In our combined forty years of ministry, my colleague Rev. Shannon Speidel and I have had many church experiences that we would deem “holy.”
However, they all pale in comparison to what we have experienced during the last twelve months in the visioning and planning of the Enid Welcome Table.
During our preliminary conversations regarding moving one of our worship services to a different time, it was brought to our attention that the food insecure population of Enid was served a meal (with no strings attached) every day of the week with the exception of Sunday. We were also told that many who rely on the gracious ministry of a weekday community soup kitchen called Our Daily Bread are famished on Monday mornings. They report not having had anything to eat since Saturday, when they were served a meal by the wonderful feeding ministry of First Presbyterian Church of Enid.
A task force was created by the worship committee to discuss moving one of our services. Task force members have said that they “felt the spirit of God moving in the room” as they discussed the possibility of a worship service occurring around tables after a meal was shared with some of the most impoverished people in our community.
The Enid Welcome Table planning committee was soon developed. It includes members of our church, members of other Enid churches, and people who are not members of any church. They are people who are committed to providing a “restaurant quality” meal each Sunday to anyone in need. They believe the best way to accomplish this is to recruit 52 organizations and businesses in Enid, asking them to prepare and serve one high quality meal a year.
The idea of inviting the entire community to be a part of the Enid Welcome Table is one the most exciting aspects of this ministry. My congregation has heard me talk at great lengths regarding the difficulty of doing “evangelism in the 21st century.” I say: “If you don’t believe it’s difficult, try inviting someone to who doesn’t attend church to come to church with you to listen to a sermon!”
Then I add, “On the other hand, I think you will get a quite different response if you try inviting someone who doesn’t attend church to join you in doing something that Jesus would obviously do, like feeding the hungry.”
As I often say, the reason people are not in church today is NOT because they have given up on Jesus. The reason people are not in church today IS because they do not see Jesus in the church.
We are excited about the Enid Welcome Table; because instead of inviting people “to come to church,” we will be inviting people “to be the church.” Instead of inviting people to listen to stories about Jesus that took place 2000 years ago, we will be inviting people to be the selfless hands and feet of Jesus in this world today. Instead of inviting people to come to a service of worship, we will be inviting people to go and worship with their service.
And all will be invited to serve. Your religion (or lack of religion), your sexuality, your race, your mental or physical ability, your political stance – it doesn’t matter! All means all.
I, along with many other church scholars, are convinced that this is the way to revive, revitalize, and restore the church in the 21st century. I have witnessed first-hand the miraculous transformation that can happen by embracing a missional model in my previous congregation.
We also believe it is very important to feed the hungry with “no strings attached.” We believe there are too many Christian organizations that offer to help people if.
“Love your neighbor, if they look like you.” “Welcome the stranger, if they want to be Christian.” “Feed the hungry, if they pray with you.”
No, Jesus never said “if.”
Jesus said: “Love your neighbors,” period. “Welcome the stranger,” period. And “feed the hungry,” period.
We do not believe Jesus ever put stipulations on grace. That is why it is called grace.
Therefore, the mission of the Enid Welcome Table is to graciously feed people with absolutely no strings attached. The worship service that will be offered after the meal will always be optional. People of other faiths and people with no faith are welcome. No one will ever be judged, disrespected or preached to. All will be loved, accepted, and fed.
We believe the Enid Welcome Table has the potential to dramatically transform our community to be an example to the world of miracles that can happen when people truly become the gracious hands and feet of Christ in our world.
If you, your business, or your organization would like to serve a meal to the food insecure of Enid, Oklahoma, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rev. Shannon Speidel at email@example.com. Donations are also appreciated.