Dreaming around an Open Table

Local Missional Leader Warren Hartley spoke to us about the phenomenal growth of the Open Table ministry over the last two years and how the upcoming ‘Dreaming around an Open Table’ event will share experience, insight and visions for the future of the ministry

Open Table is an ecumenical Christian worship community which offers a warm welcome to people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer / Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) and all who seek an inclusive Church. This Saturday, 21st October, the ‘Dreaming around an Open Table’ event will take place at Coventry Central Hall as an opportunity for all members of existing Open Table communities and for those considering whether Open Table is a ministry they wish to offer in their church to come together and share experience, insight, and visions for the future.
 
The event will be facilitated by Warren Hartley and Kieran Bohan (pictured on their commissioning as Local Missional Leaders) who are two of the founding members of the first Open Table community, which began at St Bride's Liverpool in June 2008. Early on it was important to the group that it should be sacramental, offering the Eucharist, worship, pastoral care and a specific welcome to the LGBTQIA community. In March 2016, Archdeacon of Liverpool Ricky Panter commissioned them as Local Missional Leaders (an authorised lay ministry) to support the development of the Open Table community in Merseyside and beyond.
 
Warren said: “There has been a huge growth in the number of Open Table communities that have started up across England and Wales. There are currently 11 now established which has grown by 7 since the last group event in July 2016. It’s a chance for those groups to meet up to discuss what has been going well, what needs to be worked on, sharing experiences and encouraging one another, reflecting on the growth that we have experienced and to decide how we would like to take that forward. It is also for other churches who are interested in some sort of ministry to the LGBTQIA community and want to consider whether the Open Table model will work for them. More than 40 other churches across the country have enquired about this so far, most of them this year.”
 
“It became clear following the gathering of the first four communites in July 2016 that what we are doing at Open Table is a really valuable ministry to a community that has either felt or has been excluded from church. It was a really powerful day so this event will build on that momentum. We don’t necessarily think we have all the answers but we have a model that seems to work so let’s continue to grow and to learn from one another and see where it evolves. It’s a very exciting time.”
 
We asked Warren for his thoughts on how Open Table is contributing to our vision of being a bigger church making a bigger difference:
 
“Witnessing people who come along to Open Table who have a Christian faith or who want to explore it, but have that fear of rejection, being enabled to meet with other LGBTQIA Christians who have already made that journey and have reconciled their spirituality and their sexuality or gender identity. For me watching people flourish is one of the most beautiful parts of being part of Open Table, seeing their confidence and faith grow because they are being affirmed in a safe space to do so. There is a phenomenal diversity in Open Table, not only of the people who attend but also the denominations and theological traditions. We are very ecumenical.”

To find out more about Open Table, visit www.opentable.lgbt or email Warren and Kieran: opentablelgbt@gmail.com
 

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Event details

Dreaming around an Open Table

Saturday, 21 October 2017 from 10:00 to 16:00 (BST)
Coventry, United Kingdom

Bigger Church Bigger Difference

Quotes from members of Open Table that were asked how it makes a difference to them:

‘Welcoming – I came by myself, and was greeted warmly’

‘The level of genuine excitement to see me was breath-taking – a sense of people being really pleased to see me.’

‘Has a positive impact on my mental health.’

‘To be open to the different parts of myself co-existing has brought me closer to God, knowing that I am accepted.’

‘People can come with no fear and be completely themselves, to worship God with like-minded people. You can be closer to God when others accept you.’

‘Always inclusion – I’ve felt comfortable inviting friends and family to join us at OT no matter what their beliefs, sexuality, gender or background.’