A Place at the Table

By Johanna Hatch 8-11-2009

I recently celebrated the ninth annual Hatch family reunion on Cape Cod, my favorite family gathering. The Hatch family reunion pulls in aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, brothers, sisters, nanas, as well as the spouses and children of previous marriages and new marriages, friends, neighbors, and innocent bystanders who just look hungry. The beer and wine flows, and pots of lobster, mussels, and corn bubble over the propane burners. While every family has its imperfections and awkward moments, the Hatch family reunion is always marked by a sense of abundant welcome and a noticeable ache for those who haven't made it to the table this year.

In a similar vein, I recently started worshiping with a local ecumenical congregation sponsored by a group of Benedictine sisters. While the worship is decidedly Catholic in style, it is very ecumenical in practice with worship leaders from varying Christian traditions, an open welcome to members of the LGBT community who may have felt exiled in other churches, and the offer of open communion. It was this open table in particular that moved me so much when I first attended, and one of the key things that brings me back each week.

The charm of the Eucharist, for me, is the radical implication of God-with-us, the creator of the universe fully present in ordinary bread and wine, passed from hand to hand. The humility and gentleness inherent in such an act makes it seem counter-intuitive to me to withhold that gift from anyone who presents herself for it. Issues of politics and votes and human-made divisions of sects seem so trivial compared to that love. Denial seems so cruel in the face of such aching human need.

Do I dare, then, to say that perhaps the Roman Catholic Church could take a cue from as motley a bunch of heathens as the Hatch clan or a small group of renegades in the woods of Wisconsin? Perhaps. All I know is that whenever I break bread, or crack a lobster shell, in community with others as imperfect and hungry as myself, I feel the presence of the Divine so tangibly I can almost touch it, hold it in my hands, and swallow it whole.

hatch1Johanna Hatch is a feminist activist, writer, and amateur hagiographer. She currently resides in Wisconsin with her spouse Evan, and their mostly blind dachshund. They eagerly await the arrival their newest family member in mid-November. Johanna will be presenting a prayer session, "Women Mystics for Today," at the national Call to Action conference. This post first appeared on From The Pews in the Back, a blog based on a book by the same name, written by young women in their 20s and 30s about their experiences in Catholicism. For more on the book, including ordering information, visit the Liturgical Press.

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