A meal for everyone
Kieran Bohan tells the story of a movement for welcome
We never intended to be a nationwide network. Although there are now 17 ecumenical communities making up the Open Table Network, we started as one group in Liverpool, affiliated to Changing Attitude, a group campaigning for LGBT equality in the Church of England. But it became clear that the folk coming were not just Anglican, but Roman Catholic, United Reformed and Methodist, and wanted more than just to campaign together: we wanted to worship together.
The thing that our traditions had in common was gathering around the table, sharing Communion, so that was the shape our worship took. At our first planning meeting, somebody asked: ‘Will it be open table?’ Being from a Roman Catholic background, I didn’t know what that meant. She explained that it meant that everyone is welcomed, without a test of membership or belonging or worthiness, that everyone can come and receive Communion. My heart leapt within me. I was overjoyed. That central act of hospitality of our Christian tradition was key to the invitation we wanted to convey. So Open Table is what we called it.
We all knew people who had been excluded from communion or had been afraid of being excluded. Maybe at a funeral or a wedding they wanted to go and receive Communion alongside others, but felt: What if that minister refuses me in front of everyone? They may have had a role in ministry, and then when they’ve confided in someone about their sexuality or gender identity, or when they’ve begun a loving relationship and wanted to share that joy, that ministry has been revoked.
Sometimes it’s just the case of them saying: ‘This is who I think I am,’ without any question of entering into a relationship, which leads to their being told: ‘You can no longer run your music ministry.’ People have been refused Communion, or been advised to go elsewhere…
Kieran Bohan is Coordinator of the Open Table Network. He was talking to Stephen Tomkins. For more information, visit opentable.lgbt
This is an extract from an article published in the April 2021 edition of Reform