The Possibilities of a Round Table Conversation

The List of Names

Perhaps you, like me, have been overwhelmed with the news lately.  Another mass shooting.  Another list of names of lives cut short, images of grieving friends and family on the tv.

I’ve listened to too many pastoral prayers, heard too many bells rung, watched too many candles lit in churches after mass shootings.  I’ve had too many conversations cut short by others who just don’t want to face the fears they have for their own children.  I’ve had difficult conversations with my own family members who are avid hunters, who know that I’m a pacifist.

Mass shootings.  War.  Devastation.  It can be overwhelming.

But there’s hope.  My friend Rev. Melissa Cooper writes about Gen Z and why young adults today are quick to speak up and speak out against violence and injustice.  I encourage you to read both her pieces on Gen Z:

Social, Political and Cultural Issues

I believe the activism of young adults from Parkland, Florida and others is important for us to listen to as those who are active in Christian mission.  Social, political and economic issues are part of what we should pay attention to as we prepare for mission and continue to work in mission.  Drs. Jacob and Glory Dharmaraj, authors of Mutuality in Mission, articulate why mission must attend to these issues:

“The gifts of God include both personal salvation and human liberation.  Faith in Christ Jesus and service to humanity cannot be separated.  Inner renewal and fulfillment through the working of the Holy Spirit lead Christian communities to commit more deeply to tackling issues that face God’s children everywhere in social, political, and cultural spheres, and to take bold stands on behalf of the exploited, dominated, and oppressed.”

As Christians, we are to take bold stands on behalf of the exploited, dominated and oppressed.  This may mean we need to sit at the table with people we disagree with – with people who may tell us uncomfortable truths.  This may mean taking risks and making changes.

Round Table Conversation

The image of sitting around the table of Christ, listening to each other with humility and courage has come up time and time again in my prayers.  Dr. Letty Russell describes a vision of the church as a round table, where everyone is heard, where all are valued and included.  In this vision of the church, those who are at the table always look for people who aren’t at the table and invite them to join, to sit with each other as equals around the Lord’s table.

Can you imagine round table conversation that would empower and encourage your work in mission?  Can you imagine round table conversation that would break down walls, open up opportunities for the church to dig deep into tackling the painful issues people face every day?  Can you imagine how it would challenge us to sit at a round table and just listen to David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, and Emma Gonzalez as they listened to and learned from Geneva Reed-Veal, Sybrina Fulton, Lezley McSpadden and Samaria Rice, as they listened to and learned from Sunny Red Bear, Jennifer Himel, Johnnie Jae and Naelyn Park?  Can you imagine the possibilities?

I encourage you to seek out those in your community who are at the margins and invite them to sit with you at a round table, where all are welcomed and all are heard with respect and deep dedication to the gift and work of God for justice.


Further Reading:

Johnnie Jae’s organization: A Tribe Called Geek

Jennifer Himel’s organization: UNite to End Violence: Native Women’s Empowerment

Sunny Red Bear’s spoken word work: Grandbabies

Find a local chapter of Black Lives Matter or Be The Bridge , a faith-based grassroots group working for racial unity

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