For Easter, 2018 Convergence celebrated by feasting with our friends and neighbors. During Lent, we focused on the practices of fasting and chose to explore “feasting” on all that is good for Easter. This banquet feast was our way of celebrating hope through an act of beauty with neighbors, arts partners, and friends. The service was created with our guests in mind and the idea that our meal, prayer and company would make visible the joy and love of Christ in a tangible way. We spent significant time and energy preparing a meal of sumptuous homemade dishes, luscious fresh bread and cheese, good wine and gorgeous desserts. Our invitation read: “Let’s enjoy life and friendship together in a relaxed and celebratory environment!” The Convergence Congregation served as table hosts and over half of those in attendance were acquaintances, neighbors and arts partners.
A significant component of this event was the food. Everything was homemade and extra attention was paid to tasted and presentation, even going so far as to be decadent. The table, food and atmosphere was meant to serve as a metaphor for the love of God; for the heavenly banquet feast. This meant we could not use anything that would be termed “disposable.” It also meant extra time doing dishes after the event was over but because it impacted the overall sense of what we were trying to say we felt these details were important.
In preparation, the congregation participated in an online retreat as a complement to our weekly Lenten services and all were asked to fast the week before in order that the feast would feel that much more poignant. Our goal was for neighbors, friends and acquaintances in attendance to feel aware of the why of Easter without the formal setting of a typical Easter service. They were meant to feel as if they were honored guests invited to share in our family meal.
Finally, all congregation members were invited to arrive at least a half an hour early to help the team with final preparations of the meal and place setting and to pray for the service. Significantly, we asked one member of our congregation to come early and spend about an hour praying over the space, the tables and those for whom the event was being prepared. We believe these prayer preparations in effect, made the worship service begin long before the guests arrived. It made our “setting the table” ministry an act of worship as well.
The Feast was inspired by Sojourn Theatre Company’s On the Table project. We were intrigued by the idea of bringing strangers together around a well prepared table and common questions. We have tried using a meal as improvised worship in several ways, but this was particularly meaningful as a way to do both outreach and worship for Easter. It allowed us to walk deeply into Easter as a congregation but also allow space for those on the fringe to “check us out.” As a test for our congregation to see how deeply our attention to contemplative practices had soaked in we wondered; “would there be evidence of Christ in our demeanor and “way” and would it be noticeable to those outside of our regular community?”
“Thank you so much for the invitation to the Easter SunSET Feast. The event was the finest example of hospitality I have ever experienced. As a Benedictine oblate, it fully illustrated the call to “welcome all as Christ”… The feast made a deep, positive impression on my grandchildren, who have an expanded understanding of the connection between hospitality through food, creativity and going to church.”— Dana Hengst
- Over half of those in attendance not members of the congregation.
- We received incredible feedback from new attendees about receiving this kind of hospitality from a church.
- We felt we had truly celebrated Easter.
- The experience of studying fasting and feasting and then preparing and participating in an invitational feast has significantly impacted the way our congregation perceives and receives communion. It has enriched this ritual in a way that has made it come alive in a very full and metaphor packed way.
- We solidified our congregational calling to “table ministry” and curating environments, conversations and actions that lead people to life-altering experiences with God.