Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Visited the Local Synagogue

This past weekend i visited one of the services at a nearby synagogue. It was a really neat and even fun experience, and i highly reccommend it. Just be prepared to be sung to in Hebrew! (or would they call it Yiddish?) The music was beautiful.

The thing that i found most interesting was how much it reminded me of church. The service followed roughly the same outline as would be found in many Christian services: music and announcements followed by a sermon and closing. The attendees were mostly middle-aged or older, and they seemed thrilled to have visitors - especially young ones! They followed a liturgy in a prayer book that reminded me of the books followed in Catholic and Episcopal churches. The gathering was a moderate size (maybe around 100?) but i get the impression that they have a lot more on their holidays. In fact, if they had just added some references to Jesus, it would have been a basically complete Christian service, just one for people who knew and liked to sing in Hebrew.

It actually scared me that things seemed so much the same. They seemed to deal with the same problem of lagging attendance, and practice many of the same worship forms as we do. Of course part of the similarities in worship must be because Christianity "descended" from Judaism. But i wonder, if we are supposed to be a truly different people with a truly unique power source and unique hope, shouldn't things have been more different? Might we be guilty of putting too little emphasis on Jesus, so that a service could be relatively unchanged if His Name was simply skipped over? Maybe there is good reason to emphasize communion - it is the one ritual we have unique to ourselves, where Jesus is worshipped in ritual as well as in word.

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