Not a poem but my experience on Monday. It was the 2017 Commonwealth Service and I represented Liberal Judaism for Rabbi Danny Rich. Lunch hosted by the Dean was intimate and intense; seabass and curried vegetables eaten by 16 faith leaders while we discussed drawing out peace from robust interfaith interaction. We all wanted it, from the Copts, to the Jains, to the Sikhs, to the Church of Scotland and England and the Church of Rome, to Muslims and Buddhists, Hindus and Orthodox. Indeed we Jews were almost overly represented myself, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers from Movement of Reform Judaism and Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. We were surprised to see him stay once he’d finished his Hermolis meal. His predecessors never ever attended Church services. I have changed exceptions and protocol he explained to me, after congratulating us on our synagogue’s work for and with Syrian refugees. It is important that I attend and so I will. It is not always easy, he admitted, but I am committed to doing so.
I was moved by that.
But even more so was the act of processing into a full Westminster Abbey (think Royal Weddings), walking from the nave at the front door to the front steps and altar. We, the 12 non Christian faith leaders were seated opposite the Royal family, separated by three rows. The Queen wore buttercup yellow and listened with interest to the Commonwealth speakers and performers, even the spoken word rap poetry. All I could think about was our origins, we faith leaders, some born in the Indian sub continent, some here in Jewish or multi cultural neighbourhoods, all I am sure surprised at our journeys. And as we sang the hymn I knew best as a child at school, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, I confess I wept at the memory of school assemblies and the privilege of being a Jew now in this country and with the responsibility I get to carry. It was awesome, in the truest sense. We are engaged in important work this outreach, collaboration and friendship. It is not nothing this reaching out.
Shabbat Shalom to all and look forward to seeing some of you this weekend.