Cutting Through Social Walls by Jeremy Willet
Caring for the poor is one of the most beautiful expressions of worship that we’ve experienced. In that spirit, my wife Kat and I wanted to deepen that relationship. Last spring, we bought a farm. Our thought was, “What if we could experience worship in community with others through the physical act of not only feeding the hungry, but also GROWING the food to feed the poor!?”
And then, we had another idea. “What if we actually sat at the same table?”
Many of our Church’s current method of feeding the hungry through optional programs and isolated events has failed to welcome the poor, the homeless, the orphan, the widow, and the refugee into our actual worship services. Instead, we have only widened the chasm between the rich and the poor, and further distanced the hungry from the table for which Jesus gave His life.
Our current outreaches to the poor communicate a theology of “forgiven, but not accepted”. We will happily donate, cook, serve, and clean up food for the homeless in Jesus’ name, as long as Wednesday’s non-perishables don’t touch Sunday’s consecrated elements. By only offering food and a gospel-tract, we are suggesting that we only care about their physical and spiritual attributes, but not their emotional or social characteristics. This well-intended practice has been detrimental to the development of diversified community within our Churches, and even more catastrophic to the well-being of our neighbors.
How can we expect our worship services to be filled with a diversified group of people gathered around a common table sharing the bread and wine on Sunday morning when we sit at separate tables in every other aspect of our social lives throughout the week?
I am calling for ONE table. Not a communion display restricted to the privileged at Sunday service, but a Eucharist that celebrates the hole that was cut through our social walls during the week. I want to see rich and poor, gay and straight, families and singles, cisgender and transgender, indigenous and refugee, adopted and biological, all invited into the entire process of the preparation, and The Feast.
One of the many reasons we bought the farm last year is because we weren’t comfortable advocating for community development through sustainable agriculture programs in other countries if we weren’t practicing it ourselves. So, we’ve purchased chickens, goats, and rabbits, and are planting a large, organic garden. In addition, we believe in tithing our finances and also our time and resources, so we are donating one acre of our land to a community garden with our friends at The Keep & Till. Here we’ve discovered “a community of faith and farming” in which we hope to grow produce to be donated to our local food pantries. When we deliver these items, we hope to also use that time to get to know our neighbors by dining with them…at the same table.
Jeremy is a husband and adoptive dad to his son and daughter from Africa who travels the world as a worship leader, public speaker and advocate for social justice. Through these efforts, Jeremy has helped raise over $50 million dollars for community development by finding sponsors for over 30,000 children and mobilizing over one million meals for international school-feeding programs. Jeremy lives on a 100 year old family farm in Westminster, MD where he and his family practice sustainable-living as a way to further identify with the needs of the poor. You can visit his site at jeremywillet.com.