The Open Table

The Open Table is our Invitation to the whole Community to join together in preparing a simple meal of soup and bread and also enjoying other baking activities.  It meets in church each Tuesday at 10am.  All are welcome - of any faith or none!

Read more about it from The Reverend Ann Challenger ......

It all began in the spring of 2011 in response to a need of the Church, to reach out to the community and build relationships with each other.

I was told about a bread Church in Liverpool, ‘ I am somewhere else’, so I read the book and visited the project. It is in the inner city of Liverpool. I talked to the founding minister Barbara Gladstone and I felt confident to grow a bread Church at St Augustine’s.

I recognised God was with me on this when he gave me the name of the project, One Bread during a communion service ‘Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.’ This sentence created the mental picture of the project I imagined. Although  I thought we would work with predominately Asylum seekers and refugees, God thought otherwise. He saw the needs of people more local to our parish.

The members of One Bread are a variety of ages, 5 months to 91 years. We have people of faith and no faith, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus and Muslims; many different cultures; Africans, Asians and Europeans and British. People with physical disabilities, emotional and mental health problems walk through our door. All are welcome irrespective of Gender or sexual orientation.

We meet on Tuesdays about 9:30-10 am, we operate the same morning as the library that we co-work with. We also coincide with the police contact point. This creates a lively session. As people arrive we offer the hospitality of a hot drink, people wash their hands and wear an apron. New people are given a buddy to help and support them. We try to encourage people to experiment with new recipes, but people do like to play it safe most weeks. We have been known to bakes cakes for a change but this is more expensive.

We eat together at lunch time - home-made vegetarian soup. We ask for a small payment for soup and this keeps us going financially and we do not refuse donations. We encourage a sense of community by everyone helping to set the tables and clear away afterwards. We eat half the bread at lunch time and people can take bread home, and share with their family, friends or neighbours or a stranger.

Personal prayer and listening are offered throughout the session and we all sit down together at the table before lunch and share our week, anniversaries etc. We celebrate other faiths Holy days in some way. Christmas is celebrated by hosting a Halal Christmas Lunch each year.

We begin each lunch with prayers sometimes in Urdu, a shared faith resource that is a great learning opportunity and blessing. We discuss issues that are in the news and use them as a basis of prayer. Sometimes it is appropriate to talk about each other’s faith or life expectations. It is good to have some of the older generation with us who share their opinion and experience. We are often about 20 sat eating lunch and are responsible for weaning babies who love the soup, before the seasoning is added.

We operate a zero tolerance policy, to ensure we are a safe place for people, we will exclude people if they are showing aggressive behaviour. As a listening organisation we sign post people to appropriate resources and support through prayer.

In 2016 we decided that we needed to re-think our approach and so we decided to launch The Open Table.  Whilst it is very similar to One Bread, we also bake other items as well as the bread and include food from other cultures as we share with our neighbours and the people from the area around the church.

Rev. Ann Challenger Jan 2017

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