one of our online worship services, riffing on the idea of the Crowded Table, a term I took from a song by the Highwomen: “I want a house with a crowded tableAnd a place by the fire for everyone.”

It is one of my favorite songs, but I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it … well, probably until that November. And when I did, I wept.

Last week, I attended a meeting of local clergy members who serve congregations within the Leander ISD, called by the superintendent. One thing he noted is that our children and youth are still showing the effects from the “Quarantine” of the pandemic. The behavior and maturity of 8th graders is what they expect to see from 6th graders, new to middle school and trying to figure out their way.

I am continuing to think (and worry) about that. As a minister, I wonder about what they need to process that missing year of 2020-21. They left on spring break…and didn’t go back. Some of them, I believe the superintendent said 1400, never came back.

What are we doing to process that missing year? I have heard from several people that this week, with being cooped up in our homes because of the ice, brought back some of the memories and feelings not only from the 2021 freeze, but the quarantine.

I don’t know the answer, but I think that doing what we’re doing – gathering together, breaking bread, making plans for our community – is helping. And I think it’s also good when we share what we remember.

In the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, part of the movie concerns what the characters of a small town did during World War II. And it describes what the main character did when the war was over:

“Like everybody else on VE Day, he wept and prayed. On VJ Day, he wept and prayed again.”

Even in times of celebration, it is right and normal for us to acknowledge the difficult time we have emerged from.

Nov. 2020

This is the church of the crowded table
Our elbows bump, we whisper apology
And murmur absolution, and
Receive community and offer it to
The person next to us

The crowded table is an open table
Whoever you are
Whomever you love
All genders, all cultures
With whatever spirituality that guides you
All who are welcoming
Are welcomed

When you become a member
Of this community,
You will be cared for.
And you will be asked to care for others.

We are a village, growing together
We practice grace
We practice accountability
We practice
And practice
And practice

“Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law; this is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.”

We are the priesthood of all believers
And our belief is in covenant.
As priests, each member serves
The communion of this open table.

Ours is the church of the crowded table
Connected through hearts and minds
Through service and care.

The rooms of our building
Are – just for a while! –
But the rooms of our heart
Are full.

This is the church of the crowded table.