Students attend UCC’s The Table at the Brock House on Sept. 25. In the past, The Table was called House Church and was a much more casual event than the current worship night, University Church Minister Falon Barton said. Photo by Dane Bruhahn
When first-year student Olivia Mastalerz walked into the backyard of The Brock House to attend The Table on Sept. 25, she found herself surrounded by food, volunteers and other community members, all while overlooking a beautiful view.
The Table is a space that exists to foster fellowship and community for any and every student at Pepperdine and the surrounding community, University Church Minister Falon Barton said. The vision behind the weekly gathering is to create a space in which students can come and feel a connection with God, each other and older Christians, Barton said.
“When we gather with other people, we experience solidarity with each other, we learn new things from people who are different from us in a variety of ways — and there’s something very powerful about a shared experience,” Barton said.
The Table began with President Jim Gash’s appointment as president of Pepperdine when he decided to expand the already existing House Church on campus, which had a similar structure as The Table, Barton said. Both donors and the University Church of Christ fund the event, which relies on many volunteers each week to keep it running smoothly.
The purpose of the first 30 to 45 minutes of the event is to reflect on and grow the community. Individuals can decompress from the busy week through the shared meal and conversations with old and new friends.
“As a first-year student, I think it’s something that helps bring connection to God and helps build that community I was wanting,” Mastalerz said.
After attendees eat a meal, the band Well Collective performs a few worship songs, followed by a short message from either Eric Wilson, University Church preaching minister, or Barton. The service ends with communion, a few closing worship songs and a time for students to engage and pray with older adults.
Sara and Sam Jackson are Pepperdine alumni (’74 and ’75, respectively), and Sara Jackson is also the chancellor at Pepperdine. Sara Jackson said they dedicate their Saturday nights to mentoring and praying with the students who attend The Table.
“To me, worshiping God is the heart of our reason and purpose at Pepperdine,” Sara Jackson said. “That’s the core of our mission: to know God and to worship him together and to know the beauty of living in Christ.”
Inclusivity is another significant part of The Table’s mission, Barton said. The Table seeks to make anyone — whether religious or non-religious, part of the Church of Christ or a different denomination — feel loved, supported and included.
“With Jesus as the host, everyone is welcome; everyone has a seat,” Barton said.
The Table is relatively new in the past year, and it is still a work in progress, but the team running it is excited to expand The Table’s influence throughout Pepperdine and even to the surrounding Malibu community, Barton said.
Barton said UCC encourages students to get involved with The Table, whether they want to share a poem or perform a song.
The members of The Table hold that worship could be through whichever gifts God has given; it does not have to be strictly through worship songs and a message, Barton said.
Mastalerz said The Table has numerous benefits for the community, like introducing many diverse backgrounds and creating fellowship.
“It just brought communities together, having something to do every Saturday night and being able to have something special and personal worship-wise — and being able to find a community where I’m constantly worshiping and I’m constantly meeting new people,” Mastalerz said.
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