by Susan B. Taylor
God of Pilgrims,
Give us a table always,
Where we can share our food,
Tell our stories,
And sing our songs. Amen
This is the most recent addition to my family’s repertoire of mealtime blessings. I love this grace. It speaks to me about relationship, of abundance, of joy, and conversation. This is how I envision God’s table, rather like a potluck, a motley collection of seekers, skeptics, devoted, and those of mature faith.
I envision a table that is expansive enough to meet the needs of anyone who is drawn to its nourishment. That is why I’m disappointed. Because as a priest-in-formation entering my final year in seminary at the Episcopal Divinity School, I was hopeful that the practice of open-table communion that I experienced eleven years ago when my family walked through the doors of our home parish and has been feeding me and igniting a Holy fire within me ever since, would be endorsed this year at General Convention. Unfortunately, resolution C040 won’t go to legislative vote.
I was hoping that I could offer the same invitation to others that I have known, with the knowledge that I am supported in this by my denomination. Would I even be where I am now if that invitation hadn’t been there? My husband and I with our two young children were on a “church quest” for a year after realizing that the condemnation and exclusion of individuals in our church was spiritually starving us.
It had been a hard decision to leave as we were deeply immersed in the life of that local community church in our small town where we served as deacons, Sunday school superintendent, board members, fundraisers, etc.
We walked through the doors of St. Mary’s in the Mountains in Wilmington, VT through the back kitchen door and have stayed because we tasted God’s radical love. Two years later our children then ages 8 and 6 were baptized and later our eldest child was confirmed. We continue to walk that journey that we were invited into on that first day.
This is not a unique testimony. The many voices that witnessed to the transformative nature of God’s open-table spoke eloquently and passionately about lives that were changed as a result of being fed, wherever each one was in their spiritual journey.
In contrast, many of the arguments against the resolution to endorse God’s banquet being available to each and all, sounded to me to be tinged with fear and need to control the work of the Holy Spirit.
Another seminarian I know asked me, “Do you wash the newborn first or feed it?” I can answer that. The moment my daughter emerged from my womb, she was placed directly on my breast to feed. THAT, is the image of God I have. God births us, feeds us, nurtures and sustains us.
Jesus said, “I was hungry, you fed me” and “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” I pray that we will not strangle the Holy Spirit but allow her some breathing room.