“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in…? The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” – Jesus, Matthew 25
“People will come once to support a cause, but they will only keep coming back if the food is exceptional.” – Maggie Kane (paraphrased)
Wednesday lunchtime Rebekah and I drove into the center of Raleigh for a lunch sponsored by Columbia Theological Seminary. The idea was to get local alumni together and cement their connections with the institution where they received their advanced theological education.
The gathering was worthwhile on all counts (thanks, Columbia, for the lunch). But the best thing about it was meeting at A Place at the Table. First, because the food is excellent and the mission is spot-on. Second, because the interface between the mission of the church (ergo Columbia Seminary) and the work being accomplished at the restaurant is so clear.
Prior to Wednesday’s lunch, I carried a woefully flawed image of A Place at the Table in my imagination. This is especially remarkable as Rebekah has dined there more than once; not only that but I had previously heard director Maggie Kane speak at Presbytery.
At the same time, my misperception is not remarkable at all, because this is how most of us tend to see the world. We hear about something, we construct an idea based on a whole catalog of things we think we already know, and then we lock it in. In my mind I saw something resembling a Depression-era soup kitchen, populated by grubby looking hungry people and located in a less than salubrious part of town.
This is why it’s important to shut up, show up, listen up, and allow ourselves – by the grace of God – to be lifted up!
- Fact: A Place at the Table is a tony eatery serving great food in a trendy, loft-style setting.
- Fact: This restaurant is where you want it to be, just a short walk from museums, offices, government buildings and the epicenter of Raleigh.
- Fact: You can’t tell who is there because they want to support it, who is there because they can’t afford to buy lunch, and who is there simply because it’s a great place to eat.
- Fact: The food is exactly what you would expect at a fancy lunch venue where you’d like to impress a client for a working lunch.
- Fact: The coffee is really very good, and I am a serious coffee drinker.
We were fortunate enough to have director Maggie Kane stop by and talk with us about the restaurant, its values, and its mission.
Now I am paraphrasing here, but what I read from Maggie is a simple commitment to building quality community around good food. Essentially this is the exact same passion for fellowship that is at the heart of why we don’t have a “kitchen coordinator” at WFPC but instead celebrate great food and great community by having a “Director of Food Ministries.”
“Semantics,” you may say? “Not at all,” I respond. The right words infiltrate our minds and our spirits and shape our thinking just as the wrong words do at times. Food is a ministry initiative that meets people at the root of their foundational need – and that need is not only for nutrition but for authentic community too.
So here is my review and recommendation. Check it out. Schedule a lunch date at A Place at the Table with at least a couple of other people. Then come back. Plus buy a token that will feed someone who cannot afford to buy their own.
And if you capture the vision, share it. Maybe you can do something like this in your community too. Maybe we can all build community, in our own ways, by serving good food to good people and opening our hearts a little too.
Peace – in every way – DEREK