Dispatch from Durham

January 10, 2018 by

Recently, my wife and I have been asking ourselves if we need a larger house. It’s not that there are too many people living in our intentional community; we live in a single-family house with four others: another couple (respectably older than us) and two university students. That usually works out fine. There’s plenty of space for all of us, even when we have some guests to dinner. But sometimes we get a lot of guests.

We actually have a fairly large dining room, opening into a spacious living area. Our dining room table comfortably seats ten people. In a pinch, we manage twelve, and fourteen just about works. But what happens is this: we invite ten people, and fourteen show up, making us twenty in all. We add another table as an extension, plus one from the kitchen, and the resulting table combo expands well beyond the official dining room space. Everyone always finds a place to sit, with a bit of squeezing.

Bruderhof members and friends at Durham House

Why do we do this? We run a campus ministry at Duke University called Acts2.

Our campus ministry seeks inspiration from the first church community, when believers shared all things and devoted themselves “to fellowship and to the breaking of bread.”

And we’ve found that tables are amazing places for fellowship. On the Bruderhof, every mealtime is an occasion for giving thanks. There’s something festive and focused about gathering for a meal around a table, even if more folks show up than anticipated.

When your table is twenty-five feet long, the ranch dressing is at the other end, and everyone’s talking and carrying on, you wonder how to proceed. Will your request get successfully relayed to that person way down there? Maybe it’s easiest to just stand up and go get it yourself. What if you can’t fit past the eight-inch opening into the living room to get to the other end? Maybe making a general announcement is the best way – unless the talk is too loud.

Sometimes I’ve had to go without seconds of salad. But that’s okay because there’s more to a meal than the food.

Sometimes I’ve had to go without seconds of salad. But that’s okay because there’s more to a meal than the food. As a campus ministry, we open our doors every Saturday for an evening of fellowship, games, and singing. Around the table we hear stories from all different kinds of people. We hear personal accounts of the House Church movement in China, of escaping from oppressive governments, of surviving the Holocaust, of persecution and refuge. We hear stories of plenty, of harvest, and thanksgiving. We hear the story of Christmas – the first time, for some. The table is a space of intimate discussion, and of laughter. We are filled with more than food when a meal is shared.

We like to offer our house as a space for university students in particular, as it gives them a chance to disengage from the pressures of academics. It provides a new social dynamic to their often stressful lives, and gives them a chance to build relationships outside of their field of study. We hope to build mutual trust, to engage in genuine and candid conversations. In our campus ministry, the table provides the essential platform for this fellowship. From it develops opportunities for outreach, for personal exchanges, and especially for listening.

Any platform, however, must have a foundation; a reason for existence and a goal. For us, it’s simple. As in the text of Acts 2, we believe that community, ministry, and fellowship all find their source in the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. We want to offer this love in the same spirit, and we know that our guests feel this love through the fellowship surrounding our table. Though we have no interest in proselytizing, our hope is that gatherings around the table facilitate and encourage faith-building discussions and community.

We will soon need a longer table, of course; maybe even a larger house. But the truth is, if we view our limited space as a gift to share, our house can become a home for many. Especially for those who have never experienced the joyful hubbub around an ample spread – not to mention a general announcement or two for condiments stuck at the far end.

Charles Greenyer lives with his wife at the Bruderhof's location in Durham, NC. Want to visit them? Get in touch!


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  • Thank you very much, Jacquie, I appreciate your response, and thank you for your best wishes. Sharing a meal at the table is truly a joy!

    Charles Greenyer
  • My husband was a Chaplain at a private school in England and we discovered how important the meal round the table was. I wish you joy and love in your ministry.

    Jacquie Watson