Unexpected Guests at the Table

Unexpected Guests at the Table

By Callie Smith, program manager for Lifelong Theological Education at Christian Theological Seminary

With November in Indy here, I can already tell that a number of Spirit & Place Festival events are going to challenge us to rethink the role of religion and spirituality in our community. Certainly, we’re given plenty of opportunity in our world to see religion as a major field of conflict. How fascinating, though, when we see the opposite at work: great world traditions not shutting conversation down, but opening conversation space up in meaningful, community-building ways.

I’ve been struck by something Linda Proffitt of Global Peace Initiatives wrote in the Spirit & Place blog late last month. She remarked, “Food is a basic necessity. Food is as fundamental a need as water. When we are babies, lack of food may be the first thing that makes us cry. Think about the impact that hunger can have on the spirit of a people and the wellness of a community.” Hunger affects the health of individuals as well as the health of entire communities. I think that’s something I missed all those years growing up, taking canned goods to Thanksgiving food drives at school and watching my parents write checks to charities at Christmas. It’s not just families the next street over or the next neighborhood over whose lives are harmed by their lack of healthy food. However much food my kitchen holds, I too am harmed by the very fact that lack exists. Our lives are so connected. That’s part of the story of hunger that I missed, and it’s one reason I’m so energized about the Spirit & Place Festival event that I get to emcee on the evening of November 10.

The interfaith storytelling event “Unexpected Guests at the Table” will present stories from sacred literature of the past as well as Hoosier communities of the present about something on which Islamic, Jewish, and Christian traditions agree:  feeding the hungry can be a meaningful act that changes lives and entire communities. What the meanings are depend on who’s telling the story, of course. That’s also part of the point: listening for the insights that many different perspectives can shed on our oh-so-connected lives and getting the chance (as audience members will) to respond, reflect, and interact with new people wrestling with the same ideas.

I hope you’ll be able to join us and support all the great organizations collaborating on this project, including Gleaners Food Bank (bring a canned food donation with you!). Held at Christian Theological Seminary, the “Unexpected Guests at the Table” event will have interfaith storytelling from 6:30–7:45 p.m., followed by a hunger relief networking reception from 7:45–8:00 p.m. Admission is free with a suggested donation of canned food or a monetary contribution to Gleaners Food Bank. For more information, e-mail LifeEd@cts.edu or visit the event blog at http://faithlearninginitiative.wordpress.com.

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