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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. 

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