The Open Table began at St. Stephen’s in the mid-1990’s. It was a response to several things:
the call to bring the good news to everyone and reflection on the examples of radical grace and inclusion from the New Testament, especially in Acts 10 & 11, Ephesians 2:4-9, 13-18. St. Stephen’s enjoys a favorable relationship with the Diocese of Southern Ohio and Bishop Thomas Breidenthal. We have ongoing dialogue with the Bishop about open table, and while we hold disparate theological views about Eucharistic open table, the Bishop shares our broader vision of openness and inclusivity within mission and ministry of the church.
the practice of welcoming people to communion only after they have been baptized has long been the practice of the church. The Open Table challenges that tradition by seeking to include even the unbaptized so that the sacrament becomes a way into commitment and not a barrier. We believe that the sacrament will strengthen people to commit themselves to Christian ministry as outlined in the Baptismal Covenant (BCP, p. 304-305)
centering the worship of a Christian community on Holy Eucharist can only be a missionary stance if it is oriented to include people on all stages of spiritual journey – from doubt to faith, from seeker to member. On a university campus the need for an intellectually coherent faith and a connection to a worshiping community means that people need to enter fully into the life of the community before all their questions are answered and they are ready to become members of the church. We believe that entering fully into the worshiping community, especially full participation in the Holy Eucharist, affords those seeking a church home in our context the best opportunity to grow in faith.
Membership at St. Stephen’s
As a community practicing an Open Table in which everyone is invited, everyone is welcome to the sacraments and to worship, membership is open to everyone. This means that almost every time someone asks for membership they find that we have already been treating them as if they were members for some time. So membership at St. Stephen’s is very easy.
What may not be so easy is actually living the Christian life – embodying what we promise in the Baptismal Covenant, respecting the dignity of every human being, or what we print as the vision statement of St. Stephen’s. These things will require all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We learn how to live this way through our participation in Christian community.
Open Table puts the emphasis on discipleship, living the Christian faith not on getting into the community of the church. Getting in should be as easy as opening a door, singing a hymn, receiving a piece of bread, shaking a hand. Discipleship is where the road narrows and where the real journey of following Jesus begins.
Open Table for Life Cycle Events
The Rector of St. Stephen’s makes the parish and services available to those who are not members of the congregation. This kind of hospitality is an extension of the Open Table. Couples from outside the parish are prepared for marriage in the same way as couples who are members. This is an important way to introduce the concept of Open Table and Open Christianity to people.
The Rector of St. Stephen’s also makes the parish available for the baptism of children in families who are not members of St. Stephen’s.