Parishes around the world are taking part in Encounter Dinners as part of the Share the Journey Global Migration Campaign.
Encounter Dinners are opportunities for people who were born in different places or who identify with different cultures to share a meal together and get to know one another. When we get to know immigrants, we learn not only about the struggles they have fled, but also about their hopes and dreams for a peaceful future. Many Americans believe that closing our doors to these innocent men, women and children is the way to protect our nation. Our experience shows that this is not the case, and we invite you to share in this journey.
After hosting your Encounter Dinner, add it to our interactive map at ShareJourney.org.
Ready to register? Click here to register and receive resources
5 Easy Steps a Successful Encounter Dinner
1. Welcome all guests
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.
– Romans 15:7
It’s an Encounter dinner. Eating in proximity to one another is only going to get us halfway.
People are gathered to share and learn each other’s stories, and that begins with a warm welcome to help guests get past the unfamiliar setting and faces. Too many in this world rarely get the basic welcome they deserve.
2. Invite people to introduce themselves to each other
Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.
It is not for the host alone to make guests feel welcome. We all must make an effort to draw each other out, share stories, listen humbly, and honor the stories of one another.
The Encounter Dinner Placemat Map, one of the resources you will receive with registration, is a useful icebreaking aid. It can help entertain younger guests and aid all participants in moving past language barriers. Everybody’s story, including yours, begins with a place on the map.
3. Offer a blessing for the food
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer.
-1 Timothy 4:5-5
Before Christ fed the multitudes, he gave thanks. Prayer before eating reminds us that we are all beholden to one God, and one grace. It connects us with God and connects us with each other, those present and those absent.
And as we share our food and drink and companionship, it connects us to those who are still hungry, still thirsty, still alone.
4. Allow unstructured time to share the meal together
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
-1 Corinthians 10:31
Insure that there is time for people to share in conversation and get to know each other organically. There may be a period of quiet while people find common topics, but let groups work through this on their own.
Conversation Starter Cards, another of the resources you receive with registration, help guests past any awkward openings and ease language barriers.
5. Close with opportunities for education, ways to help, or follow up encounters
Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love.
-1 Corinthians 16:13–14
Let participants know what opportunities are available to continue the journey and remind everyone to continue to pray for their new friends.
With the Holy Spirit’s blessing, an Encounter Dinner won’t be the end of a journey, but the beginning. Shared stories can be passed on. New relationships can lead to new communities. Attendees can join in outreach and advocacy efforts, not just for members of a vulnerable-but-abstract group, but for people whose table they have shared, and into whose eyes they have looked.
Copyright 2019 Catholic Relief Services