Common Ground: Connecting Through Visual Art and the Written Word

by Laura Fissel on August 10, 2022

The Table magazine is a periodical published three times a year by Church of the Redeemer in Greensboro, NC. Through visual and tactile beauty, The Table magazine seeks to foster connection in community through a focus on story, contemplative thought, and art. While the magazine is first and foremost a printed work, Redeemer hopes it can be a valuable resource for the diocese. If you are interested, you can now access previous issues of the magazine here on Redeemer's website. If you would like to receive physical copies of the Table in the mail 3 times each year, you can subscribe here.

Circa 2014, at a local coffee shop in Greensboro, NC, Bishop Alan Hawkins sat down to ask if I’d write a monthly newsletter for Church of the Redeemer. We dubbed it The Hub and I got to work right away. It was a concept being developed on-the-go, but the basic gist was to connect the minds and hearts in our parish–to communicate what we were doing at Redeemer and why, and to share philosophy, thoughts, ideas, and expertise that didn’t really have a platform elsewhere. The publication eventually increased in size and decreased in frequency, the title changing to The Table as Redeemer moved onto the property we purchased, called New Garden Park. In 2019, Alan and I sat down again to develop a more distilled vision for The Table: a place of tactile beauty that embodies the work of the people, and of thought-leadership that can physically be shared within our diocese and beyond. This magazine has always been a small-scale production run by one or two people. To express what The Table is, beyond those few basic tenets, I can really only share what it means to me as the managing editor and a participant from the beginning of its creation. 

The Table is a place of investigation, the sharing of ideas, and the valuing of beauty: aesthetic beauty but also the beauty of God’s people. Each issue is a living piece of art because it is comprised of the voices of people speaking out of their ongoing experiences. It is shaped in real time. The Holy Spirit is present in this work, revealed through a surprising theme that always emerges between authors who write in isolation on a broad, open-ended topic. I am consistently blown away by the places these diverse voices settle together without having exchanged ideas with one another. As far as I’m concerned, there is no explanation but divine leading. 

To borrow from Makoto Fujimura in his profound work Art & Faith: artists create common ground. That is what The Table seeks to do. Indeed, when re-titling the work, Alan was insistent on the image of the table. Feast imagery is central to our faith and to our particular parish. Eating is a common need and experience that transcends the differences we bear as unique individuals, and the table is a place of gathering and of nourishment. Our magazine designs not just to find common ground, but also to create it: To forge spaces for connection that didn’t exist before. Common ground is a tangible place that offers a clear vision towards what is true, and what may truly come to be as image bearers work together as one body. It has been a delight to continually expand this work to include voices not only from our parish and diocese, but from our province and beyond. Hearing from across the reaches of the Church keeps close to heart the reality of our family wealth–not rich in credentials or accolades or titles or accomplishments, though those things also exist, but in our common heritage as children of the Creator expressed through a wildly diverse people.

I hope that The Table is, and will continue to be, common ground where folks can rest and be reinvigorated. The tactile setting forces slower engagement–waiting for it to arrive in the mail, unwrapping it, turning pages. You must know where it physically is and hold it between your hands to encounter it. It requires an appreciation of detail, both in the making and the experiencing of it. Even in this slowing down, and perhaps because of it, The Table is a place of rigorous encounter that refreshes the mind with new ideas and the soul with connectivity to God and His family. It is a place to bear witness to what God is doing in hidden places and see anew the ways we are connected to one another—closer than we imagined possible–across physical distances as well as ideological divides. The Table is designed to be a place of gathering and of nourishment and is ever seeking to strengthen and expand into this lofty vision.  

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