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How to set 'A Bigger Table'

Niklas Martin

In a time when American society is arguably more polarized than ever, is there a way to build authentic and hopeful spiritual community? Author of “A Bigger Table,” John Pavlovitz, believes there is, though he warns it’s going to be “messy.”

An outspoken proponent of nurturing inclusive faith communities, Pavlovitz will bring his message to Wingate University on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Free and open to the public, his presentation will be an invitation of sorts to join a conversation already underway. Roughly 25 Wingate faculty and staff members have been reading and discussing “A Bigger Table” via a weekly book club, following the lead of Maria Taylor, the University’s registrar.

“I’ve done Bible studies for years, and I love books that merge religion and politics,” Taylor said. After hearing Pavlovitz speak in Charlotte last fall, she introduced the idea of a month-long book club, and was pleased with the response.

“It has been a lot of fun to see what everyone has to share. I liked his topic about inclusivity, which is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “On the national scene, with how polarizing the 2016 election was, it’s a time for us to pull together. You have to appreciate people’s differences and come together and discuss topics.”

In fact, Pavlovitz’s entire introduction to “A Bigger Table” addresses his feelings following the election and puts forward two basic questions: “Can the table really be expanded so everyone has a place? And what is the way forward given the unprecedented divisiveness we’re experiencing?”

A pastor at North Raleigh Community Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina, Pavlovitz admits, even in his book’s subtitle, that expanding the table to build a larger spiritual community is “messy.” Still, he says that engaging in the difficult conversations that affect our social and political climate is important. He challenges readers to reach across social and cultural aisles and to embrace diversity.

While he is at Wingate, Pavlovitz and the faculty/staff book group will gather around their own “bigger table” for lunch, and for dinner he’ll eat with a group of students, many of whom are also reading his book.

The public portion of Pavlovitz’s visit will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Batte Center’s McGee Theatre. The event, part of the University’s Lyceum program, is free of charge.