Melissa preaching at RMC on August 18, 2019

In Covenant with Creation – Sept. 29, 2019

Leviticus 11:1-22

This Sunday Melissa wove together an explanation for the Levitical rules for what meat was clean and unclean with both the current climate change crisis and our focus with A Year at the Table.

Human lust for domination over creation is the root cause of climate change. God loves the whole world and is in covenant with creation. Life belongs to God.

In Covenant with Creation – Sept. 29, 2019
A Year at the Table

 
 
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Isaac Villegas - Feb. 2018

The house of slavery – Sept. 15, 2019

Exodus 13:3-10

Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship, brought the sermon this Sunday. The Exodus passage recalls the first Jewish Passover. The meal was a ritual, reminding them of the liberation from the house of slavery.

“Love is contraband in Hell,
Cause love is an acid
that eats away bars.”
~Assata Shakur

The house of slavery – Sept. 15, 2019
A Year at the Table

 
 
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Melissa preaching at RMC on Sept. 8, 2019

Invited to the Table – Sept. 8, 2019

Genesis 18:1-15

Melissa began her sermon talking about her many visits to A Place at the Table. Unfortunately, the first two minutes were not recorded, so we pick up from her comparison of A Place at the Table with the story of the three strangers who visit Abraham and Sarah at the oaks at Mamre. Abraham welcomes the strangers and brings Abraham and Sarah’s best for them.

What can we learn about the gathering tables in our community? Where is God present or absent? As we break bread at these tables, we’re invited to observe, to be hospitable and take part in the hospitality, and be witness to the divine presence.

Invited to the Table – Sept. 8, 2019
A Year at the Table

 
 
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Place setting with A Year at the Table in text over the plate

God shows up at the Table – Aug. 25, 2019

Genesis 1

Melissa’s sermon was preceded by viewing a video featuring James Weldon Johnson reciting the poem The Creation. The poetry of Genesis is where we’re starting our “Year at the Table.”

Our lives are dependent upon creation, just as they’re dependent upon a loving, creative God. Every time we eat, we are reminded that we do not control the world. We are reminded that our very existence is a gift.

God shows up at the Table – Aug. 25, 2019
A Year at the Table

 
 
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Local Maronite church holds First Food Festival

by David Rohrer
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.
August 24, 2019

Rosene and I joined our Maronite friends today for a Taste of Lebanon, the first community festival given by Saint Sharbel Maronite Catholic Church. After purchasing our za’atar pie, hummus, kibbeh, kofta, grape leaves, etc., we spoke to Father Robert Farah about the celebration. “Before we opened today, we met to bless the food and the people who would be coming. After the event closes, we will meet to give thanks,” he said.

The Maronite Church is officially known as the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch. According to Father Robert, 90% of their worship locally is conducted in English. Some of their hymns and prayers are in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus and his disciples. Maronite communion practices reflect those of the larger Catholic church. Due to emigration since the 19th century, two thirds of their 3,000,000 members live outside of the Middle East. 

Christian Base Communities in El Salvador

by David Rohrer
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.
August 18, 2019

Laurel Marshall talks with the group about Christian base communities in El Salvador.
The group listens to Laurel Marshall explain about Salvadoran Christian base communities.

Today, following our time of worship at Raleigh Mennonite Church (RMC), Laurel Marshall shared from her experience with Salvadoran Christian base communities, abbreviated CEBs (communidades eclesiales de base). Later in the day, she met with the RMC delegation that will be visiting El Salvador this fall. We’re grateful for her guidance in helping us plan our trip focused on communion practices in CEBs. Laurel earned her master’s degree in Latin American theology from Universidad Americalatina ‘José Simeón Cañas’ (San Salvador) and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in systemic theology at Boston College. From 2011 to 2017, she worked as solidarity program coordinator for Fundación Hermano Mercedes Ruiz (FUNDAHMER), the organization that will host the delegation during our stay in El Salvador. 

Birthed from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), CEBs call for full and active participation from everyone in church, using the model (1) see, (2) judge, (3) act. As they gather, they first look at their social context (see): What’s happened since we last met? What are the issues facing the community? They then look to the Bible (judge): What does God want us to do in response? Then they follow through on what they discern God is saying (act). 

Their faith runs very deep because they recognize their need for God, something we in the North often forget. In communion, CEBs practices reflect a broader use of scriptures involving food, for example, feeding of the five thousand. As Jesus did at the Last Supper, they use what’s available and what’s culturally appropriate, e.g., tortilla and coffee; or plantain and rice drink. And they provide an open table, welcoming children and adults, Christians and non-Christians alike. 

Folks at the fall 2019 worship retreat enjoy lunch together around the table.

Summer 2019 Worship Retreat

Folks at the fall 2019 worship retreat enjoy lunch together around the table.

by David Rohrer
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.

This summer’s RMC worship retreat began with the hymn “What is this place where we are meeting,” reminding us that “we are each other’s bread and wine.” Melissa then read all three Gospel accounts* of the last supper, interspersed with art depicting the last supper. The paintings below, along with others, will be featured this fall during communion.  

*Lord’s supper scriptures
Matthew 26:17-30
Luke 22:14-22
Mark 14:22-25

Six pictures depicting the account of the Lord's Supper in various styles.

Babette’s Feast

by Melissa Florer-Bixler
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.


It seemed fitting to me that we began our year of exploration and reflection on Communion practice in grace. Babette’s Feast, the first in our film series featuring movies about food and faith, is a story about grace received in a meal. It works around the tensions of mercy and commitment, of righteousness and joy, of holiness and pleasure.

In the story a young woman arrives on the shores of a small Danish fishing village. We discover that she is a refugee escaping civil war in France. She becomes the devoted servant of two elderly sisters, who in their youth, each gave up a chance at love and happiness – one through marriage the other through a singing career – in order to serve the ministry of their father, the leader of a Dutch Calvinist sect. Through a series of events, we can call them grace or chance, Babette comes into the sisters’ lives.

In the background of the film are the themes of regret and choice. How do we make choices and what do we do when we look back on regret at what we have done in our lives? Each of the characters faces these questions.

The apex of the film is a French meal cooked by Babette. We come to discover that in her previous life in France she was a celebrated chef. She wins the lottery and instead of spending the money to return to her life in France, as the sisters expect with sadness will be the result, she spends the entire sum, 10,000 francs, on a celebration meal for the remaining apostles of the sect.

The meal is grace. It is beauty and pleasure, righteousness and mercy kissing one another. Old hurts are overcome. Love that has been shamed is brought into the open. Regrets are lost in the hope and possibility of God’s constant provision, even when it is least expected.

The next day when we celebrated Communion as a church I had this scene in the back of my mind. The excess and abundance of Babette’s meal, her gratuitous and unmerited gift. 

During the meal the captain, the would-be-lover of the older sister, who returned to see her once more in his old age, offers a speech. While it doesn’t capture the beauty and pleasure of the meal, the color and scent and taste that waft from the screen, it puts to words the grace that flows through the meal, a grace and joy I hope will infuse itself into our church’s practice of the Lord’s Supper:

Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace, brothers, makes no conditions and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! that which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. For mercy and truth have met together and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!

A Year at the Table

A Year at the Table

Join Raleigh Mennonite for a year-long exploration, celebration, and discernment of our practice of Lord’s Supper, our relationship to food systems, and our community formed around meals.

Blog posts related to “A Year at the Table”


Sermons related to “A Year at the Table”


Peace Camp

June 15, 2019 (9 am – 3 pm)
Music, games, food, art, and conflict transformation skill-building workshop for ages 5 through rising 5th graders.


Food / Faith / Film (5 pm)

  • August 3:    In which a French refugee helps a strict Danish village learn the pleasures of eating together (Read Melissa’s post-film blog post.)
  • August 10:  (animated family-friendly movie!) In which a French rat with a gift for hospitality reminds us that “anyone can cook!”
  • August 17:   In which a new chocolaterie teaches a French village that life is about more than following the mayor’s rules
  • August 24:  In which an Indian family opens a restaurant across the street from a fancy French restaurant and sparks fly!
  • August 24: Neighborhood Pig Pickin’ Potluck, at 7 pm following the film
    Bring a dish to share and dig in to locally-sourced, sustainably-raised pork! We’re including lots of side dishes so there’s plenty of room for vegetarians and vegans to join in the fun. Come on out, rain or shine! In the event of rain, we’ll move the party inside the Hope school building.


Community Tables

September 2019
Teams will explore tables in our community where people gather for meals and share reflections on what they learned.


Food and Fellowship Retreat

September 20-22, 2019
Camp Rockfish
A weekend of delving deeper into our experience of faith, food, and ritual.


Church Tables

October 2019
Teams will observe how other churches practice Communion and share reflections on what they learned.


Interfaith Meal

November 3, 2019 (6 pm)
We will share a meal with our Muslim and Jewish neighbors to draw insights from the rich table practices of these traditions.


El Salvador Delegation

November 23-30
A team from RMC will travel to El Salvador to learn from base communities how they practice Communion and table fellowship. Participants will share what they learned with the congregation.


Church-Wide Book Study

January-May 2020
Each household will receive a copy of Sara Miles’ book, Take This Bread. Books can be discussed in small groups, dinner groups, and in a Sunday school class.


Pop-Up Seminary with Dr. Malinda Berry

February 15, 2020 (9 am – 3 pm)
Dr. Malinda Berry, professor of theology at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, will spend the weekend teaching on our Mennonite theology of Communion, new questions for Communion practice, and creating a robust and living theology of table as a local community.

Dr. Berry will also preach in worship on Sunday morning


Lent Food Scavenger Hunt Project

March-April 2020
A team from church will spend Lent living off food waste as we repent of our contribution to hunger in our community. Participants will offer reflections for the church.


Communion Retreat

May 1-3, 2020
Location TBD
All-church gathering to process what we’ve learned and heard over the previous year as we discern together a rich and meaningful Communion practice.


Table Celebration Sunday

May 24, 2020 (10:30 am)
Location TBD
All-church Sunday outdoor worship as we celebrate our year of exploration at the table, culminating in sharing Communion and a meal.


This year-long series is made possible through a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc.