Seder and Holy Week

posted Mar 27, 2013, 7:29 AM by Amelia Fannin   [ updated Mar 27, 2013, 7:29 AM by in apropos ]

Just days after he had been elected, the new Pope Francis, at his first meeting with journalists, said these words, “Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I give this blessing from my heart, in silence, to each one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God,” he said. “May God bless you.”  For many people this was a sign that at last, a pope was recognizing that the people of the world both follow many faiths, and no faith at all.  Cardinal Benoglio was particularly known for his work in bridging the gap between Catholics and Jews in his home country of Argentina, and hopefully it will be part of his ministry as Pope.

But when I was in my 20's the idea that the God worshipped by Christians had any connection to the God worshipped by Buddhists, Hindus, and even our fellow "people of the book", the Jews and Moslems, was considered blasphemy.  I well remember a radical bishop suggesting that we should have a more tolerant view of people of other faiths, and being lambasted by the media for this outrageous suggestion.

So I was thrilled when David Barbrow, who was brought up in a Christian - Jewish household, suggested that both Firelight students, and teenagers, should experience a Seder.  A few years ago I taught a Palm Saturday workshop based on the Seder, and realized that it is probably one of the best pieces of religious education for children bar none.  Firstly, it is (as are most Jewish rituals) based in home and family, and also the welcome of strangers, and those in need.  Secondly, it is built around a meal.  Thirdly, the children are central parts of the ritual, asking scripted questions, but also encouraged to ask any other questions that arise.  As David said, " a good Seder is judged by the number of questions asked."  And finally, it is all fun!  Most of us knew the story of Moses and the Pharaoh, the plagues, and the exodus.  We also knew that it was this meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before his arrest. 

At the Seder we learned of the "mnemonics" that help children remember the details; the Matzoh to represent the unleavened bread the escaping Hebrews made in haste, the bitter herbs that remind us of the harsh life of slavery (David had brought actual horseradish root, which delivered quite a kick!), the nine drops of wine dropped on the plate to represent the plagues, the Charoset, a wonderful mixture of apples and walnuts, to represent the mortar the slaves spent their lives mixing.  Thank you so much David for this wonderful lesson.

It's Holy Week!  Please join us on Thursday evening for a Family Service of Foot Washing in the Chapel, at 5.30 pm, followed by a meal, for which offerings are welcome.  (If you plan to attend, and to bring any food, please email Fiona at as soon as possible!)  And then there is the great celebration of Easter on Sunday Morning, with breakfast at 9am, and the service at 10.30 am.  There will be nursery care, and care for younger elementary children, in the nursery and classroom.

Fiona Vidal-White