Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chapter 5

Being the further adventures of Janjan's foray into Christianity.

I can't sleep, having had a cup to tea too late, so I thought I'd write, and since I have at least two faithful readers I hope they will not be disappointed. If you have been keeping up with this never-ending story, and you have a comment, please feel free to leave it.

So where was I.....oh yes, in North London at a Messianic Fellowship, a long way from the pleasures and fleshpots of Battersea and "SW10", the fashionable parts of London. It was there that I met some really devout and wonderful folks including many Israelis, who were what we called "believers".

Our services were more or less along the lines of Protestant non-conformists, (our pastor had been a Salvation Army missionary in Libya, of all places....) but the singing was in Hebrew, and the teaching focused alot on the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish nature of the New Covenant.There were also alot of non-Jewish "fellow travelers", like the Finnish fellow who smuggled bibles into the Soviet Union. There was a crazy French charismatic woman who "prophesied" that Northern Ireland would see a great Christian revival and peace would break out by 1983....which of course didn't happen. I think by her own reckoning, she should have been stoned to death for giving a false prophesy, but nevermind.

Like many small insular groups there were many disfunctional and mentally unstable people, and they were welcome. By the same token there was a marvelous Anglican priest who went on the serve a church in Jerusalem, before leaving the Anglican Communion and affiliating with the AMIA. We even met Orde Wingate's nephew!

British Jews are very different than American Jews. I have only my own theories as to why. In the United States, our middle class is broad and diverse, and can include blue and white collar people. We tend to self define whether or not we are "Middle Class". We don't really have an "Upper Class", we have very wealthy people, and at the very top we have an ever shrinking segment we call "Old Money".

In the United Kingdom, the middle class is small and conformist. It's in the middle, between the Working Class and the Aristocracy. Because there is a State Church, (which few people really attend anymore) the middle class defines itself by it's rituals. People get christened and have God-parents whose main responsibility is to give nice gifts, preferably heirlooms on Christmas and birthdays. You wear a hat to a church wedding, or morning dress if you're a man, and if you are the bride and groom, you simply sign the registry at the church and there is no need to go to town hall. And all British people have a legal right to be hatched , matched, and dispatched in the Church of England.

Of course, if you are Jewish (or anything else for that matter) you're never really part of this middle class. You haven't been to the schools where you will learn just the right accent, and you don't have a house filled with ancestral Georgian antiques, not to mention all the other little ways you don't really fit, even if Michael Howard is the leader of the Conservatives.

In the U.S. we've benefitted from all of this. Watch the news and you will see all the British doctors and scientists who live here now because of the opportunities. But listen to their accents.....regional and distinctive. It's what held them back there. Here it's considered another asset!

But I digress. I thought most of the Jews I met in the UK seemed like they lived under a cloud. They were very aware they were a minority, and most of them were tradesmen, rather professionals. They'd come in for a lot of hard times, many of them, and many of them were from very traditional backgrounds. I learned more about Jewish tradition among them than I had in all my years in the Reform Temple. (They call that the "Progressive Synagogue" over there, it wasn't as popular) And their love for Yeshua was deep, and hard won.

They thought my husband was practically the Prince of Wales, for God's sake (they used to make him read the passages all the time because of his "Oxbridge" accent), and I was treated as some sort of special guest because I was American. When we eventually left for the U.S. they gave us a big tearful send-off. We felt very guilty because we were given "going away"gifts by people who could barely afford it. I wouldn't go back to it, but it was a very special time.

To be continued.......