Monday, 28 November 2011


I found myself in Church yesterday at St Paul's Balsall Heath for the Advent Sunday Eucharist. I love Advent full of the themes of hope, expectation longing...a real spiritual gift. Yesterday the first hymn was 'O Come O Come Emmanuel.' I love the tune, it's haunting melody fits the themes of longing and waiting that I associate with Advent. Unfortunately I find it difficult to affirm the words and yesterday I decided not to sing them. As the following commentary on the hymn from the Roman Catholic Boston College USA Centre for Jewish Christian Relations states:

One can look at the question of the theology conveyed by hymn lyrics both atomistically, i.e., is this word or phrase theologically sound or pastorally edifying? and also more globally, i.e., what is the theological orientation of the hymn in its entirety, including what is the progression of thought from verse to verse or what story does the entire lyric tell?
Globally speaking, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel's more-or-less traditional lyrics (though there are variations) pretty well summed up pre-Vatican II Catholic understanding of the relationship of the New Testament to the Old Testament, and therefore also of the Church to Israel: The Old Testament was understood to have spiritual validity only when read in reference to Christ and the Church, and Israel was spiritually valid only as the precursor to Christianity.
The "traditional" lyrics thus describe Israel as waiting in exile for its raison d'etre to come in the birth of Jesus and applies biblically-sounding titles (based on the "O-Antiphons") to petitions for Jesus to come.
The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, reversed prior predominant theologies of Judaism. The covenantal life between God and Israel was now recognized as eternal and not superseded by the establishment of the Church’s covenant with God through Christ. Official documents urged Catholics to respect Judaism’s self-understanding and to understand Jesus as a “faithful son of Israel ” (John Paul II) in continuity with, not the termination of, Israel ’s story.
The traditional lyrics suggest that Jews at the time of Jesus felt themselves to be in lonely exile, and awaiting the appearance of the Son of God. This not only contradicts Jewish self-understanding but historical evidence from written texts of the time.
In addition, since Vatican II, Catholic teaching has emphasized that Advent should ritualize three "comings" - the birth of Jesus, the coming of Jesus in the Church today, and the eschatological coming of Christ at the End of Days. The traditional lyrics do a poor job of this.

The same article offers a great alternative set of words here

There is also  a good reflection on  'Some personal thoughts on singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"'

Why not consider trying the alternative words in your church this Advent? And reflecting on the different theologies in the hymns? For further resources on this, particularly using liturgy and hymnody to challenge theologies of contempt and as an opportunity for teaching about Christinity's relationship to Judaism  see Mary C Boys article Touching the Heart of Faith: Challenges of Christian-Jewish Dialogue where she also suggests alternative lyrics for some of the verses.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Israel - Palestine Debate at Birmingham University

A very good Question Time style  debate with prominent speakers was held at Birmingham University last week hosted by the University Union Debating Society and supported by the Union of Jewish Students and the Friends of Palestine Society. I didn't get to the debate, but by the looks of the videos that have been posted, it was a very well managed airing of the issues. You can watch the full debate below

Friday, 18 November 2011

Inter Faith Week 20 -26 November 2011

For details of local events during Inter Faith Week download a diary produced by the Faith Encounter Programme here

Monday, 14 November 2011


I have recently become asware of a small but growing organisation in UK called 'Spirit of Peace'. On 1st December they are holding a fundraising peace meal in Coventry. To find out about their work go to the Spirit of Peace website. Details of the meal are below and you can download a flyer for the event here. Annie and I hope to be there it's a great little organisation with some interesting ideas and links. Check out their emerging  Pathways to Peace philosophy and the projects and partners they are working with in the UK and Israel/Palestine

Blue Bistro and Spirit of  Peace warmly invite you  to ‘Peace-Meal’, a charity evening of international  cuisine and music in a beautiful medieval setting.

Spirit of Peace is a rapidly developing UK based charity with a heartfelt vision to foster greater peace, understanding and equality in our global society, creating a culture of nonviolence and peace in our fractured world.

Thursday December 1st  at  Blue Bistro
21 Spon Street
024 7622 9274

Advance Tickets Only  £24.95

Registered Charity No. 1122834
Company No. 6339788

Sunday, 13 November 2011

New Resources for Christian - Jewish relations

Two excellent resources for Christian - Jewish relations came into my hands this week.

Firstly, when visiting Queen's to deliver a workshop on my Christianity in Dialogue course, Rabbi Debbie Young - Somers gave me a copy of The Lambeth - Jewish Forum's recent publication Jews and Christians: Perspectives on Mission. This is a great little resource that is available for download on line. Patrick Morrow's piece Christian Mission and Jewish Christian Particularities is a tour de force in it's summary and exploration of the issues involved. I understand that hard copies can be ordered from the Woolf Institute.

Secondly, after pre-ordering it a couple of months ago, it was great to have The Jewish Annotated New Testament arrive in my pigeon hole on Friday. This exciting new initiative looks likely to become a fascinating resource for Jews and Christians alike. See an initial review of it here. At first glance it looks well worth the investment at the great price you can get it for in UK