Today, I spent my morning and lunch time participating in a local event, “On the Table,” sponsored by the Community Foundation of Central Georgia. On the Table is designed to gather community members, from all walks of life and from all demographics, around the table for meal and good conversation focused on the life and well-being of the community. While there was no “agenda” to the conversation, there were conversation starters that prompted introspection and honest talk about the state of the community. Some of the prompts were:
- What do you say when you are bragging about Macon-Bibb County? What do we do well? How can we use those things to strengthen our community?
- What inspires or motivates you to be involved in the community and/or your neighborhood?
- What is the single most important issue or opportunity in our community or your neighborhood right now and why?
- If you had only $100 and one day, what would you do to strengthen our community?
In the table group I facilitated, the answers to these questions, and more, were honest, sometimes brutally so, and yet spoken with a sense of hope that our community could improve and move beyond divisiveness, tribalism, and exclusion.
The whole experience got me to thinking: what if our churches could have these types of conversations? What if members of our congregations could gather around tables with fellow church members whom they do not know well or at all and talk about the life and well-being of the church?
Imagine what could happen if our congregations were willing to have honest, constructive dialogue that expresses our dreams as well as our fears; our struggles as well as our successes; our hopes and our doubts. No subject was off the table and no viewpoint was silenced or marginalized.
Many of us decry our current national discourse, myself included. We have self-segregated ourselves into our own political, ideological, cultural, social, and theological tribes. And I get it. It’s more comfortable and less threatening to surround ourselves with people who look like us, think like us, and believe like us. But if the Gospel is anything, it is a call to courageous action, because we believe the words of Gabriel to Mary: “Do not be afraid.” We are called to love our neighbors – yes, even those who look differently and worship differently and even vote differently – as much as we love ourselves.
That kind of love puts everything on the table. Maybe it’s time we do the same.