As a child, I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in our home were always a big production. This was the time of year when mom and dad would pull the extra table leaves out of storage and magically make the dining room table two sizes bigger to accommodate all the family and other guests who would gather at the table.
The table itself was then impeccably decorated with the finest China we owned, appointed with freshly polished, real silverware and glimmering gravy boats and bowls taken out only for these special occasions. In the end, the turkey, ham, stuffing, gravies, potatoes, yams and vegetables made the already beautiful table smell so good. You couldn’t wait to sit down at that table and take part in the family fellowship.
However, as a child, that beautiful and bountiful table was not set for you. Instead, there was a bare, rickety card table, holding the barest essentials of salt, pepper, and the everyday plates, cups and bent and marred tableware. This was called the “Children’s Table,” and it was far less inviting and appetizing than the “Adult Table.”
You knew, though, that you had graduated in both age and respect within the family when one day, as you headed over the adult table to fix your plate and take your usual place at the lowly children’s table, one of your parents stopped you and pointed out that you now had a place set at the adult table.
What a glorious day that is… to graduate from the children’s table, where your cousins and siblings had begun to make the meal unbearable with their childish talk and antics… up to the deeper, more engaging conversations at the adult table.
As we consider the state of the world today, however, we can see that many segments of our own society remain at the spiritual children’s table… relegated to the margins, given scraps from the adult table with their real needs largely ignored. Our world has increasingly segregated itself into separate tables where the like-minded, or the ethnically or spiritually similar all gather together, excluding those who don’t think, or look, or worship as they do.
This is not the state of the world that the Holy calls us to tolerate. Instead, the Holy commands us to make room at the table for everyone. There are no children or adult tables, white or black or brown tables, LGBT or straight tables, Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Tea Party tables. There are no Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist tables.
There is but one table in this world — the table of unity — that the Holy calls us to create, not just in this world, but in our own hearts. We cannot relegate anyone to the children’s table of this world, no matter how different or other we may consider their ways and beliefs to be. Instead, the Holy calls us to constantly say, “Yes,” to those who seek to come to our table, to put in a few more leaves and magically expand the feast to fit everyone who seeks room at the table.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.