Ecclesiology through the eyes of a three-year-old preacher’s kid cracks me up.

Our son, Logan, recently learned the little rhyme where you lace your fingers together, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors, see all the people.” He has no use for the beginning stanza, where the hands are supposed to make a building and the fingers make a steeple. Instead, he starts off where it matters to him: “all the people.” As his story goes, “Here’s the people all in line. They all line up. . .to eat.”

I laughed and shared this summary of the body of Christ with Ruth and Carol, who minister to children and preschoolers in our church. They pointed out that in his experience, we do spend a lot of time at church standing in line to eat. Wednesday night suppers, covered dish lunches, VBS cookouts, ice cream socials. My kid has noted a true mark of being Baptist. Eating is our thing.

Shared meals are a beautiful thing. We know that these moments can host the kind of holy conversations that make us community. But, once we receive a plate full, we gravitate to our own tables with our own people. We know where we sit. Maybe my little one notices what happens before we are fed.

Lined up and hungry, we tend to make conversation while we stand together. Sometimes our conversations just skim the surface of our day, sometimes we tell about concerns and hurts. My son sees me talking with the people who stand next to us in line, our brief conversations connecting us as much as any Sunday morning liturgy. I hear the tired mom in front of us tell about her frustrating meeting at school. We turn behind us and listen to the eighty-year-old widower say that he got good news from his doctor today.

If my child’s picture of church is being shaped from this image of us standing side-by-side before we share a meal, I am okay with that. He sees people checking in with each other. He sees a wealthy man, who rarely waits in line these days, happily waiting for his plate like everyone else. Privilege gets in line in the body of Christ. He sees a poor man, who drifted in from the neighborhood, welcomed to the head of the line, told he can have a warm meal any time he is hungry. This line is not for members only.

If my son’s picture of church is a line of people waiting to be fed, I get it. One of the most holy moments I know is when we stand and walk forward for communion. We may arrive for worship and gravitate to our own pews with our own people. We know where we sit. But the line for this meal invites us to move from our fixed positions and step nearer to one another. If you have ever watched the people coming forward to receive the bread and the cup, you know the wonder of the line. There are stories each person brings forward with them; there are moments that have moved them toward this particular line for this very meal.

Here’s the church, here’s all the people.

Erin Robinson Hall holds a Master of Divinity degree from Candler Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Georgia. She has served as minister of congregational life at Heritage Baptist Fellowship in Canton, Georgia, and for nine years taught in the public school systems of North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia. Erin is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. She lives in Macon, Georgia, with her husband, Jake, and their two-year-old son, Logan.