By The Revd Katharine Rumens
Everyone coming into the Close these days must come with the greatest of expectations – especially if they watch telly on Sunday evenings. Miss Haversham has moved into Myles Place; traveller beware what awaits you behind those imposing facades.
There was no peculiar jilted bride behind the stately front door of Sarum College last Tuesday for the study day on Seder led by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand and Dr Jayme Reaves. With the promise of excellent teaching, we had gathered from across the region — Weymouth, Swanage and Avebury. Less impressively, I provided the parochial perspective having briskly walked via the Town Path.
We started with Havruta, an ancient method of learning in pairs to interrogate the scriptures. We only managed about five verses because someone wanted to know why insist on unleavened bread when it takes five hours to spit roast a lamb. (This information provided by a neighbour with a small holding). It was not a matter of being in too much of a hurry for the bread to rise, rather the Jewish prohibition of fermentation. Should I go back and put the Sunday Club right? Other clarification continued. Dipping the bitter herbs? Roman habit. Similarly reclining at table. Rituals taking shape from their surroundings.
We followed the 15 steps of a Seder, with coffee and tea breaks. It is comforting to know that Sarum College believes in cake-based learning, even in Holy Week. Then there was lunch before completing the final blessings with raised glasses.
Also more questions. If Jesus were celebrating the Passover Seder the streets would have been deserted. Everyone would have been at home and these celebrations take time. There would have been no crowds to shout, ‘Crucify him’. Again, is an overdue visit to the Sunday Club called for? It is too late to teach them about the Shabbat Dinner as the foundation of the Eucharist?
Good questions during a Seder are rewarded with sweets. Eli, Soshana’s charming son, was in charge here. Questions, not answers. That suits me just fine.
Maybe I shouldn’t shout about these days which are fantastically thought-provoking, instructive and energising otherwise I might find them fully booked.
Though all you who are intellectually curious, preach, teach, lead worship, please discover for yourselves what is behind the stately front door of Sarum College. Even if you have no television crew with you and are not in period costume.
The Revd Katharine Rumens is a recently retired Anglican priest who attended the Reading Scripture Together: The Last Supper and Jewish Seder Tradition course on April 4th 2023.
Reading Scripture Together is an ongoing series of conversational one-day courses to re-read selected sacred texts in detail and consider the ways they have been interpreted, both in the written word and in art, and on their relevance and meaning to us today.
The next two courses in the 2023 series are: