"The event was inspiring. It was a safe environment in which to share our thoughts on faith in today's world." -- Lisa Kay Bohan
"It was such a nice evening to hear and to understand more about each other's faiths. There was a great sense of unity at our table, and we felt very connected in that we all have more in common than differences." -- Racquel Blake
This was my first Open Tables event, and I was impressed with the hospitality of the hosting church, open-mindedness of the attendees, and the desire to openly exchange their thoughts and experiences. It was a great opportunity to build bridges and remove stereotypes in our diverse city. -- Athar Sayed
During this pandemic season, we’re using Zoom to conduct Open Tables. It works surprisingly well! If you think you can recruit 10-20 members of your congregation to participate in a Zoom gathering with people from other faiths, please let us know and we’ll work to connect you with 2-3 other congregations. We’ll work with you to create and run the event.
OPEN TABLES: To build relationships based on our shared humanity that go beyond the divides of tribalism.
MeckMIN (Mecklenburg Metropolitan Interfaith Network) promotes interfaith collaboration to foster understanding, compassion and justice. We envision a community that lives by the highest values and core virtues of its rich faith traditions and respects the dignity of every person.
We live out these values by bringing together people from different faith perspectives and promoting congregational engagement through dialogue and fellowship.
Open Tables, a program launched in the summer of 2019, aims to build substantive relationships among our diverse congregations through fellowship and food. One important aspect of this program is involving members, and not just clergy, of each congregation.
We hope for 75-100 people at each event. Smaller congregations can certainly team up (and we’ll help make those connections as needed.)
Summary of the Concept
At an Open Tables gathering, diverse congregations come together for fellowship and dining; with the goal of building relationships based on our shared humanity that go beyond the divides of tribalism.
Hosting Congregations: The host congregation provides a space with tables and a welcoming environment and commits to doing the outreach to have their own congregation members show up in good numbers.
Dining: The host congregation may choose to a) cater or b) create a checklist for a pot-luck dinner which is shared by each congregation involved beforehand. Dietary restrictions should be made clear – a plant based diet works for almost everyone and is healthy to boot!
Visiting Congregations: Each visiting congregation makes the commitment to doing the outreach to have their own congregation members show up in good numbers – and to helping with the pot-luck if that’s what the host congregation prefers.
Both hosting and visiting congregations may want to share ahead of time the guidelines for dialogue listed below. MeckMIN will connect congregations willing to host with congregations of other faiths and/or racial/ethnic make-ups willing to attend.
People from each community will be seated in a mixed arrangement at each table to create diversity in dialogue. Tables will be given a few talking points to discuss from both a faith and humanity perspective.
House Rules for Dialogue
Each table will appoint a timekeeper and a house rule reminder
Listen: The goal is to get to know people and learn from their faith perspective and human experience. We all grow through learning new perspectives/stories.
One at a time: Wait for others to finish before commenting.
Be curious: Respect differences, be willing to be surprised, and build on common ground.
Focus: Stay focused on the talking points provided.
Step up, Step Back: When sharing your perspective/story, be conscious of the time allotted. Help make space for everyone to share their thoughts. If you haven’t shared yet, step up – your voice is important. If you have already spoken, step back – allow others to share.