Interfaith event report
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Wonderful Methodist fringe event at Southport synagogue
Congratulations and thanks are in order to the Jewish British Board of Deputies and our own Methodist external relations department who came up with the idea of a Jewish cultural evening and seder meal as a fringe event to our own Methodist Conference.
The local synagogue in Southport pulled out all the stops and made us feel very welcome. I was, incidentally, very touched by the personal invitation from members of the Jewish community despite not being a conference delegate.
There were about 120 delegates present making it one of the biggest fringe events ever held at a Methodist Conference in living memory. Rabbi Saunders – please G-d let us have Ministers like him – introduced us to the fabric and layout of the synagogue. Much of what he said resonated with members of a denomination which started worshiping in fields and barns.
The Rabbi then led us into the community hall where there was an exhibition on the Jewish Way of Life (by the way this will be open again this evening for delegates who didn’t make it last night). We then sat down for a splendid meal as the Rabbi explained each element of the meal, and described how they mixed worship and education with food, much like a good Alpha course!
We then had short speeches from the local chair of district, the vice president of the BOD and the head of our external affairs department. They described the painful journey from last year’s awful conference (my word, not theirs) when relations between the two communities had broken down following the disgraceful (again my word not theirs) acceptance by conference of the “report” on Palestine and Israel.
Since then there has been a series of meetings which have now enabled a dialogue to get underway. Last night’s meal would have been impossible during last year’s conference and we must hope and pray for better understanding between the tow communities.