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.”

Emmaus ministries, Journey to the Table, Test Locations

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.