Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Incarnation's Open Table

The Church of the Incarnation has a remarkable ministry called "The Open Table" on Sundays.

I’ve had the privilege the last couple of weeks of being here early enough to see it.

Dozens and dozens of people who live on the streets come through our doors to get breakfast. They come early and are gone before our worship begins.

I am hugely inspired by the commitment and outpouring of love by our volunteers who feed people every Sunday morning.

Many of the people who walk through our doors are struggling to get by, one day at a time. Some have worn the same clothes for days on end. Some have mental health issues, and some are down on their luck. What would Jesus do?

Feed them.

Somehow there is enough food for all. God provides.

I also know that managing the crowd presents challenges for our volunteers. There are some edgy people who walk through our doors. There are risks involved in this effort and it takes creativity – and courage – to meet these challenges.

Yet here is one thing to remember: By feeding people, we are surrounding hate with love and forcing it to surrender. We are showing this community a different way to live than greed and selfishness.

This church is a beacon of hope and love to this community and the world beyond, and that is worth celebrating and strengthening.

At some point, we also need to ask why so many people live on our streets. What is missing in our larger society that causes so many people to have nowhere else to go? Why does the city of Santa Rosa seem so indifferent?

And what is our role as a church in changing the structures that cause poverty and leave people living on the streets without decent care for their bodies and minds?

I was once asked the difference between ministries of mercy and ministries of social justice. Think of this as like a river. When you see someone drowning in the river, you pull them out. That is a ministry of mercy, like Open Table.

But at some point, we need to walk up the river and find out why people are falling in the river. Who, or what, is pushing them in? That is the ministry of social justice. We need to walk up the river in Santa Rosa. We may not like what we see, but we need to go there.


  1. Great outreach! I grew up in Ann Arbor attending St. Andrew's. The now-retired Deacon Svea Grey was the moving force behind this program: http://breakfastatstandrews.org/

  2. Open Table fills a real need. Church of the Incarnation is also home to The Living Room. It is the only drop in day center in Sonoma county specifically serving homeless and at-risk women and their children 5 days a week. As a volunteer at The Living Room, I understand the joys and frustrations that Pastor Jim cites for Open Table. I have learned so much. My faith has become stronger by working with the women. I now see the women as real people and not just a clump of homeless. I have received a lot.

    I was led to The Church of the Incarnation by it's outreach programs in the county. For awhile the whole subject of compassion or social justice was overwhelming. I felt confused. Now I know I only have to do my part. It helps me to answer WWJD.