Since September of 2015 we have been testing the first draft of the program with six partners in different settings. This weekend will be the fourth of those six tests. With each test, we have been learning about different aspects of JTT in more depth and revising the program according to what we learn. In some cases, we have learned that the first draft of the program serves participants well and genuinely helps people create space for conversations together about faith in their lives. In others we have learned how we can adjust the way JTT is designed to serve participants better. Overall, we have been fortunate so far in having a positive impact with participants with the program in its first draft. In other posts I have been sharing a few pieces that we have learned. I have tried to share some bigger items that we have seen in multiple tests so far. For a slightly more fun way to read the highlights so far, here’s a series of quotes from my brain as I’ve observed the three tests that we have completed: “Well what do you know, this thing actually works!” “We designed something with college students and young adults specifically in mind, and it seems to connect with them.” “So you’re saying we don’t all have to agree on everything about faith to have a good conversation about faith in our lives?.. Brilliant!” “We can’t ask people to leave any part of themselves out of the conversation. I’m glad my program doesn’t do that.” “Journey to the Table isn’t designed to be overtly evangelical.” “What happens when someone who is questioning faith shows up? Pull up a chair next to me, I have some questions I’d like to ask too.” “Participants seem most engaged when it doesn’t feel like a lecture.” “How do we get the people giving talks to be more personable?” “Of course this doesn’t have to be a weekend retreat – everyone already knows how to meet once a week.” “We’re not trying to tell people all of the right answers. How do we do a great job of inviting people to talk about interesting questions of faith and life? That’s a more interesting conversation – at least to me.”
0

Journey to the Table, Research, Test Locations, Themes of JTT
I read an article last week that has stayed with me. It’s a simple article, one of those “10 Ways to…” -type articles that are always familiar. I was struck by the range of options they recommended: everything from lighting a candle and reading a poem, to stretching or treating yourself to a piece of candy you normally wouldn’t indulge in. At first I was glad to see a source specifically using the phrase ‘self-care’ other than the expected places. This phrase seems to be most common in healthcare, be it physical, psychological, or a more holistic view. I also hear this phrase more and more in spiritual formation conversations. Journey to the Table spends time with participants emphasizing the importance of self-care, and inviting them to practice self-care in new or familiar ways. Of course the hope of self-care for any person in the context of spiritual formation is that it would be a time to better prepare for, or better understand how faith could be guiding your life. Often, it is part of a constant process of renewal that keeps the journey going, regardless of what direction you travel. My favorite explanation of self-care came from the first person to give this talk at a Journey to the Table test location. Devon Bartholomew helped lead the test with Syracuse University in September. He gave a personal story about a vacation that he realized was a great act of self-care. In October, he even presented to a group of ministry leaders about his experience as a leader on this first test location. After that presentation, I sat down with him to record some of his thoughts and heard the real-life story of how the month since he gave the talk had played out. Devon starts by re-telling the story he told in his talk: https://youtu.be/duarpaCUai4   Self-care isn’t a list of things to do for yourself alone. It certainly isn’t something you learn to do, make a habit of, and live happily ever after. I think the process of renewal which is self-care is about doing things to help yourself and how you balance your life and faith – sometimes you call it self-care at the time, and sometimes you just call it a hobby, or a trip, or a poem. You don’t always have to remember the lesson from your self-care time, or measure a finite benefit. There’s no guarantee you won’t forget the benefit later on. Maybe you can laugh about it the next time you forget about self-care too. I hope that Journey to the Table, and the conversations that happen around self-care as part of it are a step in that process of renewal, not an answer on faith, life, or stress. To that end, I think I’ll take a trip for and spend some time with a small group of close companions.
0

Emmaus ministries, Journey to the Table, Test Locations
DCIM100GOPRO

Journey to the Table has two great images built into it: Journey and Table.

This table was at Camp Casowasco in the Finger Lakes of central New York. It existed only during our Journey to the Table test with students from Syracuse University in September of 2015. Around this table, people from different groups and different faith backgrounds connected with one another – many for the first time. They had discussions, learned new things, enjoyed a beautiful camp, found new ways to connect with this table, and hoped to connect with each other more afterwards. This table started the weekend as a simple altar. Later, these posters were placed around it. Granted, the table was a convenient place to display these posters, created by the students participating in the weekend. The table itself was also changed by the presence of these posters, and of those who participated. It certainly gained more vibrant colors. By the end of the weekend, this same table received answers to two questions from each participant: What has this weekend meant to you? What are you going to do about it? Any experience can be changed by the people who are present. Think of your favorite movie, your favorite place to eat, or your favorite place in nature. How many different people have seen this with you? When different people were there, what new thoughts did they bring? What in their experience brought up something new for you as well? In many ways, God’s table never changes. But there are also ways in which we each change the table, at least for the others around it. It is our hope that everyone brings their full self to Journey to the Table. While the table is the same before we arrive, we each bring something to it and take something from it. We may have an impact on people around us while we are there, and we may be impacted by our presence. Journey to the Table is a place to come to that table with your full self, impact others and be impacted, and ultimately to go out an impact other people around other tables based on your experience.  
0

Emmaus ministries, Journey to the Table, Process, Steering Team, Test Locations
thanksss Like so many others, I’m reminded today of so many people and things for which I am thankful. When I started working on this program almost two years ago, I understood how to design a process that could produce something helpful. What I didn’t understand is what that helpful thing could be, or how it would translate into real ministry with real people. That’s where dozens of people interceded. It started with a few new co-workers who gave so much faith and support that I felt infallible. Then 19 volunteers agreed to be part of a team and to trust the process I had outlined. They did the hard work of discussing countless issues and details about what this ministry would become. More colleagues stepped in to make it possible for me to find places to test what had yet to be written. Then people in ministry positions offered their work and influence to help test the program. I took a moment for a mental headcount of all those faces: 147. So far there have been 147 people that I’ve come face-to-face with in the process of designing and testing Journey to the Table that I didn’t know before I started. Each one of their involvement has been invaluable. That number doesn’t include all of my friends and family that have been personally supportive, nor the countless people that have prayed for each step of this process, or prepared meals, or shown up for many parts of this process that I didn’t see in-person. I’ll spare everyone of reading “Thank You” 147 times, but that would be an emphatic way to express my thoughts about all of these people. I hope this moment is a glimpse of what Journey to the Table will become. I hope it always involves more people than I could possibly thank. I hope those are the people who become most connected to this ministry. I hope that as it grows, every person involved has this moment when they realize just how many others support them the way that these 147 have supported me. Thank you.
0

Emmaus ministries, Test Locations
12106696_594228480258_3039336815933339690_n This is a prayer I’ve said many times. I’ve said it a few times by myself, countless times with a small group of others, and many more in a room filled with people. I’ve said this prayer enough now that I generally say it the same way each time, as if the commas and pauses are all programmed into my understanding of the prayer. “Come, Holy Spirit,… fill the hearts of your faithful… and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit… and we shall be created…” I’ve learned the way I say this prayer from others who have said long before me, and many more times than I have. We all say it the same way. That is, until I said this prayer with a new group of people. I’ve been asked about the relationship of Journey to the Table with the family of ministries that it comes from: Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis. For me, this prayer is a perfect illustration. It is something familiar to me, and yet also something that is now new. Equally cherished, every bit as meaningful, with pauses and commas in new places, and sounding different. I’m excited to see this prayer develop new meaning to new people. Just as a group introduced me to this prayer, so too I now get to introduce others to this prayer who will say it in their own way. I can’t help but be excited about what it will look like when the Holy Spirit shows up for them. What will they be created to do?
0

Process, Research, Test Locations
12194887_709318563219_6113957387652397707_oPsykopainted3

#3: Conversations can look more like art.

There’s plenty of research data out there that says people with smart phones are distracted. And there’s plenty of people in ministry who ask what to do about that. Don’t do anything. In the three tests so far, I’ve heard people specifically ask us to put away our phones only 4 times in a cumulative 7 days of experience. I’ve seen people on their phones during a conversation only twice. The Emmaus ministries that Journey to the Table comes from have a long tradition of asking people to intentionally disconnect from the outside world and be focused on the experience in front of them. So far, the people that have participated in Journey to the Table have been so engaged with one another that we haven’t needed to ask. I’ve seen conversations that include phones at times, but also include sketch pads, sound effects, notes, colorful drawings, and knitting. In all of those cases, the people in the conversation have said that what they remember most are the other people at the table. As I read all of that research data, I think this is what a relationship-focused generation looks like: conversations as art.
0

Process, Test Locations
DCIM100GOPRO

#1 Smarties are better than poker chips or pennies.

How are we supposed to balance our lives when there are so many different things that need our attention? Balancing does not mean we give everything equal attention, but instead that we give the adequate amount of attention to the things that need it, and the things that keep us growing. It also helps if you consider how you balance your life using a sweet treat. Even if you feel like your life is unbalanced, you still get to enjoy the candy. Smarties or not, we take time in Journey to the Table to look at all the different parts of our life, and see how we’re doing in the balancing act.   DCIM100GOPRO

#2 Self-care is a must.

Rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, sabbath, respite… whatever word you use for it, you’re going to need time that is set aside for you to do the things that give you life and help you be ready for everything else. It may be a kayak on a beautiful lake, a good book, a blank canvas, or a cup of coffee with a friend, or anything else you find that gives you motivation, clarity, and energy. We want to talk about self-care in Journey to the Table. More importantly, we want to give you some time for self-care in case you haven’t had any lately.  
0

Test Locations
mmc-logo       Over fall break, some Martin Methodist College students took part in Journey to the Table, a new program in the Emmaus tradition for 18 to 24 year-olds that The Upper Room is testing in partnership with Martin Methodist College and the Turner Center for Church Leadership. It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers. “I experienced a refocusing of God being the center of my life. It’s like someone has dumped gasoline on my fire again. I feel that I have not only matured within myself, but also in my walk with Christ” — Thomas Sarver, a freshman from Hermitage, TN. You can read the full article here.
0