Open Table Update
A Note from Ellie Speer
Just a little over a year ago Reveille became aware of the national organization Open Table and options to offer help to those in great need. The program works to ignite human potential one person at a time. Nine Reveille members, Dwight Buelow, Kim Daniel, Mel Ely, Sheryl Manspile, Miriam McAtee, Will Schroeder, Mary Michael Schweiker, Russ Smith, and Ellie Speer, began meeting last winter to train for our first table and await a referral from United Methodist Family Services. Who would we be spending an hour with each week? A youth aging out of the foster care system? A family struggling to avoid homelessness? A mother trying to regain custody of her child? What would be the challenges and goals for the year? We waited.
Fast forward to July 6, 2017, when table members, clergy, and families of those involved, gathered to welcome our new sister, Ms. Richardson, to the table and to share together in the breaking of bread. It is fair to say that at first most were all a bit hesitant, if not nervous, but food has a way of enhancing fellowship. That evening Reveille launched its first table committed to surrounding Ms. Richardson with the same care and consideration one gives to their own family. It is a table committed to sharing Ms. Richardson’s joys and concerns, and to helping her discern and reach her goals for the coming year.
Already the table has discovered that goals are fluid, as circumstances change quickly. The daily life of the working poor is foreign to most of us. One issue impacts another, and altogether they may seem overwhelming. However, the beauty of Open Table is that Ms. Richardson not only has nine table members with knowledge and life experiences, but she has the benefit of their friends, family, and associates, and all that they offer. Do not be surprised if a table member contacts you for an opinion on a particular challenge. In the meantime, thank you for your prayers for Ms. Richardson and our table.
Learn more about Open Table
From Poverty to Community
Open Table trains congregation members to form communities – called tables. These groups of 10-12 individuals can transform their own vocational and life experiences into tools that our brothers and sisters in poverty can use to develop and implement plans that create lasting change.
A New Concept
Open Table is a new concept in ministry where the intellectual capital, work experience, and networking skills found within a congregation are employed to help an individual or family coming out of poverty. UMFS has been selected for a pilot project in the Richmond area and is looking for faith communities to form tables for youth aging out of their foster care system, or for families experiencing difficulties. Working in tandem with government agencies, each table of 10-12 people would commit to assisting and individual or family for one year.
Jon Katov, the founder of Open Table, drove by people in poverty in his native Arizona, every day for more than 12 years. He preferred to operate what he called an “upholstery” ministry from the safety of his church. He sent stuff – not himself. It wasn’t until the youth from his church wanted to distribute energy bars at a homeless shelter that he came face to face with the reality of poverty and the barriers we have set up to protect ourselves from this reality. Not only do we have geographical barriers, but even at the feeding program there was a ‘wall’ between the givers and the receivers. We rarely "come around to the other side of the table." Jon realized that an energy bar or a used pair of blue jeans was not enough to overcome poverty.
The Giant Vault
Jon Katov, the founder of Open Table, realized that every church has untapped resources that could be used to help a person in poverty restart his life. This giant "vault" contains hundreds of years of education and hundreds of years of work experience, intellectual and social capital, family and networking capabilities. It came to him that, “this is how WE build our lives."
What are We Willing to Sacrifice?
Did you know that the average person spends 53 minutes a day on Facebook?
Open Table is an innovative solution to assist an individual or family out of poverty.
This new ministry concept was started in Arizona by Jon Katov, a United Methodist, who befriended a homeless man at a shelter and witnessed the challenges and obstacles experienced by someone trying to get out of poverty. He concluded that the solution to poverty must be a wraparound partnership between local government services and faith communities. The initiative lives within the faith community–this is where Christian love and support are given–but it must be connected to local systems of care.
UMFS is one of six pilot projects in the country and hopes to create several tables within the Richmond faith community this fall. The initial goal is to help and support young people aging out of the foster care system.
Open Table gives congregations an opportunity for discipleship that creates sustainable change "one sheep at a time."