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Marking Passover

16 May 2014

THIS year, Easter coincided with Passover, an event that was celebrated at St Margaret's, Prestwich, with a Passover (Pesach) supper on Wednesday in Holy Week, when 75 Christians, aged from seven to 92, took part.

The church is in one of the largest Jewish communities in the UK, and it was on the day when their Jewish neighbours - with whom they have good interfaith relations - were completing the second full day of their Passover celebrations.

"It was a joyous family occasion," the Priest-in-Charge of St Margaret's, Canon Debby Plummer, says. She had organised the occasion, and bought the same foods as her Jewish friends used for their Seder plates. The foods are "symbolic of the Exodus", she says, "from slavery to freedom, as the seasons are transformed from winter to spring - heralding a time of rebirth for the Jewish people as a nation, and as individuals".

With them was Dr Irene Lancaster (right in photo) of the local Orthodox Jewish community and chair of the local Jewish-Christian dialogue group. She explained the important part that children played in the Seder service; and the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker (seen here holding the Seder plate), played the part of the household's "father" for the meal while Dr Lancaster said the Hebrew blessing.

Dr Lancaster tells me that she asked the children what religion and nationality Jesus was, and had the answers "Jewish" and "Israeli". She then went on to tell them the experience of friends of hers who had gone with a diocesan group to the Holy Land, and were faced at the Palestinian border with "Israelis not allowed in", while Palestinians were welcome to visit Israel.

She said that if Jesus was living today, he would not, as a Jew, be allowed into his home town of Bethlehem, but would be "very welcome" in Israeli Nazareth. She does not say whether the children were told anything of the background to that situation.

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