Beth Richardson: Breaking Bread, Beloved Community

In this video, Beth Richardson talks about the importance of welcoming all people to the table regardless of human divides.

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Sharing Table Fellowship

This reflection can be used in connection with Beth Richardson's video, "Breaking Bread, Beloved Community." It is adapted from Barry D. Jones' "The Dinner Table as a Place of Connection, Brokenness, and Blessing."

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The table can be an icon of God’s grace and goodness. To take up a place at the table is to occupy sacred space.

The people we love most sit with us there. Meals are shared. Stories are told. Sins are confessed. We laugh together and cry together. Together we remember where we’ve been, and we dream of where we might one day go. We pray at the table. And there we experience God’s nearness, God’s kindness, and God’s love. Christians need to recover the art of a slow meal around a table with people we care about.

Christian spirituality has something important to say about the way that sharing tables nourishes us both physically and spiritually.

We need a recovery of the spiritual significance of what we eat, where we eat, and with whom we eat. In Matthew’s account of the Last Supper, he writes, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body’” (Matt 26:26). The same pattern of language—blessing, breaking, and giving—also shows up in the accounts of Jesus’s miraculous feedings. Eugene Peterson has observed that this pattern of being blessed, broken, and given is at the heart of the Christian story. He rightly insists, “This is the shape of the Eucharist. This is the shape of the Gospel. This is the shape of the Christian life.”  We need to recover the importance of gathering with people around our tables for the purpose of enjoying a meal as both a gift and means of grace.

They are those meals where we gather with guests and get a glimpse of the banquet of the kingdom to come, those meals where we get a little foretaste of the shalom of God.

These meals are what the Celts called “thin places”—where the veil that separates heaven and earth seems exceedingly thin. The table is the place where broken sinners find connection and belonging. Despite our best intentions, we all, like Peter in John 21, stumble after Jesus. We desperately need people who will journey with us in our stumbling. The great poet/prophet Isaiah spoke of a coming day when Yahweh will prepare “a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isa 25:6).

In that day when all that is wrong is made right and all that is broken is made whole, there’s going to be one extravagant meal.

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Take Action

Creating Space at the Table

This action relates to Beth Richardson's video, "Breaking Bread, Beloved Community." Find ideas for how to create space at the tables in your own life here.

Before we can share the table with, as Beth Richardson puts it, "the pariahs of our time," the table must be prepared. There is a lot of work that goes into a meal on many levels, and we can play a role in making things more successful.


If you're in the Nashville area, check out The Nashville Food Project and Trinity United Methodist Church. Together, they are able to offer a weekly community meal that truly brings people together.

The meal is set up family-style with real dishes: it's about creating community, not about efficiency.

Everyone attending the meal does a task--putting out chairs, setting the table, doing the dishes. They can serve as an example for how to create space at the table for interaction, conversation, and beloved community with each other. Read about these community meals, attend one in Nashville, or start a similar project closer to home.


Here are some ways we can get involved in making meals and creating space at the table no matter where you are:

  • Volunteer at your local community garden. Find a community garden near you here.
  • Donate, prepare, and serve food at a local food bank. Find food banks near you here.
  • Deliver food to people in need of a meal: people in need of resources, loved ones who are overwhelmed or tired, an event at your church or community center.
  • Host a potluck and invite people you interact with daily but overlook.

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