Community Table Grows the Kingdom - Issue #82
Breaking barriers starts at the table in Cornelius, Oregon. Cornelius is a small farming community a few miles east of Portland, where Anglo and Latino citizens have worked together for several generations. Children go to school together, but barriers remain between the groups.
About two years ago, Cornelius United Methodist Church launched the Community Table. It started with a food pantry. Soon someone from the local Cooperative Extension Service noticed the activity at the church and offered her professional services to teach cooking classes using pantry food. People who came for food started to work with church members to stock the shelves, carry heavy boxes of food, and visit with newcomers. New relationships deepened into friendships. People began talking about planting a garden to produce fresh, nutritious vegetables. The church decided to dig up the front lawn and create a labyrinth shaped garden! The garden work has become a prayer.
The church also launched La Cena (the Supper), a monthly meal with structured table conversation, a learning time, and a sending forth to practice the new learning in daily life. There is at least one bilingual person at each table and all conversation is in Spanish and English.
Recently the church invited parents and preschoolers from La Cena to the Thursday morning play gathering. The gathering increases social interaction of the parents and children and provides healthy snacks and play time.
As the congregation has continued to engage with its community, the following insights have emerged:
- Just getting people together is not sufficient, there must be an intentional focus on building relationships.
- You have to keep continually inviting; once is not enough. The invitation needs to be focused and specific, not just a general invitation to attend the church.
- Sharing a meal is a powerful vehicle for building relationships.
Some Questions for Discussion
- What are the barriers that exist in your community and how might your congregation begin to address them?
- How might you strengthen current church ministries with a more intentional focus on building relationships?
Betsey Heavner is Director of Leadership for Congregational Renewal at the Discipleship Ministries. She can be reached at [email protected]. You can read more about Cornelius UMC at www.corneliusumc.com.