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updates, Sunday Supper Church

so, hi. so much has happened since we last spoke. i'll do my best to catch you up {!!}

about a 1.5 years ago, while family pastoring at willow chicago, kelly and i started a Sunday Supper Group. i desperately wanted + needed a place to proces + talk about my job and life — a place to be vulnerable, and safe, and deepen friendships, and experience the beauty of Jesus found in each other. so, we created Sunday Suppers — based on all of this. for 12 weeks, we invited a group of 9 to join us at our apartment for dinner. every single sunday night. i’d take care of dinner, and the only requirement was to share our lives vulnerably with each other. 

we had no long-term plans for the group, just to eat together every sunday, sharing our real lives in real time. every week, over every meal, a real, true, love-filled friendship happened. it's hard to describe -- but, magical, is usually the word i like best! God was present and gave us a special gift in being together. after the 12 weeks were over, we determined to not stop meeting together, but instead continued on, monthly, even now. we’ve celebrated birthdays, marked days of loss, celebrated new jobs, a new baby, a new apartment, and loads of heartbreak. 

and it occurred to me somewhere along the way, that this was church. a small group of people, eating together, committed to each other's success, and to encouraging the Jesus-image found in each one. the group not limited to one teacher/pastor/perspective, but a more full picture of God seen and experienced around a shared table. 

so i began to explore if this--life around the table--could be a new + needed expression of church. 

at the same time, i noticed that many of my friends were having difficulty connecting at the traditional churches they'd been part of in the past. most expressed frustration that due to their gender, race, ethnicity, political beliefs, and sexuality, they didn't feel they could be open about their lives, and still able to participate as members and leaders. and yet, they wanted church, they wanted a spiritual experience where they could connect with God and bless others. 

my love for my friends, and my frustration that they couldn't find their place at church fueled me. in winter, 2016, i entered into a season of discernment. i researched, networked, prayed, listened and asked a lot of questions. i wanted to be confident that this was God's movement.

during this season, i continued to hear from friends who expressed their desire for a place to contribute and grow in faith, but had felt left out, wounded, confused by churches, and i grew more convinced that the sunday night dinner table could be a family table for all --- 

also in this discernment time -- i found that the dinner church is actually having a moment {!!} there’s a beautiful community in brooklyn called St. Lydia’s that we visited on a sunday night, and it was so warm and wonderful. seeing what had only been imagined in our minds was powerful! St. Lydia's pastor Emily has only been kind and helpful to me in this process. in chicago, Root and Branch meets in homes for dinner, and the pastor Neil has encouraged and guided me. also, in this time of discernment, i found Avis, who has become my mentor and priest. 

the discernment season led to a centered confidence that Sunday Supper Church was where God was moving. in january, we launched a 5 month practice phase. we're currently meeting monthly with a group of 25 adults + kids to simply practice. we're practicing the specific order and elements of the gathering {warm bread communion, table discussions over dinner, a 10-minute sermonette, more table discussions, and a cupcake benediction!}, and we're practicing to see if the location is right {currently in a beautiful loft space in downtown chicago}, and the playroom is good for kids, and the number seated at each table is right, and the food being vegetarian is good, and on and on. the great thing is that we're creating church together, so we're learning and leading as a group. 

the magic of church around the table is that we're able to give and receive mutually. last sunday, our guiding theme was "all made to reflect God's image." over dinner, we discussed how our image of God had been formed. as the people around my table shared, i realized how limited my perspective of God is. MINE! i'm a pastor, who thinks about the nature of God ALL DAY LONG. but, sitting at the table with 7 diverse people, who bravely shared their perspectives, expanded my view -- and then, this whole week, i'm thinking -- how can i think of God as female like rosario does? the magic of the table creates space for this, for everyone to be both pastor and member. 

we're hoping for a full launch in late summer/early fall, 2017. we'll have room for 50, which is possibly the largest this church will be for a good while. if you live in Chicago, and need a table like this, we'd love for you to join us. email {} or text {847-754-5157}. i'll be posting on instagram and using hashtag #sundaysupperchurch, if you'd like to follow along.

final word. i'm not crazy enough to believe that a sunday night supper church experience is THE entire future of the church. i hope it's a part of the future, but not the full picture. what i do believe is that our current forms of church aren't working, for a lot of people, and the sooner we can get to the hard work of creating a million new variations and expressions, the better. this is what we're doing. i hope you do what is in front of you --- 

much love, friends, wherever your journey of church takes you today. xo, Amy

{photos by Jennifer Kathryn}

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