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Pastor column: An event that can make us all proud

John Lestock

For many of us, it's tough to meet new people, especially people who are different than us! It's tough to take risks and step out of our comfort zones. It's much easier to keep to ourselves, to

gravitate towards familiar people, and people like us, and to play it safe and stay comfortable.

And when people are new or different, it's easy to let our preconceived notions, biases and suspicions about them have their way with us. Too often, we allow our fears and stereotypes of others keep the walls up around us and prevent new people, new ideas and new relationships from coming in.

Yet this past Sunday we had an opportunity to try something new, to take some risks, strike up some new relationships and make a visual statement. Over 300 people came out to the Longer

Table event at Lakefront Park in Hudson! All sorts of people! People of all ages, shapes, sizes,

races, colors, heritages, denominations, religions, economic backgrounds, as well as interests,

beliefs and ideas. Our mayor was there, along with several council people. A number of non-profits were represented as well as several faith leaders of local congregations from around our community. They came as singles, couples, nuclear families and extended families.

This Longer Table focused around a community meal with wonderful foods from home, but also other nations and ethnic traditions. There were rich conversations, strolling musicians, a Zumba

class and games for the kids. Everywhere I looked I saw warmth, hospitality, teamwork, unity and new friendships. In spite of any differences between us, I witnessed people coming together for the common good, walls coming down and bridges being built, new understandings and people demonstrating respect, civility and harmony.

I heard a number of people suggest this should be an annual event in Hudson. Others wanted organizers to know how much they appreciated the hard work behind the scenes to make this a

reality. Still others reflected on inviting others (next time?) that they thought would appreciate

and benefit from an event like this.

Sunday's Longer Table may have only been a beginning, just a start. Yet it offered so many of us a ray of hope and promise that people really do care about our community and the people in

it! So many were willing to make an effort and be intentional about joining together for a greater good.

As a pastor and leader in the faith community, I was struck by the idea that this is what the kingdom of God looks like! A rich mixture of diversity, brought together for sharing, peaceful

living, and a chance to say "thanks" for the abundance we enjoy.

I want to thank all who came out to be a part of this great community event, and thank all who worked so hard to make it happen! And I would also encourage and invite others to come and

join in (next time?) for this time of fun, inspiration, encouragement, understanding, friendship and hope. When we take risks, step out of our comfort zones and try new things, we are all

richer for it!

This was one of those events and experiences that should make our whole community proud and spur us on to further efforts of caring, sharing, and extending the hand of fellowship to all people! A job well done, friends!