United Church of Bernardston fundraiser to support emerging Cambridge church

  • The United Church of Bernardston. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • The Rev. David Neil of the United Church of Bernardston. February 13. 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 11/25/2017 4:18:40 PM

BERNARDSTON — Melissa Pace founded the Open Table Dinner Church under the idea that the traditional brick and mortar style of church doesn’t work for everyone.

Instead of having a congregation file into church pews on Sunday mornings, members of the Open Table Dinner Church sing, pray and exchange stories over food.

“We share stories, we share ourselves and we share a meal,” Pace said.

The Rev. David Neil of the United Church of Bernardston said that’s a model his church can get behind. In support of Pace’s Cambridge church, the United Church of Bernardston is holding a spaghetti supper fundraiser on Friday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. with continual seating.

“That model of having church around a meal I think is really important,” Neil said of the Open Table Dinner Church. “I think the fact that (Pace) calls it an Open Table is really significant … All our churches need to be open to everybody who wants to come. Everyone needs to feel accepted and invited to be a part of the community.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 and under. The event will also include a raffle and presentation about the Open Table Dinner Church.

Pace, whose parents Bob and Debbie Allen are United Church of Bernardston members, reached out to Neil about offering a fundraiser. If her church can raise $10,000 through various fundraisers, Pace said it’s eligible for a two-to-one matching grant for emerging ministries through the United Church of Christ for $20,000.

Neil said the United Church of Bernardston’s mission team ran with the idea of a fundraiser, and what more appropriate way to raise money for a church that meets over dinner, than with a dinner fundraiser.

“Everyone’s welcome,” Neil said. “It’s an open meal for the Open Table.”

The Open Table Dinner Church had a public launch in September of 2016, when Pace found space to rent in Cambridge’s Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church. Pace and Megan Snell, the Open Table Dinner Church’s two co-pastors, coordinate three monthly services, two that are open to everyone, and one that’s only for the LGBTQ community.

Pace said the Open Table Dinner Church’s unique structure attracts demographics that aren’t strongly represented at traditional churches, particularly young adults and members of the LGBTQ community, but also those “who have been harmed by religion or those who had experiences in the past that’s made them wary of church.”

Though many people look at her church-through-dinner model as being revolutionary, Pace feels she’s in fact “throwing it way back” to how churches first began.

Neil said he loves that her model “reaches people where they are,” and felt it similar to how the United Church of Bernardston volunteers to serve meals with the Cathedral in the Light on Sundays at 2 p.m. on the Greenfield Town Common. The routine meals also incorporate worship and communion.

“It’s an exciting new way of doing church and it’s great to be a part of that,” Neil said.

Those who want to donate to the Open Table Dinner Church but cannot attend the dinner are encouraged to send checks to the United Church of Bernardston (with a memo saying the money should support the Open Table Dinner Church) to P.O. Box 503, Bernardston, MA 01337, or visit http://bit.ly/2jkwQLG. For tickets — which can also be purchased at the door — or more information, call the United Church of Bernardston at 413-648-9306.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257


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