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Room at the Table

Back in October I wrote to a number of writers, poets, creatives and photographers across Scotland (also one in Jamaica & one in London who used to live in Scotland!) to ask if they would contribute to our first ever Soul Food Edinburgh Advent series. Picking up on the hashtag that we often use on our Soul Food posts, #RoomAtTheTable, I asked them to reflect on their context and consider what it meant for them to find ‘Room at the Table’.

As we have already written in an earlier blog post, the table is a really important theme for us at Soul Food – physically and metaphorically. The table is core to our values and to our “why’. Through the very act of setting a table and inviting anyone in need of a meal, to dinner, we hope to begin a ripple of resistance that declares a desire for the churches across our city of Edinburgh (and beyond) to step into the stories of injustice and inequality that our cities hold. Just as God once told Hagar that he was the God who sees, we want to say to the hungry, “we see you” and we care.

We believe that the stories in the Gospels of Jesus sat at dining tables hold important truths to consider. The table – traditionally - in these ancient times would have been a place where people would have known where they stood in their neighbours’ eyes; whether they were ‘in’ or whether they were ‘out’. Jesus used the table to demonstrate the expansiveness of God’s love and God’s solidarity with those who others disregarded.

It was around a table that Jesus sat with those who had been excluded from society. He intentionally sought the company of the poor, the disenfranchised, the broken hearted, the outsider and around those tables he made it clear that each of their lives held huge value and worth. These tables were places where hope was birthed and transformation made possible.

If there is one theme that beats through this season of Advent, it is hope. Hope despite everything. Hope in the face of suffering. Hope that acknowledges the darkness of injustice, poverty, suffering, despair and that whispers of worlds being made new.

All of us have tables in our lives – whether actual or metaphorical – around which we decide whom we deem ‘in’ and whom we deem ‘out’. We live in a world that seems to be drawing those distinctions in ways that are shocking, dangerous and shameful. The stories that our world is telling of who is considered ‘in’ and who is considered ‘out’ are sending me back to the tables of Jesus. There I can imagine the refugee, the prisoner, the person whose religion is not the same mine…

This Advent we invite you to join with us as we ponder what it is to find room at the table. Some of the posts will encourage you, others inspire and a few will hold challenges that are not comfortable when we consider making room for those who have hurt us or with whom we profoundly disagree. Many of the posts are vulnerably written as the writer has shared deeply of themselves. We hope that each one – to you – will be a gift this Advent time as we come to the end of another year. May they invite you to think of what it would be to live the days of the coming year as those who extravagantly set tables that intentionally love our neighbours, recognising the value of their lives and declaring that we believe - in everything - there is hope.

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