Long before I arrived in Alexandria, a number of local congregations including Agudas Achim joined together for interfaith worship on the eve of Thanksgiving. Though some of the players have changed, three of the congregations remain bound by this custom: Trinity United Methodist and Westminster Presbyterian are our partners of more than thirty years' standing. It is our turn to host that service again this year, and I hope you will join us that evening (November 23rd) at 7:30.
By now it is the stuff of local lore that we have taken each other in during renovations at one place or another. The extraordinary kindness and consideration both churches showed to us seventeen (yikes!) years ago cemented our relationship. And we had the privilege to welcome Westminster for the better part of nine months during their major renovation almost six years ago. Far more important than our histories as roommates, the ongoing connections among us as centers of faith and people of faith serve as a model for Alexandria, Northern Virginia and beyond.
We have worshiped together and we have studied together. And now we are going to Israel together. As you know, Larry Hayward, pastor of Westminster, and I (rabbi of Agudas Achim) will lead an interfaith group to the source of our common heritage - the place where Jewish tradition and Christian Scripture trace their origins.We will walk the paths of the rabbis and the disciples. We will visit the places of contact and conflict. We will see modern Israel through each others' eyes. And we would be delighted if you would join us, February 15-27.
This column is published for all to see, so I know that what I write may find its way outside our two communities. These have been difficult times between the Presbyterian Church and the Jewish community. Rightful concerns of church members for their fellow Christians in the Middle East, combined with an acknowledged bias for the underdogs among the Palestinians have resulted in challenges to the Church about its relationship to State of Israel. Jewish supporters of Israel, including people deeply involved in the interfaith world, have struggled mightily with the appropriate ways to respond to the internal discussions in the Church and what they mean to "official channels."
The opportunity for our dear and loving neighbors to see Israel with their own eyes, to see Israel though Our eyes and to show uS Israel through their eyes may be invaluable in the pursuit of both justice and friendship. We have never known anything but support for Israel's integrity and security from Westminster; strengthening that commitment can add a very special dimension Westminster; strengthening that commitment can add a very special dimension to our travels.
Plus, for me, twelve days with Larry sounds like a hoot.
So please mark your calendar for Wednesday evening, November 23. And please be in touch to join our interfaith trip to Israel!