Moveable Feasts are informal gatherings to discuss God, spirituality, religion, faith, life, work, and culture. These gatherings can take place in people’s homes, pubs, coffee shops, parks, studios, or other locations. Moveable Feast conversations are a place to ask questions and explore our faith lives in community. Moveable Feasts hope to create “communities of practice” and places for imagining a new way to be church.
In many ways, Moveable Feasts are a form of dinner church where we break bread and share our life together. It is a way to practice being the church everywhere – in our homes, at work, in places we love and places we fear. We remember that God is in our midst in all of these places. Each feast explores a theme that emerges from the location or the community in some way. We reflect together on what God is doing in and through us and in the world around us. At best it is truly a form of Communion both in the sharing of bread and wine and food but also a way of sharing our hopes and dreams and questions with each other.
Examples of Moveable Feasts that we have hosted in the past:
A Moveable Feast at CAIN (a local food pantry) where we explored the theme of hospitality and how we feed each other.
A Moveable Feast at Center City Collision, our friend Kevin Rain’s autobody shop, where we explored the theme of re-creation.
A Moveable Feast at a design studio where we explored how design technology might help us imagine a new way of being the church.
A Moveable Feast at the Mac House where we explored the theme of service and how each of us might work towards creating a more beautiful world.
Other Dinner Church communities that have inspired us:
St. Lydia’s in Brooklyn, NY has lots of information and videos about what life around the table looks like to inspire you!
Southside Abbey in Chattanooga, TN has an open source commitment to share their liturgies and learning to help others!
The Moveable Feast Initiative was started by my friend the Rev. Beth Turner in North Carolina. Her work inspired us to begin our version of Moveable Feasts here. I wrote about this collaboration in an article published by Fresh Expressions UK.
Some Helpful Tools for Planning your Own Moveable Feast or Dinner Church
If you want to host your own dinner church, we recommend finding…
A co-host who can help you develop the theme and help encourage the conversation. I generally spend a good amount of time getting to know the co-host uncovering their passions, questions, and great ideas. We find a story or an intriguing concept to explore together. At the beginning of the meal, the co-host normally speaks for about 10 minutes and then we have a series of questions related to the theme that we all ponder together at the table over dinner.
A location – it’s great if the location connects to the theme or to the co-host in some way, it feels like the theme is embodied in a powerful way. However, we have hosted feasts in people’s homes, coffee shops or parks, so anyplace can work. Make sure you have permission to host a feast in your location and check that there will be tables, chairs, and anything else you might need. I tend to bring everything else with me (tableware, decorations, communion elements, etc) so that the host is free to be the speaker and guide for the evening. Come early to set the space and make it feel special and prepared for your guests.
An invitation – Our dinners are typically potluck dinners where people bring a dish to share. I often help prepare a main dish of some kind but that’s not necessary – there is always plenty of food! We believe it is important for people contribute something so that they are aware that they are full participants in the gathering. They are expected to bring something to eat, but also their thoughts, ideas, questions, and stories to the gathering. We have typically created an online invitation through Facebook or social media and include the theme and some questions or a quote for people to ponder before arriving at the dinner. As with most things – it is most important to invite people in person and encourage people to bring friends.
A general order or flow for the gathering. Have a plan before you get there, but then go with the flow! Let the conversation unfold as it does and don’t try to manipulate back to the plan. Our general flow for Moveable Feasts is to welcome everyone and bless the food. We then fill our plates and sit down at the table. Our co-host is invited to share their story and then I invite people into the conversation with a great question (spend time thinking of good questions beforehand!). As we talk and eat, I sometimes will invite people to consider a different question or just let things go depending on the energy in the room. When we are finished eating, I tend to ask for responses from the table – any thing we should all know or hear from your conversations? Or I share a few reflections if that feels important and begin to transition to the liturgy of the word and table. I ask if anyone has a Jesus story that embodies our conversation – and let people tell Scripture stories that come to them in their own words. We tend to have several different stories that emerge. Sometimes if needed we take prayer requests from the community (sometimes it feels like this has already happened informally as we have talked). And then we transition to the Eucharist. I remind people that Jesus sat at table with people in their homes and community spaces and talked about things that mattered most and that is what we do as well. I say a simple Eucharistic prayer and then we pass the bread and cup around the table to one another. I close with a prayer or blessing that fits our theme for the evening.
That’s it – a co-host, a location, an invitation, and a few good questions. You can add or subtract elements – add music, or some kind of ritual (like candle lighting at the beginning), or you can do less. You could have a feast without communion and just offer prayers for the community instead. You could have a written order of worship to follow. I tend to keep it simple and let the community lead the conversation and the direction we are headed. Listen, ask questions, and follow Jesus’ lead.
Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day
is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and
awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in
Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake
of your love. Amen. (BCP, pg. 124)