By Rev. Heather Jallad
“Would I be welcome at your church?” Whether it is a difficult past or a challenging present that prompts the question, it has been asked countless times over the last 13 months. Some have disqualified themselves from the gift of God’s grace or fear the judgment of others. Others have not been in church since they were children. Some work on Sundays are don’t have transportation and walk to the food pantry where Douglasville Dinner Church gathers.
As Douglasville First UMC begins its second year of its Fresh Expression of church, Douglasville Dinner Church, we are celebrating what God has done, reflecting on what we’ve learned, and looking forward with great expectation to what God will do next. Oh, and our answer to whether any of our Dinner Church family would be welcome, we would like to think so, but our answer is always, “This is church!”
What began with a team of 10 has grown to a team of nearly 30 listening, loving and serving our neighbors every other Saturday at Jesus’ dinner table. God has provided the workers for this field and the resources to continue taking the church Jesus loves to the people Jesus loves. The mixed economy of the inherited church and this Fresh Expression of faith has brought discipleship to a new level with those who began the Fresh Expression and those who are now a part of it.
Many of our guests are lined up and waiting as we pull up with the trailer. Many who were once guests now help unload and set up as others arrive and are greeted. Steve, once a guest has now made himself at home at the serving table and celebrated his recent “promotion” filling chafing dishes and greeting diners. Randy comes to practice at the food pantry where we meet and now plays piano for our hymn sings from time to time. Tom has taken a place at the welcome table and jokes with guests as they arrive.
None of this would have been possible without prayer. It has been the foundation of this Fresh Expression. We began prayer walking the neighborhoods around the Good Samaritan Center where we gathered for 6 months prior to our first Dinner Church and have continued monthly. We continue to pray together that God will call more workers to the fields that are ripe for the harvest as God calls all people to God’s self.
Consistency and frequency have been integral. When we began gathering for Dinner Church it was once a month. Soon we were gathering twice a month to share a Jesus story, meal, a catch-up, relationships were deepened and we began to see some transformation. Celebrating Communion together has been especially meaningful and has become a visible representation of the walls that are coming down, chains falling off, and the transformation that is taking place.
Friends that once were reluctant to come to the table, who talked of shame and unworthiness, are accepting the invitation to the table and the meal of grace. Conversations about the Jesus story and sharing of celebrations and concerns have become more and more lively and interactive.
During the Advent season we prayed daily at noon and/or midnight Zechariah’s prayer from Luke 1:68-79 in anticipation of Jesus’ coming and look forward to growing in discipleship in the year to come incorporating elements of Alpha.
Interested in starting a Fresh Expression?
Bring a group to Douglasville First UMC on February 23 as we host the first of four Fresh Expressions Vision Days scheduled across the North Georgia Conference in 2019 and be inspired. In addition we have four Dinner Church Encounters scheduled and a new Fresh Expressions Pioneer Learning Community is scheduled to launch in the Fall. Want to know more? Check out the Fresh Expressions page on the Conference website or contact me.
Rev. Heather Jallad is Associate Pastor at Douglasville First UMC. Contact her at heather.jallad!ngumc.net.