The Solace of Other Tables

The Welcome TableImage: The Welcome Table © Jan Richardson

Just a few days ago, I set out on a road trip that will carry me across many miles over the coming weeks. I have found that traveling seems to be some of the medicine my grieving soul most needs at this point, so I have packed up my laptop and art supplies and am giving myself to the road. Although I know some of the geographic locations I am bound for, I know the highway will hold a few mysteries. This is part of its appeal.

One of the most compelling things about taking to the road is that it will bring me to the tables of friends and family. Mealtimes are among the times I miss Gary most. Even as I am grateful for memories of countless meals we shared in the communion of our daily life, his empty space at the table is too stark and raw just now. So when I receive invitations to be with friends and family—like the one from my sister, who has said, on more than one occasion, Come to Toronto, we’ll feed you—I am drawn to go.

In this long and sorrowing season, I am thankful for the solace of other tables, for those spaces of welcome where there is always room for me. With World Communion Sunday coming up this week, I have those inviting tables especially on my mind and wanted to share with you this image I created some years ago. It’s called The Welcome Table and was commissioned by Saint Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, Florida, where I once served as a pastor. Over the course of two years, this large piece of art (about 4 x 6 feet) took shape on the small dining table in the cozy studio apartment where I lived before Gary and I were married. As I created this image over those years, I thought of so many tables I have savored. Those memories are embedded in this image of Christ sharing the table with his friends: a table where, as you can see, there is always a space to welcome one more.

World Communion Sunday reminds us that Christ calls us to a table where the welcome is wide. He offers us a space with bread and wine in abundance to give solace to our sorrow and to stir our joy. Even as Christ invites us to this table, he does not mean for us to linger here forever. He gives us sustenance in order to send us forth, carrying a space of welcome within us, called to offer it to those we meet: one more, and one more, and one more…

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blessing for World Communion Sunday. I called it “And the Table Will Be Wide,” and I posted it with another table image that I titled The Best Supper. I would love to share this blessing and artwork with you; you can find them by clicking the image or title below. As we draw near to World Communion Sunday, may you find welcome and solace at the table, and may you receive the sustenance and joy of the Christ who sends us into a hungering world.

The Best Supper
And the Table Will Be Wide

For a reflection on the Gospel reading for this Sunday, click the image or title below.

Violence in the Vineyard
Violence in the Vineyard

For a blessing for the Feast of Saint Francis (coming up on October 4), click the image or title below.

Even the Sparrow
Blessing the Animals

Looking ahead…

Illuminated Retreat

ILLUMINATED 2014 coming soon! I am looking forward to offering an all-new online retreat for Advent. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, ILLUMINATED 2014 will be a great way to journey through Advent from anywhere you are, in the way that fits you best. The retreat will begin on November 30, and I would love for you to join us. Registration and more info coming soon. Group & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Welcome Table,” please visit this page at (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

8 Responses to “The Solace of Other Tables”

  1. Susan Heffron hajec Says:

    Blessings as you go Jan, and blessings as you are. Enfolded in the healing power and presence, I bless the grieving and grateful pilgrim on the road.

  2. Jim McWhinnie Says:

    If you look up and see a raven flying overhead it may be my good friend, Barnabas. I told him to keep an eye on you.

    Barnabas’ friend, Brother Anthony of the Cross

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Jim, thank you for telling Barnabas to keep an eye on me! Grateful to both of you for looking out for me. Blessings to you.

  3. Maureen Says:

    May you journey safely and with many blessings along the way.

  4. Lynda Says:

    So if you are coming to Toronto and would like to eat at another table, you are more than welcome at my table. You have my email address and all you have to do is email and I’ll be here. Blessings and prayers for your journey!

  5. Cathy Says:

    Jan, many thanks for the abundance of sacred gifts which you share so generously with all of us. As your words have renewed so many of us, may you, in turn, find renewal. I pray that your journey will bring you rest, hope and companionship in this season of grieving.

  6. Jan Richardson Says:

    Friends, deep thanks to you for your blessings and prayers. I am so grateful for your thoughtfulness and care as I set out on this road. Bless you!

  7. Evie Miller Says:

    May the road bless you on your journey. Thank you for your table blessing. My husband and I are moving from NJ to SC this weekend. We have been moving around quite a bit the last three years, but SC is going to be home base/stopping point for us. One of our key focuses in looking for a new place to live has been the desire for a new church home. So the concept of a welcome table is a well… a welcome one!

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