Almost every trip to Kansas City has taken me to Colonial UCC in Prairie Village, Kan., as that church has generously hosted the local arrangements committee meetings. Prairie Village is only about a 20-minute drive from where I grew up, but back in the ?60s and ?70s it was like another world for me. There are several Synod hotels in the Country Club Plaza, a beautiful area of the city, but again, an area that symbolized in many ways the economic disparity that characterized my life and the lives of many in Kansas City. I know the city so well that I know exactly where the "lines" are drawn, invisible though they may be to some.
The vision of the Welcome Table is not one that comes easily to mind as I drive through these old stomping grounds. Even so, I can't help but wonder how we will live this theme out during our time in Kansas City, not only to each other, but in the community that we will be a part of for five very short days. Will our witness be evident? I do believe that the theme, "Gather at the Welcome Table," is an expression of a reality that is already here as Christ's Table is open and welcome. But I also see the theme as an open invitation, a promise, a vision of what we see and believe the church is to be: open and welcoming to all. Our witness to that vision may be the only glimpse that some may see.
Making a vision a reality in how we live is not always easy, just as it's not easy to see the vison as I drive through this part of my past. Our challenge in July and always, as the Church of Jesus Christ, is to continue to proclaim the promise, hold the vison high and live the promise of welcome so that all who encounter us will experience what my colleague John Thomas has called "God's extravagant welcome."
If you're in the Kansas City area, join us for the Synod/Assembly. If you can't attend, then follow the work of the Synod/Assembly online through videostreaming at www.synodassembly.net. In either case, pray that the our work in Kansas City will be guided by the Holy Spirit as we seek to live out what it means to "Gather At the Welcome Table."
Edith A. Guffey is Associate General Minister in the UCC's Office of General Ministries.