The Longest Table University Church Celebrates Community in a Biblical Way

At 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, a team of 18 people set up folding tables on 4th St., covered them with plastic tablecloths, put up numbers and placed settings for more than 176 tables stretched two blocks, and with seats for 1,408 people. The crew finished in only two hours and twenty minutes.

After the second service at Walla Walla University Church, a flood of people exited the building and filled the street. Friends called out to friends as the aroma of good home-cooked food filled the air.

"We wanted the event to be a celebration of community and a foretaste of Heaven," explains Alex Bryan, University Church senior pastor.

More than 1,600 people ate; additional tables piled high with plates and baskets of forks were made available to those who came late and couldn't find a chair. Some stood, some sat in the shade on the grass and others dined on office steps.

Food was provided by the University Church members. Nearly 145 people and families signed on to sponsor a table or two. One family sponsored six tables.

"Sabbath lunch is a holy moment," says Bryan. "It was in Biblical times and it certainly is for Seventh-day Adventists. To be able to celebrate this holy meal in such a fashion really captured the Biblical vision of community."

The food was as varied as the attendees. One table enjoyed lasagna, salad, green beans, corn and apples. Another served vegetarian meatloaf, a potato dish and tomatoes with basil. Some tables served water, others punch, some sparkling cider and others juice. Desserts ranged from cookies and lemon cake to nectarine cobbler.

"I walked around the table — about a half-mile journey — with my six-week-old son," says Bryan. "I talked with college students and 80-year-olds and everybody in between. It was phenomenal."

Will they do it again? Bryan smiles and says, "Absolutely."

December 01, 2010 / Upper Columbia Conference

Becky St. Clair, WWU GLEANER correspondent