A tactic for addressing these goals was the creation of a liturgical experiment throughout the seasons of Lent and Easter which we named Word and Table. A small group of leaders engaged in discernment of what an alternative worship experience might look like which would: connect with people who considered themselves “spiritual but not religious,” draw on the insights and talents of young adults in our congregation for design, would “flatten” the hierarchy of liturgical roles so that the priest was not the center of attention, retain our spiritual heritage, and which would draw interested communicants to a site other than the central worship space on Sunday mornings. Over the course of the experiment 57 people participated in Word and Table, with an average attendance of 31.
From this experiment we learned that there is interest in liturgical innovation in our community and that a crucial chord was struck. Our youth and young adults are eager to exert leadership in our life of prayer: they shared poignant stories, read, offered the chalice, and designed prayer experiences which invited reflection, intimacy, creativity and awareness. The cross generational pollination was rich and meaningful. There is a longing among some of us for a more affective (feeling) connection in prayer. We also discovered that we can’t help “talking church”—our language and comfort zone leads us to pray in ritual ways.
The feedback has led our community to continue the experiment with what we are calling Word and Table 2.0. The focus of the experiment for the next six weeks, beginning this coming Wednesday, July 16, is to see if we can lower the barriers of “churchiness” so that those who are not insiders to Christian faith can engage in Word and sacrament with greater ease and to see what it feels like to worship off site. We will be offering an alternative experience of Word and Table at Café’ Brasil, 2604 Dunlavy, at 7:45 p.m. through August 20. Coffee will be provided, along with prayerful conversation and Eucharist. We will also be experiment in making St. Stephen’s presence in the neighborhood felt by offering coupons for coffee to those who are gathered in the restaurant those evenings on us.
If you are interested or have a friend, relative, coworker, or acquaintance who is “spiritual but not religious” but with whom you share spirited conversation, this is an opportunity to invite them for coffee to share in conversation about deep things, without the barrier of coming to 1805 W. Alabama (our site). We will sit at tables of 4, have conversation prompted by a lesson from Scripture for the week, share our experience of life’s joys, sorrow, and redemption, and share in wine and bread. We will finish each time by 9 p.m., although some may choose to linger.
This is an experiment for this next season. We will learn. We may fail. We will be changed.