By Jessika Perez, Hatchery Innovator
I was sitting at an otherwise empty table waiting for a group of DOC ministers to arrive so I could talk to them about my experience with Hatchery LA. Saying I was nervous would be an understatement. It would probably be more accurate to say that I was seconds away from hyperventilating. For some reason, my anxiety does not schedule appointments to meet with me at convenient times. Thankfully, another Hatchery person noticed and asked if I wanted to go over a few things. He started going through some general networking tips before I interrupted him.
“Thanks, I appreciate that. But, what I’m worried about right now is that I don’t know what to do with all this.” I pointed to my place setting. There was more silverware in front of me than I had ever seen in my life. I’ve had the standard knife, spoon and fork. But nothing like the hoard of silverware mocking me smugly just then. Obviously, that wasn’t really the issue. It was really how I interpreted and related to it, influenced by my own experiences. The silverware became a symbol of how I felt that I probably didn’t belong in that room. That was clearly not the silverware’s fault. It was what I brought and projected onto the silverware.
The guy seemed a little taken aback for a second but then replied, “Oh… well… I wouldn’t really worry about that.” I was relieved that no one else seemed to focus on silverware technique when they arrived. It ended up being a wonderful evening and I really appreciated the opportunity to have some meaningful conversations. For me the takeaway was not, “just try new things and all obstacles are really in your head.” No and no. But it was helpful to realize what was influencing me in that moment. Also, I’m not saying that if we just sit around a table together, all problems will be solved. That wasn’t even true for this friendly, low-stakes situation. Here’s another story from the very same dinner.
One of the people at the table began talking about a “unique call to ministry” that someone had received to a particular church. Some context, I grew up in the Assemblies of God, a pentecostal denomination. I was interested and asked not only about that person’s call to ministry, but several people around the table. The expressions I received seemed a little confused. But they kindly listed for me the different churches in which they had served. I’m sure that I also had a confused look on my face. I felt like we were misunderstanding something, but didn’t know exactly what. Later, I asked about the situation and was told that the “call” being talked about in this specific case was a phone call. A phone call from a committee letting the pastor know they had the job. Sure. That seems obvious and makes complete sense. But my automatic and unconsciously made assumption was that the phrase, “call to ministry” is talking about a personal, spiritual experience where a person senses God's direction. Now, I've heard some DOC folks talk about a calling from God... and growing up pentecostal, I still distinctly remember having a phone. It was a classic case of misunderstanding.
In the dinner stories I shared, the worst thing that happened on my end was that I felt awkward. Twice. At least for me, that's a good dinner though! Hopefully it sets a quirky and still relatable scene. Being a human with other humans means being with the various relationships and events, past and present, that influence how we experience and understand the world. Not the world abstractly. But like getting a little freaked out by large amounts of formal silverware. Or like understanding a seemingly simple phrase or word in very different ways. It gets messy. I think that's what is hopeful about sharing our meals and stories. There's the possibility to be welcome, known and loved. It's essential and beautiful. Whenever I'm asked about the Disciples, I always talk about an open Communion Table. It'sa challenge to work toward “our daily bread” rather than settling for “my daily bread.” It's making sure I'm showing up at tables where I may be uncomfortable and making space for others as well. I've loved the opportunity to be able to sit down at different tables in the South Bay and LA region. I'm looking forward to this next year as I'll be creating a platform to share these stories and working alongside neighbors in addressing food system issues locally. If you'd like to know more... and especially if you'd like to share your story and and a meal or coffee with me, I'd love to connect. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.