Is your parish looking for a new way to engage the community in discussion about faith and a hearty meal? St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Heathsville, Va. takes this unique approach to outreach in its community, pairing conversation and a meal over topics that raise awareness of Christianity in other parts of the world and how other faiths intersect. Started by Ben Ward, leader of the parish’s Levites group (men of the church who prepare meals for others), “Table Talks” are now hosted by Rector Jeff Cerar, and have covered subjects such as “Muslims and the Islamic Faith,” “The Jewish Faith,” and “China, the Emerging Giant,” a series about how the Christian faith is taking root in China. We hope you can attend the next talk November 19. Ward LeHardy shares more details below.
The initial idea was Ben Ward's, the leader of our Levites…men of the church who cook and serve meals to others. Early-on this was simply a men's breakfast every few months, but after several years, it became obvious that that idea had run its course. So, we shifted to serving an evening meal to the church and having it open to the community. To make it even more appealing, we added guest speakers and tried to have the meal relate to the subject of discussion.
Our Rector, The Rev. Jeff Cerar, serves as host for all of these Table Talks. Our first subject was: "Muslims and the Islamic Faith,” a three-part series over from September to January, followed by another successful topic, "The Jewish Faith.” We are now embarked on: "China, the Emerging Giant" and have found three experts, all eager to explain China, and show how the Christian faith is taking hold there.
Our space is limited to about 120, but we encourage members of the congregation to bring their neighbors and friends, and we advertise the events in our local newspapers. Often we'll have as many as 30 attending who are not members of St. Stephen's, and in several cases, they become members as a direct result of "Table Talk"! The meal is free, but we do encourage donations at each reception table and most often the donations exceed the cost of preparing the meal.
Of course anyone is invited to sign-up, and members of other ADV congregations are always welcome!
Next Table Talk
The next in the series will be held on Friday, November 19, 2010, on the topic The Society of China, with speaker The Rev. Gary Russell, Director of China Harvest. Rev. Russell has been the Director of China Harvest since its founding in 1993, when he returned to the U.S. after living in China for 3 years. The purpose of China Harvest is to be a “Strategic Catalyst for the Evangelization of China: Networking Christians Worldwide and Serving Chinese Believers.”
While living in China, Rev. Russell directed the transfer of over 40 tons of Chinese Bibles and Christian books to housechurches throughout the country. He planted two cell churches and trained housechurch leaders, the national pastor, and government-registered pastors from many different provinces. Gary served as a liaison between over a dozen foreign ministries in China. This provided an excellent opportunity to learn what was happening at the grass roots level. He recently published an article in Christianity Today on the current trends in China and the continuing need for Bibles.
This presentation, like all in the Table Talk series, will be preceded by a dinner at 6:30 pm. It is open to the public, but seating is limited to the first 120 to sign up. You can sign up by calling the St. Stephen's Church office at (804) 580-4555.
About The Rev. Gary A. Russell
Director, China Harvest, Virginia Beach, VA
Rev. Russell has been the Director of China Harvest since its founding in 1993, when he returned to the U.S. after living in China for 3 years. The purpose of China Harvest is to be a “Strategic Catalyst for the Evangelization of China: Networking Christians Worldwide and Serving Chinese Believers.”
While living in China, Gary personally directed the receiving and transfer of over 40 tons of Chinese Bibles and Christian books, sending them to housechurches throughout China. He planted two cell churches in his city, intensively trained the national pastor, and provided supplementary training to both housechurch and government-registered pastors from many different provinces.
In the course of this ministry, Gary was privileged to serve as a liaison between over a dozen foreign ministries and many housechurch movements. This proved to be an excellent opportunity to learn what was really happening at the grass roots level. Networking continues to be a core value of the ministry, a primary activity being linking foreign churches, foreign ministries, and Chinese believers together for greater synergistic effectiveness.
Chinese partners have included pastors “Peter” Xu Yongze, Xie Moshan, Alan Yuan, Mabel Chen, and many others. Expatriate partners have included: Dr. Brent Fulton & of ChinaSource, Ross Paterson of CCSM, Denny Mulder of The Bible League, Isaac & Peter Lee of Cornerstone Ministries International, Rudolf Mak and Elizabeth Lowe of OMF, Terry Law, China Outreach Ministries, Lovell Cary of the Church of God, Dr Michael Brown of the Brownsville revival, Eric Watt of The Network for Strategic Mission, Ambassadors for Christ, and Advancing Nativ