I began the Dinner Church Movement group Facebook page just six months ago. As I have given progress reports along the way, this seemed an appropriate time to do so again. There were several stages for me prior to starting the page. Especially for those of you who have discovered the page recently, let me review them.
Several years ago I became aware that there was some good stuff to be found on Youtube. From my perspective the videos that caught my attention were lectures given by people, usually scholars, in the areas of Bible, theology, and the church. So I conceived of the idea of archiving these lectures on a blog, which I subsequently called “Net Prophets”, as I enjoy puns. I archived the Youtube talks of twenty different persons before I got sidetracked. You can find the list here.
At the end of the second lecture Walter Brueggemann gave at Trinity Church, Boston, he was asked by one of his audience to recommend a couple books as a follow-up to the lecture, especially on a New Testament equivalent to what he had been addressing in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures. The two he mentioned were “Galatians Re-Imagined”, by Brigitte Kahl, and “Subversive Meals”, by Alan Streett.
The first book caused a diversion to a study of the influence of the Roman Empire on the Early Church and the New Testament writings. I’ll get back to this in a subsequent posting, but the Bibliography on my Net Prophets blog list about a hundred books I found on this subject.
Then, when I got to reading Subversive Meals, I was shunted on to another line of study that was to lead me to establishing the Dinner Church Movement page. Dr. Streett’s book is almost unique in covering the effect of Christianity arising in the midst of, but against, the Roman Empire, as well as also the dimension of what the gathering of the followers of Jesus looked like in the first 200 years of what we now call the church. (I have subsequently found and read another book which brings together the two different discoveries in Biblical studies in this new twenty-first century: the so-called Empire critique as well as what is termed the Greco-Roman meals. That other book is “In the Beginning Was the Meal, by Hal Taussig.)
But back to Subversive Meals. My wife, Kathleen, who does a blog on the books she reads was as impressed with Subversive Meals as was I and did a posting on the book. Email correspondence began with Alan Streett. Last April I asked him if he knew whether there had been any reaction in churches to his book. It was interesting to discover that he also had begun searching the internet to see if there were churches that used the ‘worship and sharing in the midst of a common meal’ that his book had found was the way the earliest followers met. He shared with me the dozen and a half links, which matched the same amount I had found, and Dinner Church Movement was born.
In the last six months I have posted about 25 sites where the first century ‘supper club’ format is used in varying models. I have posted a few articles on the early research on the Hellenistic meals. More are forthcoming. The number of people reached in the posting of sites or background articles varies from 50 to 7,000. We are just short of 600 of you who have ‘liked’ the page. I have started a second Facebook page (Dinner Church Movement II) to encourage dialogue by those who have dinner churches and those who would like to know more in order to begin one. But we seem to be shy, so that is only slowly beginning.
For me, Bud Tillinghast, personally, I am broadening my research through getting a reader’s ticket for the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It is a good place for reading. Any book I have asked for they possess. That is helpful to me, as the book I will next be posting about (“The earliest history of the Christian gathering”) costs over $150.
During the English Civil War, the Royal headquarters were in Oxford as Parliament controlled London. When King Charles asked to have a desired book sent to him, he got the same answer as everyone else has for 500 years. “I’m sorry, but we don’t check out books. You must come here to read them.” (Liberal paraphrase.)
So a couple days a week, I take an hour journey, including bus ride, each way. But before setting foot inside where I can read, I had to agree with the statement that all before me had also to make since 1602:
“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”
Forsooth! It maketh my six months progress report seem but a brief passage.