The Table Community: New Visions

Oreoluwa
The Table Chronicles
5 min readApr 9, 2023

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When you grow up in a place like Nigeria, where the worst thing you can be is not a criminal but a person who is queer or irreligious or both, you don’t choose to deconstruct your faith, deconstruction chooses you. Nothing prepares you for the anxiety that comes with letting go of certainty but even worse, nothing prepares you for the loneliness of walking a path less travelled.

When I started publicly sharing my dissatisfaction with the prevalent evangelical Christian faith in which I was raised, I was met with an othering. People will give you a new identity because in their box of faith, there is no room for doubt. And nobody wants to entertain the ‘little yeast that leavens the lump’. You become an outcast, a backslider, a heretic, a ‘new ager’, a progressive Christian. You will be called many things except what you truly are — beloved.

I also received personal messages from people who could not publicly admit to sharing the same thoughts and feelings about their legacy faith. People, like me, who even though had become disillusioned with problematic theology, still held space for wonder, for curiosity, for beauty, for mystery.

People do not understand how one could hold both dualities in tension. If you pick a side, people know where you belong. People side with certainty because it is neat, well put together, steady as a rock. But what do you do with an uncertain, wavering faith in divinity. What do you do with wild, wild wonder?

The more I spoke of this dissonance and dissatisfaction, the more I met people who found themselves on this path. It was during conversations like this with two friends, at different times, that I heard of Kamsy. “You should meet Kamsy”, they said. “You have a lot in common.”

On a random Thursday evening, Kamsy sent me a message on Twitter, “would you love to have drinks this evening?” It felt like kismet. When we met, we realized how similar our stories were. We both loved the church community but we were both undergoing a severe phase of ‘deconstruction’ and spiritual exhaustion. We spoke about how lonesome the journey had been. I remember that night with fondness because I walked home with a leap to my steps, smiling at having found a soul sibling.

On 22 May 2021, one of our deconstruction favorites had tweeted about a real life conversation around a campfire. I shared this with Kamsy, telling her that I needed such a gathering too and that I had a couple friends who had shared their desire for community with me but I didn’t have the bandwidth to start a community at the time. Kamsy decided my unavailability was not a hindrance, she would shoulder the burden. And she did. We sent out personal messages to friends who shared our loneliness to be the founding members of this community.

Ore’s invitation to a friend

Thus, The Table was born in line with the philosophy of inclusion represented in Laura Jean Truman’s writing about communion. We officially launched the virtual community by creating a Wixsite, an Instagram page and a Whatsapp community on 4 June 2021. At this initial launch, the goal was simple — to help people who were deconstructing their faith feel less lonely and to maintain a resource directory covering essays, books, podcasts and all forms of media across topics around deconstruction.

In the last (almost) two years of The Table’s existence, we have:

  • Held virtual conversations, both planned and unplanned, on topics ranging from sex and sexuality to queerness, alternative spirituality, teachings etc.
  • Held healing circles during periods of communal distress to hold hands and confront religious trauma, the ENDSARS protests, policies on choice in America (Roe v Wade) and most recently, the outcomes of the Nigerian Elections.
  • Held conversations with leading voices in deconstruction — The Naked Pastor, Salem Afangideh, Casper Ter Kuile and Jo Luehmann.

Our first physical event, “Cocktails and Conversations” , was held a year after the community started due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In a publication by Minority Africa, community members spoke with Edikan about The Table as a safe space for nuanced conversations.

We created The Table to provide community for people deconstructing their faith and we have done that in the best way we can. After two years of simply going with the flow, listening to the people and feeling the pulse, we have a new vision. A much more encompassing vision.

If we think of deconstruction as questioning, rethinking and redefining our ideas of the divine and spirituality, then deconstruction is a never ending process. We believe that the curiosity and wonder that causes us to question is an integral part of life in all stages. Therefore, we are redefining the Table as more than just a group of people deconstructing their faith.

The Table will now be a third space — an alternative space for everyone who desires spiritual growth outside of religious walls. We think of spirituality as “the idea that there is an animating principle in the self — a life force that when nurtured, enhances our capacity to be more fully actualized and able to engage in communion with the world around us.”* We are creating a space where people’s souls can be nurtured and their capacities enhanced, in community.

Because the Table brings together people of different religious backgrounds and spiritual ideologies, we aim to foster growth for everyone by inclusive programming and a people-led community where each member can take the lead in hosting community gatherings to share their ideas and the ways in which they nurture their souls. In this sanctuary, everyone is a priest and everyone is laity.

We are committing to the intentionality, consistency and support every person needs. We also understand that the Table can be a transitory space for any individual. In our creed, we recognize the freedom to join and the freedom to leave. Our goal is to be a gathering in the wilderness where a lone traveler can rest for a while, take what is needed and continue their journey, with or without the group.

This is a space for the curious, the marveler, the sceptic. It is no place for the cynic or the certain. This is a table for all who are hungry. If you are hungry, come.

For more information on our programming in the coming days and how you can help, please send an email to thetablecommunitynigeria@gmail.com

*Definition of spirituality from bell hook’s All About Love.

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Oreoluwa
The Table Chronicles

“Silence is a dangerous thing to give yourself to, especially if you were born to speak.” - Eloghosa Osunde