Examining the Table - Lent Conversations with Bishop Paul


Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Revd Paul Bayes will explore themes from his book “The Table”. Each evening focuses on a different chapter.

The Table has been described as a radical new vision of the Church as a table, built by Jesus the carpenter and stretching down every street and into every home. It reflects much of Bishop Paul's thinking since he has been in the Diocese of Liverpool. 

In the book, available from the Cathedral Shop, the bishop argues that "At this table, everyone sits, eats, worships, agrees and disagrees together, as equals. The Church of England used to be in 'a spiritually dangerous place: cushioned by privilege, in the middle of our society and at the top.' Today, however, it is more often 'on the edge and underneath marginalised, not always taken seriously, sometimes mocked.' But that this is good news because on the edge and underneath is where the people are. Equality and also justice are at the heart of The Table - justice that does not come without struggle, patience and quiet perseverance, as demonstrated by the Hillsborough families in Liverpool over the last three decades." Bishop Paul argues that "A Church that knows justice and Jesus is a Church that can best accommodate our rich and diverse communities and embody the hopes of future generations who want to connect with the unchanging love of God in our fast-changing England."

When did the idea of writing the book come to you? Was the seed there when you delivered your installation sermon?
I wrote the sermon before the idea of the book was there - but as I was wondering whether to write a book the image of the Table seemed rich enough and full enough to be the basis, so I was very glad to run further with it.

Does the writing process come easily to you?
Like many people I get starting strain, which is why I needed the space of study leave to get started. Someone once said that to write a good book, you have to just start writing - if you have to, write a bad book first - and then improve it. Whether this one has been improved is for the readers to judge - but it was fun to write!

The world is crowded with texts  - what makes yours different?
In one sense I hope there’s nothing new in it. The ideas and images are fresh, I hope, but the realities of our faith are unchanging. If I had to sum the thing up in one sentence from the book it would be this one: "I have seen in Christianity the possibility of a way, just as St Luke reported in the Acts of the Apostles. You step on to it through a very specific door, as Jesus said because it has to do with knowing Jesus personally. But if you walk along it, you find that it’s a spacious, light, open and tolerant way, trusting and relaxed in the mystery of God and vibrant with hope for the world God loves.” 

What do you hope people will gain from engaging with it?
Hopefully, they will glimpse that spacious, light, open and tolerant way, and will walk with Jesus along it.

How has the writing of it informed your day to day ministry in our diocese?
As a bishop, I try to teach and commend the Christian faith for our generation - more people knowing Jesus, more justice in the world. As I wrote the book, that purpose became clearer to me - and mercifully I still want to carry on down that road!

The Lent conversations in the cathedral are on this topic –  how will this add to our understanding of the book’s themes?
It’s always good to talk - and in the Lent conversations, I hope the ideas in the book will give us a chance to talk and listen together with colleagues in the Diocese and with everyone who attends, and in this way to see what God may be calling each of us to do. 

How proud are you of this work?
I’m proud to have finished it, and very proud that Bishop Michael Curry was so nice about it on the cover! And I hope it will help people in their journey with Jesus.

Starting at 7:30 pm and lasting an hour and a half the conversations will start with an introductory talk from Bishop Paul before a facilitated conversation with a diocesan guest. Audience members will have the ability to take part in a question and answer session before the evening closes with a simple act of prayer.

You don't need to have read the book to come along to a series which will make an ideal lent reflection as we are called to learn. You can buy your copy from the Cathedral Shop online or in person.

The conversations will take place in the Lady Chapel at 7:30 pm. 

Wednesday 13th March
Jesus the table maker

Wednesday 20th March
Meeting at the table

Wednesday 27th March
Drinking from the fountain – how we learn from scripture, creeds and liturgy

Thursday 3rd April
Watching in the moment

Wednesday 10th April
Stretching for the kingdom

Thursday 18th April (Holy Week) All welcome at the table (invite to Maundy Thursday/Chrism Eucharist)