Getting to know other church members during a Sunday service can be difficult because of the number of people and small amount of time one has for conversation.
However, Westminster Church PCA has figured out another way to fellowship. It takes place at a table among strangers. It is called Dinners of 8.
“The purpose is for people to get to know each other a little better beyond the congregation on Sundays,” Westminster Church member Beth Kendall said. “You say hello to a lot of people but don’t get into a big discussion with many people during that time.”
Recalling the Dinners of 8 during the fall, Kendall said she and her husband grew closer to another young couple in the church.
“There was a young couple who came over and had never been in our house before,” she said. “We were able to find out what was going on in their life and their children’s life.”
That night the Kendalls and the young couple found they had several connections within the community.
“My husband works with the mom of the man of the young couple,” Kendall said.
Kendall, who has been a church member for 20 years, said Dinners of 8 is similar to programs the church has run throughout the years in different formats.
“A small group setting is a more comfortable way to have a conversation versus a big group where it is easy to be anonymous,” said Kendall, who helps organize the dinners.
Two groups will meet once a month for three months.
“We don’t group people by single, married or age,” Kendall said. “It is truly a random group with (whom) was available on what night of the week.”
Participating for the first time, Dan Van Alstyne and his wife, June, wanted to meet new people in their church.
“I think it’s important that I know as many people in our church as possible,” the Sunday school teacher said.
Looking forward to good food, Van Alstyne doesn’t know anyone in his group, besides his wife.
“You can’t minister to somebody if you don’t know them, and we are supposed to be coming together on Sunday morning to minister to each other,” the 20-year member said. “And we aren’t doing that if we don’t know each other.”
For Sue Hope Ware, it is more than meeting new people, it is sitting down to lunch or dinner with a group of people and sharing a meal.
“I grew up in a family where dinner time was very, very important and everybody sat down together at a certain time and ate a meal,” she said.
Raising her daughter as a single parent, Ware said most of the time they went to a family member’s house to eat dinner so her child would know that type of environment.
“These types of things the church offers gives me the opportunity to socialize with other people and is a good way to have company at dinner time,” the retired school teacher said.
Working in the Gainesville school system until last year, Ware recently became a member of Westminster Church about a year ago.
“Dinner wouldn’t be a big thing, but now that I’m retired it’s become more of a thing that I need opportunities to get together with other people,” Ware said.
And Dinners of 8 is just the opportunity Ware needs to develop more friendship, she added.
“As members of the church, we are responsible to care about each other, even the people we don’t know very well,” Beth Kendall said. “Dinners of 8 helps to put a face to our neighbors in the church, so we can be there for each other, pray for each other and care for each other.”