We started a new thing this year for Lent. Starting on Ash Wednesday (2.22.12) we are going to get together every Wednesday night until Easter to eat supper and chat about spiritual matters (we got 'Wentsday' by putting 'Wednesday' and 'Lent' together).
The plan is to have everyone just bring something with them to eat (the food is not the important thing), then we will look at the lectionary reading from the Gospels for that day, and discuss three simple questions: 1. What did you notice in this passage? 2. What struck you? 3. How does this relate to your life?
The idea is... most church people know how to have a potluck dinner (with little spiritual discussion), and most church people are familiar with Bible Studies (that are really sober events), but a lot of church people are not very good at having casual spiritual discussions like, say, around the dinner table. So we want to try to foster that - create some space to learn how to have spiritual discussions in a more casual setting; to make it a more natural part of our lives. Then hopefully someday we can translate this into how each of us can invite people into our homes and do the same thing; or do it with our families.
So... last night was the first one. We started at 6:30 and were done right about 7:30 (I wanted to try to keep them at an hour so they didn't drag on. I always think it's better to have people leave while they're still enjoying it, rather than sticking around too long and have people getting sick of it). Some people just picked up food at Subway or Taco Bell and some brought something from home. We started out by reading a prayer of confession together (it's so neat to hear kids read this stuff), then I read the Scripture passage (it was the story of the Pharisee and tax collector from Luke 18:9-14). Then we discussed the questions (in no particular order). People started eating when I started reading the passage. There were 14 people (4 of them were young children). It was almost perfect for the space we had, and for the discussion.
I actually couldn't have envisioned this going any better than it did. The conversation seemed to flow pretty naturally - not at all forced. The kids were good, but ran about and played while we talked. I had some soft music playing in the background. One of the young mothers even breastfed her baby while sitting at the table. And the conversation was great!
Anyway, I'm sure at some point it will not go well, but I was pretty darn pleased with how it started. I really think this is something we need to learn better how to do... Teaching one another how to have spiritual discussions in more casual atmospheres; as a more natural part of our lives. I'm hoping these Wensteday things will be the start of something good.