MeckMIN Offers Open Table Platform to strengthen Interfaith Relationships in Mecklenburg County
To build relationships based on our shared humanity that go beyond the divides of tribalism.
Open Tables, a program launched in the summer of 2019, aims to build substantive relationships among our diverse congregations through fellowship and food with the goal of building relationships based on our shared humanity that go beyond the divides of tribalism.
One important aspect of this program is involving members, and not just clergy, of each congregation. We strive to have 75-100 people in attendance at each event. Smaller congregations can certainly team up (and we’ll help make those connections as needed.)
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.
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.
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.
Remember, we are here to share our faith and experiences, not to convert others to our religion or prove that any one opinion is more “right” than any other opinion. Be genuine and clear in stating your own perspective/experience while being respectful to others.
At least one representative of MeckMIN will be present to facilitate the process.
7:00 - 7:10 | Guests will be greeted by the host congregation and will be given stickers with their name and congregation. The food will be lined up by numbers from the checklist on two rows of tables for self-serve. Guests will then be seated at the tables where folks will introduce themselves and take a look at the questions. MeckMIN will provide each table with flash cards containing a few questions and some scriptural quotes connecting faith, our family and our social lives. These cards will serve as the basis for discussion.
7:10 - 7:20 | A MeckMIN or host representative will start with a small 5 minute introduction thanking the host congregation, welcoming all participating congregations, outlining the evening, and briefly reading through the House Rules.
7:20 - 8:20 | Everyone will then line up to dish up their plates. Once everyone at a table has food, they may begin their discussion.
8:20 - 8:30 | MeckMIN or host representative will invite one or two people from a few tables to share something they learned or benefitted from over the course of the evening. The host will close with a short interfaith prayer.
For more information or to commit to taking part, please contact MeckMIN Executive Director, LeDayne McLeese Polaski at email@example.com or call 704-565-5455.