Belinda Groves – 15 October 2017

I am not entirely sure where the idea for next Sunday’s Longest Morning Tea Table came from. Perhaps – like a good morning tea with plates of scones and biscuits and slices and savouries – it was a combination of various things.

It was many months ago that I was driving down Limestone Avenue past the Church of Christ and saw on their noticeboard (there’s always some gold on their noticeboard), “Rather than building higher fences, let’s build longer tables.” The phrase could refer to several areas of our lives: To our refugee policy where all our energy seems directed towards deterrents rather than compassion and creative – life giving – solutions. To the promises at the time of the incoming US president! And to our sometimes Pharisaical approach as Christians to sharing the gospel.

How could we move, I wondered, to a place of graceful presence; where we could show real hospitality to others, and where we could share confidently the treasures of our faith because our listeners would know that we would listen to them with equal respect? In other words, how could we continue building real and deep friendships with others?

Then sometime after that drive down Limestone someone told me about a stay they’d had in a small country town, and how the local church had been hosting a morning tea to which everyone and anyone was invited.

And so I started thinking about the possibilities for us and, in the process, looking online for mentions of long tables and morning teas, and I discovered that it is ‘a thing’!

In some parts of the world it is simply about breaking records, but in others – including South Australia – long table events raise money for medical research. In Devon, in the UK, they hold a longest table in memory of a local restaurateur who had an enduring belief that sharing food and wine with family and friends – and new friends – is what makes life worthwhile. In the US, many cities hold longest table dinners to raise funds for community organisations or to build community. As the coordinators of The Longest Table Dayton, Ohio, write, their table was “packed with strangers who wanted to break bread with their neighbours and meet someone new…to re-think their assumptions about others….”

As we prepare for our Longest Morning Tea Table, can I ask you to bring a plate to share, but far more importantly, can I ask you to come wanting to break bread, wanting to share yourself and in so doing, find new companions.