Last fall a number of people from Mill Plain joined a congregational study of a book titled A Bigger Table; Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community. I also preached on that theme for three weeks.
To my delight, months later the image of a bigger table comes up in multiple ways. Sometimes it is as simple as a meeting with more people than can comfortably fit around the table that had been set up for it. Someone will comment, “We need a bigger table.” Other times the image of a bigger table leads us to expand our vision beyond Mill Plain United Methodist Church. That expanded vision comes from people who participated in the study and who push me (in the best possible ways) to think outside of my own little box.
This spring the Mission Team heard about the level of food scarcity in our community. One in four residents of Clark County struggles to put food on the table. So we decided to hold a food drive in our parking lot: a bigger table in which we asked both the members of our church and those in our neighborhood to contribute. The Social Justice team partnered with this effort. Suddenly it grew beyond anything I had imagined. We challenged Mill Plain UMC to collect a TON of food and a TON of money. We set the day after St. Patrick’s Day as a drive-through food bank donation day and families volunteered to wave signs, wearing their brightest colors. That day alone we collected 645 pounds of food and $260 towards our goal. We built a bigger table by reaching out to our neighborhood. Then we learned that our friends at Vancouver Heights UMC had joined us in this effort. They collected 249 pounds of food. As of this writing, we are very close to our goal and still have two more weeks. The bigger table is already putting food on the table. We’ve delivered 1665 pounds of food to the Orchards FISH (Friends in Service of Humanity) food bank. We’ll send in the money after Easter.
March is Transgender Awareness Month so the Social Justice Team invited Jackie Stone to speak about it. I had no idea if we would have anyone show up. That event happened last Tuesday with 38 people in attendance. About half were from Mill Plain UMC, and half were from other churches and the community. It was an informative and helpful session. We hope to partner with those other churches in future events: a bigger table.
Welcome to the bigger table. April 9 the United Methodists in Clark County will join for a joint Easter Sunrise Service at 6:30 AM at Lacamas Park for the second year. Not everyone wants to get up that early in the morning and by joining together we had about 40 people, enough to truly celebrate Easter together.
Welcome to the bigger table. How else can we expand our table?