Guest Voices: Dr. Steve Garber on The Importance of the Table

June 27, 2022

The Importance of the Table

The table is central to InSpero. We intentionally set a beautiful table which allows deep conversations, holy listening, respectful curiosity, and a shared longing for the greater good. We draw together people from different cultures and backgrounds, often artists and pastors, visionaries and risk-takers to share an amazing meal and build understanding and connections.

Board Member Steve Garber gave the following blessing to a gathering at Waverley Springs Farm in Virginia. By permission he is sharing it here with us as well. Because we all need nourishment and strength in our work for flourishing our cities and societies.

Our table is meant for true hospitality, a place of conversation with consequences for and about the common good. These words are read each time we sit down before the meal is served, a reminder of what we are doing, and why it matters.

Our best stories are stories of odyssey, of pilgrimage, of men and women on their way from here to there, and sometimes back again.

The Iliad is that story, but a thousand years later so is The Quest of the Holy Grail. The grand novels of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are always that story, and Dickens tells the same tale, time and again.

Of course, one of the most loved of all stories is that of hobbits, and Tolkien the master storyteller begins with the words, “There and back again.”

An unparalleled adventure— a quest for agreat ring that becomes a long journey that takes the heroic hobbits from innocence to crisis, from danger to despair. For Everyman and Everywoman as it is, many of us know this story because we have seen ourselves in it, page after page, book after book for good hearts of all ages who are willing to read and read again about Bilbo and Frodo and their valiant friends.

But there is also Rivendell, the last homely place as Tolkien describes it. And it is here that the hobbits think through the vocation they have been given, carefully working out the who and what and where of the odyssey that will be theirs. All of that and more. But integral to all that they were, and to all that they would need to be, was the table atRivendell, a place for the best conversations and the best food and the best drink — simply said, a wonder of wonders.

As rich as it was though, it could not last forever because there was a pilgrimage to take up—but for as long as it needed to be, their common life was nourished by a common table.

We believe in the same reality because we believe in the same story, a story of there and back again— a story with a beginning which gives us a window into the world that ought to be, a story with chapters along the way that make us ponder the world that is and the world that could be and should be, and yes, a story with an ending that gives us a glimpse into the world that someday will be. We are folk with our own missions, different and diverse as they are, with our own reasons-for-being that are worked out in the vocations and occupations that are ours as we give ourselves to the adventures before us. Our dragons will be different, but we know they are there, able and willing to subvert our truest selves, our best laid plans, the ambitions and motivations that shape us through the years of our lives,

To sustain us on the quests that are ours, we have chosen to make the table here integral to who we are, to why we are, therefore to what we will do with the hopes and dreams that make us, us— not incidental, but instead a table for gathering at and around that is crucial to our raison d’etre.

So, yes, for the best conversations, the best food, the best drink! Like the hobbits before us, we need to be nourished along the way as we work for the flourishing of our cities and society, longing for a common good that is born of the belief in a Story that makes sense of every story, of yours, of mine, of our life together in the world.

Steven Garber is a teacher of many people in many places, serving for many years as the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust.The author of several books, including Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for theCommon Good, his most recent is The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work. One of the founders of the Wedgwood Circle, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, he has long lived in Virginia, near Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers. He has been a faithful InSpero Board member since its founding in 2013.

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It was at Rivendell the hobbits think through the vocation they have been given, carefully working out the who and what and where of the odyssey that will be theirs. But integral to all that they were, and to all that they would need to be, was the table at Rivendell, a place for the best conversations and the best food and the best drink — simply said, a wonder of wonders." Steve Garber

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