If you look at just about any calendar, Sunday is the first day of the week. But, if you view Sunday the way the congregation at The Table UMC in Sacramento, Calif., does, you’ll see Sunday is the last day.
“We want our people to have been exposed to scripture and involved in ministry for the whole week preceding Sunday morning worship,” said the Rev. Linda Dew-Hiersoux, co-pastor of the church. They see Sunday morning as the cap to a week of study, learning, and ministry.
Rev. Dew-Hiersoux and her co-pastor, the Rev. Matthew Smith, have been at The Table just over than nine years. When they came in, they were joining a dying church.
“We had a vision of doing church differently,” Rev. Dew-Hiersoux said. “Over time we were able to weave the ministries together. When we started, we had about 20 people in one service. Now we have almost 300 people in two services. We do both services exactly the same. The smallest demographic is people over 70. Most are between 30 and 40 years old. We work hard at being diverse. We may be a little more diverse than our neighborhood, but are about the same as the entire city of Sacramento.”
For The Table, growth hasn’t only been measure in the number of people attending the worship service, it’s also measured in the number of baptisms.
“In nine years, we have baptized 104 people, with about half of those being adults,” Rev. Dew-Hiersoux said. “That is more than I had baptized before in my whole ministry life – and I am 58 years old.”
The church’s website, TheTableUMC.org, is an important part of the church’s social media outreach ministry. It’s all designed in-house and offers visitors plenty of information to make their first visit a comfortable experience. An entire section is labeled “I’m New” and answers questions such as “who is welcome here.”
The simple answer to that question is “everyone.”
“Many of our people who have come to us have been born in or bored by church,” Rev. Dew-Hiersoux said. “One change I have seen is people become less anxious about how they may be excluded by a church. Many come in and are just waiting to see when they get ‘found out’ and kicked out. Many have come from places where they weren’t welcomed. It’s just really beautiful to see how they are welcomed and accepted just like they are by our congregation.
“Once they begin to feel safe they begin to bring their friends,” she continued. “I feel like that shows so much trust.”
As people become active in the worship service, many will move on to involvement in the church’s small group ministry, the Kitchen Table. The name brings to mind a place of acceptance and fellowship.
“At The Table we seek to root our lives in grace, grow in faith, reach out in love, and give generously,” Rev. Dew-Hiersoux said. “As people grow spiritually, they become proactive in their Christian faith in their workplaces and outside the church walls. Many are nurses, social workers, attorneys, and doctors who work with children at risk, police, and the homeless. They work hard in their everyday life. What they come to understand is how their whole lives become a witness to following Jesus.
“Our hope is that we are creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Rev. Dew-Hiersoux said. “We see the [discipleship] path as a spiral, not a straight line.”