There was quite a reaction to one of my recent blog posts about Fresh Expressions in Leicester, England, and how we need new ways of doing and being church today. I’ve had quite a lot of interest in what these new ways could look like, one of them being dinner church. I’ve even been interviewed by radio stations around the world about it.
Whenever I’m asked what these new ways look like I always tell them about dinner churches, which I think is a really beautiful, simple, achievable way to start a new kind of congregation.
And I’m not alone, it turns out.
Leonard Sweet, writer, futurist, scholar, once said, “Whenever I’m asked, ‘What is God up to?’ my most common answer is, ‘Have you heard of the dinner church movement?’”
So, what is dinner church? Well, it’s dinner. And church. Scrunched together. But there’s so much more to it than that. Here’s a few dinner churches from around the world to give you a little taste.
ST LYDIA’S, BROOKLYN
St Lydia’s was the original dinner church. They don’t only eat together, they prepare the meal together. When you arrive, you get given a job like stirring a pot or slicing veggies or setting the table. At St Lydia’s, they figure working together is an intrinsic part of the experience. It builds community and brings people closer to God.
Then, as you sit around a table, sharing a meal, you’re invited to explore scripture together, sing, and pray.
The liturgy at St. Lydia’s is based on worship from the second and third centuries, when Christians gathered for what they called “love feasts”, sacred shared meals with the Lord’s Supper at the center. They bless the meal with an early Eucharistic prayer from the Didache, a second century Christian text, and then a presider chants prayers, the congregation sings responsively, and during the meal they share the communion bread and wine with each other.
Stories are a big deal at this dinner church. They retell the story of Christ’s dying and rising, and in light of that they seek to uncover the daily dyings and risings that comprise our lives.
ROOT & BRANCH CHURCH, CHICAGO
Root & Branch Church is located in Chicago, Illinois. They meet regularly in a church sanctuary two Sundays each month, but on the second and fourth weekends they meet as a dinner church in various people’s homes, using a liturgy that includes prayers, readings, the Lord’s Supper, and a delicious meal prepared by volunteers.
Like they say, “It’s community building around our most basic needs: food and good company.”
I love their vision statement too, which is to support each other as they grow from strangers to neighbors, from consumers to creators, and from wanderers to wonderers. Very cool.