The seed for our third worship service, The Table, began with weekly prayer walking our neighborhood for 4 ½ years on Wednesdays from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. The total is twenty-four times and counting of walking and praying over every block and with many residents in the Old King’s Orchard neighborhood, the neighborhood surrounding Decatur Grace UMC. The seed sprouted with the development of our five-year plan, finalized in late 2016, which created a vision of becoming a church that turns outward to the world to love our neighbors. Our clear intention is to be part of God’s work in transforming our neighborhood and community through new life offered in Jesus Christ. The plant began to grow at the New Room Conference in Nashville, Tennessee in September of 2017 as we heard a presentation by Verlon Fosner about building a worship service with a dinner church model as described in his book, Welcome to Dinner, Church. We watered the little seedling with the invitation to our congregation to explore the dinner church model, to be trained, and to serve as the team needed to bring the idea to fruition.
Thus in October of 2018 our third worship service at Decatur Grace UMC flowered. We call it The Table of Grace, or more simply, The Table. Primary to our vision and intention was to have an opportunity to tie together meeting the physical needs of some of the most challenged and underprivileged people in our community with a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through telling the stories of Jesus. Our weekly 5:00 p.m. service on Sundays is not a typical worship experience. We serve an extravagant meal every week and fold in band-led music, a brief message, and conversation led by table shepherds about the evening’s Scripture and message. It is often noisy and sometimes chaotic, but we are intentionally relational, seeking to build friendships of trust with those who attend. We know it is a long-term process since more than 80% of our attendees have never had any prior connection with Grace UMC. We have between 25-30 volunteers serving each week, and we have averaged 119 attendees since we began.
We openly admit that we don’t have it all figured out yet. There are challenges every week that we have to work through. We feed our guests and then encourage them to stay to receive the spiritual food we offer through Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. Our team meets weekly to evaluate the previous week and to tweak what we’re doing for the following week. We are still learning what it means to serve with the attitude of Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit has been our constant Guide and Companion as we have sought to honor Christ. We also know that this is not the end-all, be-all of what God has called us to do. The Table is something which God has called us to for this season and could be a stepping stone for additional ministries in a neighborhood and community that desperately need to hear good news, the Good News of Jesus Christ!