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Sacred tables gather diverse people

Ringing a triangle, Tom Westbrook  symbolically called people to gather around the table, as he defined the meaning of “sacred table” at the Interfaith Council’s Thanksgiving Day celebration at Central United Methodist Church in Spokane.

Tom Westbrook
Tom Westbrook
He recognized that church has a “sacred table.”

“This church is central to the lives of many people because the hungry are served here regularly, reliably and respectfully,” he said of Shalom Ministries.

Just like people who gather for meals around the sacred tables of the Dine with Dignity program, Tom recognized the diversity of those gathered for the interfaith celebration.

“Over the years, many good people have come together in a church, temple or cathedral happily manifesting their sense of community, their spiritual and corporal concern for others,” he said. “God judges the poor on their honesty but judges the comfortable on their generosity.”

As a cradle Catholic, he said that through kindergarten, the grades, high school, college and some time in seminary, he has grown to become a practicing Catholic. 

For Tom, a member of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Spokane, that means being an American who “glories in our pluralism, diversity and freedom to find ever new perspectives to rediscover lost insights, truths from other traditions and ideas that seem revelatory,” he said.

Hmong dancer
Hmong dancer

His faith prompts him to seek and promulgate that which is of universal value rather than to impose any kind of intellectual or behavioral uniformity.

“Religion is meant to cradle, embrace, prepare and support us.  In faith, we find our full freedom. In love, we are energized to live,” he said.  “In our mysteriously loving God, the single source, sustainer, guide and goal, we have hope and trust.”

Tom described the family table during his childhood in Minnesota.  It was a round oak table.  There his mother did her sewing and his father paid the bills, but primarily the family gathered for supper. 

When his grandparents visited from Spokane or when other guests came, his family added one or two extender boards to make more room.

“In my memory, that table is sacred,” he said.  “Surely our sense of the sacred is inherently symbolic.  Nothing is made sacred by des

“Some would call it grace.  It’s an awareness that can come upon us at any time or place, even in church,” he said.

“It’s one thing to hold in reverence a tabernacle or other designated site,” Tom said.  “It’s something else for us to live in the light shown in the dawning acknowledgement that all creatures and all creation are holy, and that all of us are sacred.

“We are all one family,” he said.


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