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Why Do You Belong? Day Two at the tAble

– Megan Brandsrud

“You belong!” shouted Sarah Mayer-Flatt, team leader of the tAble. “I belong!” responded the tAble participants, shouting as loud as they could. Today the tAble further explored its theme, “You Belong,” as it focused on today’s theme question, “Why do you belong?”

Joey Baar, a participant of the tAble and member of Living Lord Lutheran Church in Bradenton, Fla., responded to today’s theme question by writing, “I belong because Jesus loves me,” on a strip of paper, which he then added to a paper chain. The paper chain, which is quickly growing, lists participants’ responses to the questions of why they belong and how they belong.

During their service learning time today, the tAble participants put together “Grace Bags.” The bags, which contained items such as water bottles, tissues, socks and non-perishable food, will be distributed to people who are experiencing homelessness. As participants worked on compiling 200 Grace Bags, they were reminded that everyone is called to serve, and everyone has gifts and talents to contribute.

the tAble participants practiced their artistic talents by painting “Kindness Rocks”—rocks that they decorated with fun pictures and inspirational messages. the tAble participants will hide the rocks during their tour of the NRG Complex tomorrow for ELCA Youth Gathering participants to find throughout the week.

Anna Lynch, a participant of the tAble from St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Park Ridge, Ill., painted a rock with a smiley face and a heart because she thought they were happy messages for people to find. She also filled a Grace Bag, saying she’d done something similar before with her home church.

Sarah Mayer-Flatt said these two service learning activities helped connect the tAble participants to the Houston community, to the Gathering and further.

Some Gathering participants might have never heard about the tAble but may find one of the Kindness Rocks and will now be able to spread the message of the tAble back to their home church, she said.

Throughout the day, the nearly 80 tAble participants were reminded that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” drawing from Psalm 139. They also talked about how God can be revealed through their talents, strengths and gifts.

And the gifts that the tAble participants used today in their filling of Grace Bags and their painting of Kindness Rocks demonstrated just some of the many answers to “Why do you belong?”

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You Belong at the tAble

– Sarah Mayer-Flatt

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”  proclaims the psalmist in the 139th chapter. That proclamation is the truth to which all participants of the tAble 2018 will come to know as their truth, too. Because God made us—putting us together piece by piece from within the bodies that held us before birth—we are ALL wonderfully made.

Sometimes other worldly voices try to tell us that those who live with a disability are an inconvenience, inspirational, or any number of things that do not speak to the truth that we are promised in the equalizing waters of our baptisms: we ALL belong to God.

Each day at the tAble, we’ll answer those questions that get stirred up by other voices in our lives and yet answered by God. Who do you belong to? Why do you belong? How do you belong? And finally: Who belongs with you?

At any table that is made holy by God, ALL are welcome.

You Belong: these two words are words that many never hear enough within their lives, and youth who will attend rhe tAble may struggle to believe them even more. Belonging means the community welcomes you as you are, and that accommodations are second nature and not uncomfortable. Belonging means the community of faith sees gifts within you just as they do in so many others, and upholds those gifts as valuable.

Belonging means the community of faith walks or rolls with you and goes into the hard places, where the truth of belonging still needs to be proclaimed—by and to the very ones who DO BELONG—to each other, and to God.


Sarah Mayer-Flatt is a person with a disability who serves as the Team Leader for the tAble 2018. Sarah is also Associate Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Omaha, NE, where she lives with her husband Randy, their two cats, and their new puppy.

the tAble

-Sarah Mayer-Flatt

There’s a renewed ministry of the ELCA Youth Gathering that I am excited to be a part of for the second time as Team Leader: the tAble. Formerly known as DAYLE, The Definitely-Abled Youth Leadership Event, the tAble is maintaining many of the best practices of this ministry, while also focusing on different opportunities to include and support youth who live with disabilities within the ELCA.

Without question, this ministry is where my sense of call first took root. I was a young person in a wheelchair at DAYLE ’00 learning about the ways God could use even me. But explaining what a “definitely-abled” person became cumbersome as I grew into my leadership over the next 15 years through the event. This past January, a passionate group of people came together and heard new ways God is calling this ministry into being.

The new name is simpler, with a focus on where we most concretely meet God in our lives: God’s table of grace. As we hear in worship, the bread is broken for all people, and the cup is the new covenant in our lives—signs of grace, of hope, of community—where all are welcome.

The community of young people with disabilities is growing within the church, and there isn’t always a place for us. As a pastor with a disability, the first questions I am always asked in any congregation are about accommodations. The tAble hopes to help reinforce that the kingdom of God has a need for abilities of all kinds, even if our buildings are less than accessible.

Accompanying one another through the kingdom of God with all of its stairs, written words, untranslated language, and tight schedules, is all of our responsibility as children of God. The tAble will be a safe space for youth and their companions to experience God’s power in their lives, while being empowered to go out into the kingdom—first at the Gathering and then back to their congregations, synods, and communities, knowing that they are a vital part of the church.


The tAble (formerly the Definitely-abled Youth Leadership Event or DAYLE) is a pre-event to the Gathering that blesses and empowers young people who live with a wide range of physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities so that they might grow as faithful, wise and courageous witnesses. The event also gives participants the opportunity to acclimate and orient themselves to Houston and the venues in which the Gathering are being held. The tAble will be held June 24–27, 2018.