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Community of Conversation

The Revd Evelyn Sweerts, Assistant Curate at the Anglican Church of Luxembourg shares this story on inter-faith dialogue with us, living out the ‘In Good Faith’ initiative which seeks to facilitate encounters between priests and rabbis.

Anglican-Jewish dialogue in Luxembourg

Photo: Liberal-Jewish Community of Luxembourg kindly provided by Rabbi Alexander Grodensky

As Christians we recognise that all people are uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God. Our inter-faith engagement begins in and with the triune nature of God and finds expression in a reflection of God’s generous love and hospitality. Inter-faith relations can be a way of sharing God’s concern for all people, being good neighbours, and working for peace and justice. Knowing and understanding our own faith is the foundation of constructive interfaith encounter. Both the British Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church base their principles for inter-faith encounter on dialogue, an assumption of a meeting of equals that contains not just good words but good listening. Dialogue happens not to erase difference but across it in mutual learning, and in celebration of it. One of its gifts is coming to understand our own faith better.

We are fortunate in Luxembourg to be one of the so-called cultes conventionnées, which includes the Roman Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and Muslim religious communities here. This means there is a pre-existing forum for inter-faith collaboration and dialogue, which is a tremendous blessing.

In 2019, the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission published God's Unfailing Word, a teaching document on ‘Theological and Practical Perspectives on Christian–Jewish Relations’, as the subtitle has it. In its foreword, Archbishop Justin Welby says that the church loses when it turns its back on Jewish-Christian encounter, for we cannot understand ourselves without a deep appreciation of God’s call of and on the Jewish people. The ‘In Good Faith’ initiative seeks to facilitate encounters between priests and rabbis.

Pictured: Rabbi Alexander Grodensky and Evelyn Sweerts, Assistant Curate,The Anglican Church of Luxembourg

Rabbi Alexander Grodensky is the rabbi of the liberal synagogue and we have worked together in various ways in recent years. This has been both thought-provoking and fun. It started informally, with a trip by our Confirmation candidates to the synagogue for a tour followed by worship. This was followed by getting a small group of adults together to discuss ‘remembrance’ in the Bible as understood in our faiths (see: https://evelynsweerts.wixsite.com/athomeinfaith/post/sukkot-remembrance). From these encounters grew something more intentional and regular, namely a community of practice for clergy.

In our first meeting we discussed parts of God’s Unfailing Word and since then we have talked about models of leadership, prayer, and liturgical texts, though that short list doesn’t really reflect how wide-ranging the conversation can become.

Alexander Grodensky writes:

“I find our clergy talks enriching. In particular, I am grateful that our discussion not only refers to the doctrinal framework but goes beyond it, to our personal experiences and theologies, which makes our dialogue authentic and gives a feeling of the divine presence. The practice of mindful silence, with which we close our meetings, strengthens this feeling even more.”

I have found the first principle of God’s Unfailing Word to be unfailingly true: this relationship is a gift and it does help me understand more fully God’s purposes for the world. Who will you invite for conversation?

Bishop Robert commented:

“I am delighted to commend Evelyn’s heart-warming account of Christian-Jewish encounter. Understanding the relationship between Christianity and Judaism is a vital part of the spiritual formation of all Christian disciples. Evelyn models this beautifully, and I would love to see her example replicated across the Diocese.”

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For more information on Jewish and Anglican communities in Luxembourg, you can visit their web sites and Facebook pages:

Liberal Jewish Community of Luxembourg: https://jewish.lu/

Liberal Jewish Community of Luxembourg Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jewish.lu

The Anglican Church of Luxembourg: https://www.anglican.lu/

The Anglican Church of Luxembourg Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnglicansinLuxembourg