There is Room at the Table – Sharing the Gifts Together

From March 12-15, 2015, the annual meeting of the Executive Committee of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe of The United Methodist Church took place in Poland.

Women and men from 14 European countries travelled to Poland in order to discuss about the activities of the various working groups of the Central Conference, to share their own experiences, to encourage one another, and to learn from one another.

The topic «Worship Service» was dealt with even twice. On the one hand, the Working Group Liturgy had prepared a survey last year. Its aim was to learn more about the diversity of worship service cultures in the various countries and to identify the essential characteristics of Methodist worship services. At the meeting a very comprehensive evaluation was presented – and it was obvious that the result is fairly representative given the fact that 63% of all local churches in the Central Conference had participated in the survey. What is the average attendance of a «regular» worship service? Where are worship services celebrated? How do people sing and pray? What is the duration of an average sermon? Which elements are used in worship services? Responses to these and many other questions will help the working group to accompany the practice of worship in the Central Conference and to contribute towards its further development.

On the other hand, the Working Group Children and Youth addressed, among many other issues, the topic «all generation services» – and, related to it, the question where young people can find their place in the congregations. It was particularly mentioned that it is often difficult for young adults to find their way into a «normal» or «rightful» church after having had a special program during all the years they have been children and youth. The working group would like to support intergenerational churches, not the least by cross-border encounters and conversations. Congregations should be a place where youth and young adults feel comfortable, as well.

On the Theme Day, which took place on Saturday, March 14, 2015, these thoughts were further developed and a completely new dimension was added. It was not about worship services to which local churches would invite people – the Theme Day rather focused on the table to which God invites people – particularly those who do not find room at the tables of society. Theological lectures were grounded and made concrete by practical examples.

One may ask: what has the Lord’s table to do with pastoral care for people in Austria who are in custody pending deportation; with a welcoming heart for migrants; with a commitment for people with special needs in Albania; with computer courses for autistic children in Macedonia; with open doors for homeless people in Bulgaria?

But maybe one should simply let these and other expressions of a living faith hold up a mirror: why do congregations celebrate worship services if they do not offer room to those whom God invites to his table?

Source: Urs Schweizer, Assistant to Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich/Switzerland
Date: March 18, 2015