Thursday, 21 July 2011


One of the least reported on events at this years Methodist Conference held in Southport at the beginning of this month was the remarkable turn out for the Inter Faith fringe meeting which involved a visit to a synagogue and the experience of a Seder. In a guest post Revd Bruce Thompson, Chair Designate of the Lincoln and Grimsby District of The Methodist Church reports on the event and offers his own thoughts as to its significance for the developing relationship between Methodism and the Jewish Community.

Who’d have believed it? A year ago formal relations between the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the Jewish community sank to an all time low following the much-maligned Justice for Palestine and Israel Report. But at this year’s Conference more than a third of the representatives greatly enjoyed a demonstration Seder at a Southport Synagogue.

The event was originally conceived by a small group of Christians and Jews who wanted to do something to heal the hurts inflicted by the debate on Israel/Palestine at last year’s Conference. It had been hoped that 30-50 people might attend but more than 100 sat down to hear Rabbi Saunders of the Southport Hebrew Congregation give an introduction to the Seder. Following the meal constructive and very moving speeches were made by Jonathan Arkush, Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies and Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships at the Methodist Church. An upbeat and warm keynote address was made by Chair of the Liverpool District the Revd Jim Booth.

Birmingham District's Gareth Jones in dialogue at the Seder

So did we achieve our intentions? I believe we did. It was a real joy to have so many Methodists drawn from right across the Connexion coming together in a synagogue expressing their desire to know more about Judaism, seeking to build a better relationship and pledging to continue dialogue despite the obvious differences of opinion over all sorts of issues.

If you live within travelling distance of a Synagogue why not invite the rabbi and members of the community to demonstrate a Seder at your place of worship, or better still, if at all possible, at the synagogue. There is no more conducive way of developing a relationship than eating and drinking together around a table.

And what of next year’s Conference? Within minutes of the Southport Seder ending participants were asking what we are going to do when we next meet in Plymouth. Already suggestions are being made – one of them being Jewish festivals in an hour through song, comedy and texts! Let’s wait and see!

There was also a report in the Jewish Chronicle and the Methodist Recorder

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