Since the end of March, we’ve moved our Open Table Cambridge activities onto Zoom. Encouragingly, attendance at online events is similar to when we used to meet in person, and we’ve even welcomed some new members during this time.

Whilst Downing Place URC morning worship tends to be pre-recorded, it’s suited the informality of Open Table for worship to take place live via Zoom. John Bradbury, our former minister, pioneered this, with Nigel Uden taking over from May. A recent, very welcome, development now sees a range of members of the Open Table community leading worship for us, bringing with them a range of perspectives and traditions.

The structure of our Zoom services is very similar to the pattern we had settled into when we met in person. It’s great to be able to use break-out rooms for the discussions we so value after the readings and reflections. Whilst it’s frustrating that Zoom doesn’t easily allow singing together, we’ve overcome this by singing along to recordings of the hymns, with our microphones muted.¬†Aware of different theological perspectives around the issue of sharing communion online, participants are free to take bread and wine during this part of the service, or to sit in silent reflection.

Our other regular Open Table activity used to be bring and share meals, which obviously are not possible to host just at the moment. Eating on Zoom doesn’t quite have the same appeal, so we’ve substituted a monthly discussion evening, which has proved popular and thought-provoking. Topics so far have included: What the LGBTQ+ community (and allies) can learn from the Black Lives Matter movement; What our most positive and negative experiences of online ‘church’ have been; and an opportunity to share book and film recommendations around LGBTQ+ themes.

A Bible Study group for some of the younger members of Open Table also emerged during the lockdown, led by Nigel Uden. After four introductory sessions which explored the Gospel readings for each week, we focused on the book of Philippians. These sessions have been extremely rich in so many ways, and have helped to forge a stronger sense of community amongst members of the group. We look forward to continuing with these in the autumn.

If you are interested in joining the Open Table mailing list and receiving the Zoom links to any of these activities, please get in touch with Alison Binney at opentable@downingplaceurc.org.