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Jews And Christians At Prayer Together: some experiences
The Rev'd. Jennifer M. Phillips, Chnrch of St. John the Evangelist, Boston, USA
belong to an Interfaith Clergy Breakfast Group, a loosely structured gathering of literally dozens of representatives of different religious persuasions (Rabbis, Cluistian priests of all denominations, Muslims, Buddhists, Ilindus)
We meet monthly for breakfast and conversation Our only prayer is a table grace led in turn by the many members, one a month. Most important to us as a group has been letting go of our need to pray together beyond this. Though some subgroups have gathered for ecumenical or interfaith worship events, the success of the group has been built on our belief that as we talk and eat God is among us, friendships are forged where they might never forra otherwise and God is honoured in the process of peacemaking and respect and mutuai learning.
My parish is involved in developing a relationship with the Reform Jewish Congregation Beth EI. Like many Jewish-Christian dialogues, ours comcs with the realization that it is easy and joyful for us Christians to visit and worship with our Jewish friends, but difficult and painful for them to do so with us in our Catholic space so full of images, and with our Scripture so full of antisemitism and supercessionism. From them, we have learned the lovely table grace:
Holy One of Blessing, Your presence fills creation. You nourish the world with goodness and sustain it with Grace, loving kindness and mercy. You provide food for every living thing because you are merciful ... May our compassionate God bless this house and all who share our meal.
Rabbi Hugo Gryn, West London Synagogue of British Jews
Many years ago we had various kinds of "Interfaith Services" or acts of worship whose planning became exercises in how he say that which was least specified of the various traditions represented and it got to the point where it was totally predictable that the Jews would opt for Leviticus 19 — up to verse 18! — the Christians pieked the Lord's Prayer and everybody was always in agreement to the suggestion of Psalm 23 and if pushed Psalm 121 as well!
My eventual conclusion is that the best way to handle these occasions is actually to have a Service fully in the tradition of the host community with those of other religions being part of the Congregation and, if appropriate, providing the sermonic element or other readings from their respective scriptures. In that way no integrity needs to be compromised.
Rev. Marcus Braybrooke
Anything done jointly may easily became characterless. All Faiths Services are sometimes just a series of readings with very generalised hymns. No one is offended, but perhaps also no one is uplifted. It is more valuable to try to draw out the universal meaning embodied in almost every tradition. One of the most memorable interfaith services in which I participated was at the West London Synagogue when the Dalai Lama preached there. The ceremony included the Torah procession and reading from the scroll. This was followed by other readings. The occasion allowed visitors to feel a little of the beauty of Jewish worship and to being their own offering to this.
Councils of Christians and Jews
Gradually a pattern of "spiritual sharing" has evolved at 1CCJ meetings, so that whilst there is the opportunity to offer the prayers of each particular community of faith, there is also time to retlect together, to listen to inspiring readings, to sing together and to be quiet together. This development, in my view, has led to a deepening of the Me of ICCJ.
There are a growing number of occasions when members of different faiths share deeply... where
some knowledge and a depth of persona/ relationships may be assumed ... The CCJ executive meeting starts with a short time of silence.
At CCJ residential conferences and during CCJ Friendship Weeks it has been agreed to entourage people to attend a typical act of worship of each faith rather than specially arranged services. The presence of guests of another faith does alter the dynamics of traditional worship. Material that could cause offence should be omitted — or if this is impossible, an explanation offered. It needs to be made clear that the guests are there initially as observers and it is for them decide the extent to which they may also be participants.
Time To Meet, SCM Press, pp. 157, 152, 155.
Words of welcome to Jewish visitors at Sunday morning worship Manchester CCJ friendship week, 28 October 1990.
It is a great pleasure to welcome friends old and new to St. Thomas's Church, Pendleton, Salford, for our Friendship Week Service. 1t seems particularly apt that we should meet in this Church, because our 18th century benefactor, Samuel Brierley, also made a nearby plot of )and available to Jews for a burial ground, enabling the first community to settle in the burgeoning Manchester area. For this he was accounted a righteous gentile.
We welcome Jewish visitors with especial gratitude for honouring us in this way because we know it is not easy for them. So much of our symbolism is a painful reminder of past sorrows, and we have tried to minimise this. We are mindful that Pope John Paul 11 described his visit to the Synagogue in Rome as his "longest journey" because it covered 2000 years. We fully respect and admire your own faithfulness in which respect you are our elder brothers and sisters. But you generously and warmly open your synagogue doors to us, to remove misunderstanding and fear and we simply want to return the compliment.
There have recently been much publicised inter-faith events, notably in York Minster. Wonderful though such meetings can be, ours today is not of that kind, and I trust you have not been misled. We want you to see us as we are (perhaps even, as Oliver Cromwell put it "warts and all"). What follows is essentially our normal Sunday morning communion service with the notable addition that the Torah portion, Genesis I, will be read in part in its originai Hebrew, and hymns and other elements have been chosen to be as inclusive as possible.
Yet we understand that our visitors are formally bere as observers, with a limit to the extent to which they can participate. When CCJ was founded, Archbishop William Temple, formerly of Manchester (and who knows how much he was influenced by living alongside the Jewish community hereD expressed the view that inter-faith work proceeded best when each is faithful to his/her own religion.
Neverthless we hope your being with us will be of interest - and of value.
Rev. Tom Broadbent, MA PhD (Cantab).
Before the Annual General Meeting of Hull C.C.J., the Christian President says a special prayer in English and the Jewish President pronounces a Hebrew version. The following is the English version. On the front cover (not shown here) is a Hebrew text provided by (the late) Rabbi Dr. Solomon Goldman, a member of CCJ National Executive and Advisory Committees.
O God and God of our fathers, who has made us so diverse yet us to be one in Thee, bless our fellowship and grant us the will to understand one another. Cleanse our minds from long standing prejudice, and enable us by mutual respect and love to make manifest Thy will
to the world. For Thy Holy Name's sake.
Yom ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)
A growing number of Christian congregations observe Holocaust Remembrance Day by special services (sometimes with Jews). Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed on 27 Nissan of the Jewish calendar, fifth day following the eighth day of Passover. Christians often choose another day for their observance. Passion Sunday has been suggested as appropriate. The aim of Yom ha Shoah has been expressed as "not to place guilt or blame but to help people of all faiths gain understanding of an event in human history which speaks to the conscience of the world". (cf. Marcia Littell, Liturgies on the Holocaust The Edwin Mellen Press, N.Y. 1986 (p. 7)