This past Friday night, folks from WCUC gathered along with members of many local faith communities and other friends to light the way into Shabbat services for our Jewish neighbors at Kerem Shalom. Some folks provided candles to share; others, including Jim, helped lead us in music. We held signs and witnessed to the light of hope together. The Kerem Shalom community graciously welcomed us in to participate in the Shabbat service. This beautiful worship experience included songs and prayers in Hebrew and English, a special remembrance of those who died in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and words from Rabbi Darby Leigh. Rabbi Darby invited us to consider last week’s tragedy in the wider context of intolerance and violence, and encouraged us to continue to build local connections that will nurture love and understanding in our communities. The folks at Kerem Shalom provided a wonderful reception and warm fellowship for all who were there. It was truly a blessing to be there!
Please read below for Pastor Hannah’s brief remarks during the service:
I give thanks to Rabbi Darby and this congregation for your hospitality in welcoming those of us who are your neighbors, to share this tender time with you.
This Sunday, many Christians will be studying a text from the book of Ruth, a text that is holy in both Jewish and Christian traditions. In this story, we meet a woman named Naomi who is grieving the loss of her husband and both of her sons. Naomi tries to send her daughters-in-law away from her, back to their parents. She has nothing to give them; no way to protect them. But her daughter-in-law, Ruth, says: “Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God…Not even death will part me from you.” So Naomi and Ruth journey on together, and together they make a new life.
As we witness hateful speech and action around us, we must condemn the wrong that is done. As a Christian pastor, I especially grieve that violent anti-Semitism has been justified by Christians and by Christian scriptures. Jesus himself was a faithful Jew; and Judaism is both an honored ancestor and a beloved sibling to the Christian faith. We share sacred texts and holy values. We both follow a call to love God with all that we are, to honor one another, to care for the most vulnerable among us.
I pray that all of us, from many traditions, religious or not, will respond to the tragedies around us today not only by grieving, but also by growing in our practice of the kind of love that Ruth models. Let us go with one another; let us stay with one another; let us understand ourselves to be one people, bound together. May it be so.