Church of England apologizes for offensive ‘Christian seder’ booklet

It suggests that readers say the Hebrew prayer ‘Shema Israel’ – a key principle of the Jewish faith – and hold a dinner meal in which guests perform certain rituals lifted from the Passover seder.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The Church of England apologized last Thursday for a prayer booklet and video that appeared to encourage Christians to adopt elements of the Jewish Passover seder.

The Jewish Chronicle reported that St. Mary’s Islington, a London-based parish, published a prayer book ahead of Maundy Thursday that was strikingly similar to the Passover Haggadah.

It suggests that readers say the Hebrew prayer Shema Israel, a fundamental principle of the Jewish faith, and hold a dinner meal in which guests perform certain rituals lifted from the Passover Seder.

The booklet states that the youngest person present at the meal should ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The reply should be, “Once we were slaves in the land of Egypt, but the Lord rescued us on this holy night. That is why this night is special, and different from all other nights.”

Another suggested dialogue included in the booklet is a guest asking, “Why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread?”

The appropriate reply should be, “We eat unleavened bread because there was no time that night to let it rise.”

Read  Benjamin Netanyahu on Passover Eve: ‘We will overcome those who seek our lives – Thanks to the faith of our people’

The Church’s National Interreligious Affairs Advisor, Dr. Richard Sudworth, apologized in a statement which said, “The brief prayers and actions are not, and were not, intended to be a Christianized seder, as the text pointed out.”

Sudworth said the Church’s intention was to bring Christians back to the roots of the Easter holiday, not to imitate the Passover seder.

He said that the “prayers and readings were offered to help families be mindful of the events of the original Last Supper, and the framing context of the feast of the Passover to Jesus and the disciples, connecting with our Christian Bible texts for this day.”

Essentially stating that the booklet was a matter of bad optics, the Church concluded by saying that they “do not wish to encourage an impression that was not intended by the resource and apologize for any offense caused.”