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in loving memory, Jimmy

on friday, we grieved the death of our dear friend, Jimmy. Jimmy was a kind man, who lived with integrity and wisdom, and was a central part of Sunday Supper Church. Jimmy was actively involved with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and lived in permanent supportive housing at Breakthrough. at his memorial, we all shared stories, ate cookies, played music, planted a tree and wrote notes to him on balloons. it was sweet & sad, and a moment i'll treasure forever. 

when we began Sunday Supper Church last year, we dreamed of a place where a diverse group of people would preach to each other, seated around a table, eating dinner, reflecting the divine & human image of Jesus. my personal theology believes that Jesus's very favorite people are the poor, and that we're all better when we listen & follow those with little money. i remember meeting with Arloa at Breakthrough, early on in the planning of SSC, asking her advice on how to create a table for all. she said it was difficult, but the key was to authentically & organically follow the poor.  

we did our best to take her advice, believing that Jesus's pastors & prophets were those experiencing homelessness. for thanksgiving, we created the widest table our space could hold, and invited friends from Breakthrough to join us for a friendsgiving celebration. this was the first night we met Jimmy! he walked in with his wise & peaceful presence, smiling kindly, and making us feel like instant friends. my friends courtney & karen set up a glam station that night, so that all of us could have our hair done, and Jimmy was the first in line, looking sharp in his fresh cut. 

in the months that followed, Jimmy showed up sunday-after-sunday, sharing & listening, reflecting the peaceful presence of Jesus each time. at his final Sunday Supper Church, as we focused our conversation on our enemies, Jimmy preached his most powerful sermon around the table. as we each shared specifics about our enemies, Jimmy leaned back in his chair taking it all in. finally, when everyone had finished, i asked Jimmy who his enemy was. he said--i have no enemies. i live my life to be at peace with all. we were all silent as he spoke, all of us so consumed in those who had wronged us, we hadn't even paused to consider if not having enemies was a possibility for our lives. simple, powerful words that will forever guide our lives. 

here's the thing: i had spent A LOT of time preparing for that night. and a whole lot of time thinking about my enemies. but, never once, did i consider saying what Jimmy said. and THAT is the magic of the table, and the magic in inviting Jesus's favorites to the table. 

this coming sunday, Jimmy's friend John will lead us in communion. our theme is peace, and John will invite us to experience peace as we are fed by Jesus through the bread and cup. i named John our resident Prophet because he usually delivers God's messages to us in encouraging words & insight, and so to be led in communion by him, will be rich and powerful, and i guarantee we'll be fed by Jesus in ways none of us could have planned or led better. 

for me, this is church. we'll keep going, filling our tables wider & wider with Jesus's best people. 

Jimmy, we miss you, and our table is lacking because you are gone. we'll do our best to reflect the image of Jesus we learned from you & saw in you--sharing peace, wisdom, smiles, and kindness with all. we thank God for your life, and for the privilege of knowing you. 


{one} year @ sunday supper church

last week, we celebrated one year of gathering together as Sunday Supper Church! this started as a dream, an idea, a curiosity -- do people want to gather differently? 

and, one year later, here we are! gathered around the table, experiencing + creating church together, watching the movement of Jesus around us. and it's all too, too good. 

whatever the lord's supper is, it is everything that eating is. --hoyt hickman

a few reflections on the first year: 

we started this church almost a year ago because we noticed there were voices missing in the church. mainly: women, people of color, artists, the poor, and our gay + lesbian friends & family. we've done our best this last year to gather at the table, listen + learn from each other, and lead together. this year, multiple women led + pastored, men + women of color advised + led communion + planned our children's activities, the artists created photos + food + visuals + table decor + wood crafted ornaments, the poor PREACHED to us + taught us radical friendship, and our gay friends & family encouraged + led + financially gave. 

we believe all are made to reflect the beauty of Jesus, and i'm so thankful to have had my faith expanded this year as i saw Jesus in those at the table. 

you know, of course, what we believe about food. it's pure magic! a beautiful table of food gives us a moment to pause and reflect on Jesus's abundance, creativity, provision and creates an opportunity for equality (although not perfectly) as we eat the same food and look each other in the eye. 

when we began, i thought we'd experience the goodness of food only when we were gathered around the table on sunday nights. but, the president issued an executive order early in the year, and suddenly we were calling our friends at world relief chicago asking how we could help. the next week, we made lunch for their staff meeting, watched as they were encouraged in their important work, and suddenly our food share was born.

we spent the year looking for organizations doing good work in chicago, and then brought them food or paid for them to cater a supper church gathering. every single time, our faith was expanded as we were reminded: we aren't the experts in any of this work, there are organizations who are the experts, and our unique role is to encourage them to keep going by sharing beautiful food. i don't know all the specifics of Jesus math, but what i do know is that when you share food -- you are blessed, and we felt that over-and-over-and over.

{i've linked the organizations below. show some love!} 

finally, during the night last week, matt + jill talked about the power of showing up. that, for the last year, we had shown up on sundays, even when it was hard, or we were tired, or we would have rather stayed home. and we all shared stories about times we almost didn't show up {SO MANY TIMES!} but, matt + jill spoke to the power of showing up for each other + for ourselves -- that we're missed when not there, and as they spoke, i thought about the truth of their words. in a supper church of 40-50 people, gathered around a table, you don't always have room to hide which can sometimes make the experience scary + risky.

but, the reward, oh the reward this last year! showing up at the table, sharing our faith perspectives + learning from each other, being seen + affirmed is like nothing i've experienced before. 


so. more of all of this in 2018. we'll keep gathering twice a month for sunday suppers, we'll keep sharing food with great organizations, and we'll do our best to create wider tables wherever we go -- in our homes, at restaurants, in our church as we show up with so much love + care for each other. 


World Relief Chicago, Kovler Center, Girl Forward, Center on Halsted, Emmaus Ministries, Breakthrough, First Slice, Inspiration Kitchens, Honeydoe, Lexington Betty Smokehouse, Blue Sky Bakery, The Resurrection Project


love thy neighbor

yesterday, i made a giant batch of food, packaged it up, and left it on my neighbor's doorstep. that felt really, really good. caring for + loving friends is the best. 

but, BEING cared for, or taking care of myself? not as much fun. and not easy.

i've been thinking a lot lately about the complexity + weirdness of Jesus's words found in the bible:

One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?” Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” --Mark 12: 28-29 (MSG version)


love others as well as you love yourself. those words are so odd to me, given that most of us don't love ourselves well. why would how we love ourselves be the standard for how we love others?

#low #bar. 

most of my therapy appointments end with my counselor saying, "take care of yourself, Amy." to which i respond, "you got it! good idea! and, how should i do that specifically?" because i'm so self-care deficient, when she tells me to take care of myself, i don't even know what's she referring to. thankfully, she's kind, and reminds me EVERY TIME: sleep, work out, eat healthy, have fun, invite friends into your worries, cook, throw parties, try a new restaurant with your husband, cuddle the puppy, all the things that make you feel good and are good for you. right.

so, back to Jesus math: 

the greatest commandment (includes): loving myself well in order to love others well. 


loving myself well = letting others care for me. 

Queen Brene Brown says: if you're great at taking care of everyone around you, but you can't receive care when you're most in need, you really aren't as great as you think you are at giving care.  


my new emerging theory is this: one of the great evils running through our world today is our willingness to not take good care of or love ourselves. to put our personal needs, health, emotion, growth, joy on the back burner, making it less priority. because the less we love ourselves, the less we're able to authentically love others. and really, what a fantastically, effective, evil plot. 

at sunday supper church, we've been going through matthew 25 -- in which Jesus describes His location {if you're looking for Jesus, here's where He'll be}, and how we're to treat others:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

this sunday, we'll focus on the sick. in preparation, i keep thinking about how i can't authentically visit the sick {and follow Jesus} unless i'm willing to be visited when i'm sick {which i'm usually not}. and that in order to follow Jesus, we must love otherselves well by being vulnerable when sick, and allowing friends + family + neighbors to care for us. this then turns our love + care for each other into authentic acts of love + grace. 

ok then.  



practice phase {reflections}: Sunday Supper Church

at the end of may, we concluded our practice phase of Sunday Supper Church. for five months, 25 of us journeyed together to practice creating a new type of church: a table-based, dinner environment that seeks to find the beauty, diversity, humanity and image of God in each other. 

we had a vision in our minds, but weren't sure exactly how it would play out, so we practiced creating a church together {!}.  we tested everything: the location, the food, the order of the gathering, the teams, the children's activities, the budget, EVERYTHING. and, WOW, what a journey it was! the vision in our minds came to light in the most beautiful, sacred, special way. we had church together on sunday nights around a table, and it worked!

of course, there's SO much more to say, but for now, a few initial reflections on my mind: 

everyone is spiritual. over the last few months, i've had a million conversations with folks outside of the Sunday Supper group who were curious to learn more about what we were doing. and, in almost every conversation, i noticed a spark and connection in people's eyes as they heard about our values: diversity, beauty, transparency, equality, Jesus-centered. i was both surprised and encouraged by this, that even as i continue to read articles about how the western church is in decline, faith and spirituality are ever increasing. 

new expressions of church are desperately needed. for many people, i noticed that the traditional, modern format churches weren't working in helping them grow in faith. many had expressed giving up on going to a building on sunday mornings because they had felt hurt, left out, oppressed, and overlooked in the past. and yet! they still wanted meaningful, loving friendships and genuine spiritual experiences. this was actually the most surprising thing to me! folks burned by church, but not by Jesus. {tweet that, baby!}. 

this is THE time for brave pastors and communities to evaluate their current ways of doing church, abandon things that are harming their congregations, and take bold risks in creating new expressions of church. there's never been a greater need, or a better time! many people i heard from (our group included), weren't convinced that church could be defined by gathering on sunday night, eating a beautiful meal, sharing communion in the kitchen, talking vulnerably about faith, doubt. oh! and also, there would be no 40 minute sermon from a stage with bright lights, no long worship sets, nor a passed offering plate. and yet! in our own new expression, we were church to each other. 

everyone has something to teach us about God. this is the core belief that SSC was built on, and as we practiced, it was a joy to see this prove absolutely true. when we gather around a {diverse} table, share our unique experience of God, and bravely listen to others' experiences, our faith is expanded as we see God in others. the highlights of this experience, for me, were when folks at my table shared how they experience, hear, see Jesus each day, and it was VASTLY different than my experiences. if we have eyes to see and open hearts to receive, the potential of our faith is limitless. 

everyone is desperate to be seen, named. a beautiful thing emerged during our practice phase--something we're calling "food share." we started making beautiful meals for not-for-profits in Chicago who are doing really hard, important, love-based work. we made lunch and served them at their staff meetings. each time, as we shared the food and said a few words about how important their work was and that our desire was for the food to remind them of this, i noticed a similar look in their eyes--as if it had been a very long time since they they had been seen or thanked.

and then, at the end of each of our Sunday Supper Church gatherings, we stand in a circle and name the ways we've seen Jesus in each other during that night. again--that look. each time, i'd look around the circle at friends and watch as they came to LIFE hearing how someone else had seen Jesus in them. again, again, again, reminded that every one of us share a common humanity, and that we must see and name the beauty in our humanity as often as possible. 

church should be enjoyable! this seems like a silly or petty reflection given the others, but i've been thinking a lot about just how fun and enjoyable gathering each month has been! for so long, church work has felt hard and burdensome, and i wasn't sure it could ever be different. the work of SSC is hard and tender, but also light, and fun, and really lovely. 

last week, a pastor friend said to me: Amy! do you know how lucky you are to be leading and creating a church that you'd actually attend if you weren't the pastor? oh RIGHT! even if i weren't leading SSC, i'd be cooking meals, setting the table, and participating in brave conversation around the table every single time the church gathered. and, i'll never take that for granted. 

so, we're taking this practice phase and moving forward. this summer, we're inviting our friends and family to experience what we've created {and, also so we can practice a few more things with/on them!}, and then in september, we'll open to the public. i seriously CAN not wait. xo, friends.