HAWTHORNE, NJ - Two churches on Lafayette Avenue which sit side-by-side joined to embark on a new kind of community spiritual outreach. Inspired last year by "The Turquoise Table" by Kristen Schell, St. Clement's Episcopal Church and the First Reformed Church of Hawthorne gathered up their parishoners to set up turquoise-painted tables and invite the community to sit, eat, and talk. This year, the churches have revived the tradition and set up two large, substantial wooden picnic tables on the front lawn, and parishoners of all ages got together to paint them.
Pedestrians and drivers will be sure to notice the bright colored tables as they pass by. But they represent much more than just lawn furniture. "You set up a table and it's an old fashioned potluck," Rev. Erik Soldwedel, Deacon of St. Clement's Episcopal Church said. "We invite people to bring food for a minimum of five people, whatever you have, be it chips and dip or eggs or hot dogs or whatever. Anyone can come, sit, and just talk about the day. Last year members of both churches got to get together, see old friends, the kids were playing together. Neighbors would come by, we'd offer them a glass of lemonade, it's just a phenomenal community sharing of love."
Rev. Kirsty DePree, Pastor of the First Reformed Church, was busy painting the underside of one of the tables with some of the parish children. "These are going to be here all summer. The premise of the project began with a woman in Texas who moved to her community, she didn't really know any of her neighbors. She had just been in France and they were all about gathering together, and she wanted to change that."
"Turquoise means welcome and it is a light pastel color so it is warm and inviting in the summer," Rev. Soldwedel said.
"Last year, I went to Erik and said, 'What do you think? Should we try this out?' So every Tuesday about 5:30 people would start gathering with something to share," said Rev. DePree. "Every week we had plenty of food."
"We had more food than we needed and it was a gift of love that everyone came with," Rev. Soldwedel said. "To hear everyone's stories was a cross-over of the community."
"A few times we get people who just walk by," Rev. DePree said. "We're hoping this here it attracts more because of the permanence of the tables."
"This also shows how we as a community of Christians can live out our faith in such a beautiful way," Rev. Soldwedel said. "We're not staying in our temples, we're in God's temple out here which is so important. And we're doing it with the common denominator, everyone loves food. People like respite, to sit and talk; this is inviting."
"In the summer, people go away on the weekends, so sometimes the Tuesdays are a nice time to come back and see people during the week. We start generally at 5:30 and then have a book study at 7:00," Rev. DePree said. "Anyone is welcome."
"We'll have some people who just come for the book study, too, which is fine." Rev. Soldwedel said. "I love the cross-over between the two congregations. We need to share more than the same landscape. The Turquoise Table is, to me, a true communion because this is where we sit and we break bread together in the best possible way."
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