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Challenging Anti-Jewish Oppression in the Church

A few weeks before Easter,1 I spoke to our priest about trying to do something different during Holy Week.2 He was delighted that I wanted to take on3 the issue of Good Friday4 services. He has often spoken during his sermons about anti-Jewish oppression within the Church (although he has never named it as such), and I think he was pleased that one of his “flock” was showing an interest. We agreed that I would e-mail the music director, whom I had worked hard to have a relationship with over the past few years, and I did.

Her reaction was huge—unlike anything I had expected. She saw my suggestion as a personal attack and lashed out accordingly. I got really restimulated but had some great Co-Counsellingsessions discharging about the times I had fought for something as a young person, not been listened to, and eventually had to give up. 

I checked in with the priest, and he told me to “back off.”5 So I wrote a brief letter to the director, apologizing for any hurt I had caused. I clarified that my intent had never been to criticize or to call into question her goodness.

The matter seemed to disappear, but then a week later the priest wrote to tell me he had printed out a page from the Council of Christians and Jews web site that explained the historical antecedents of the Holy Week gospel. It was handed out along with the pew sheets.

The music director personally apologised to me and gave me a big hug when we next met. And last week in Vestry,6 she surprised me by cheerfully asking for the matter to be minuted7 as part of the follow-up to the Holy Week celebrations. She publicly acknowledged that she had “reacted badly.” Everyone agreed that the services had gone off8 well and that the additions had been worthwhile.

I am proud of what I achieved. The events of the week served to remind me that being an ally to Jews is also about the liberation of myself as a Gentile. Without trying something new, without speaking up, I would never have gotten to have those sessions about fighting for something as young person, about believing in something but ultimately failing. I got to work on a piece of old material9 that had precious little10 to do with Jews, Gentiles, Christianity, or even fighting for social justice. 

The week’s events also showed me the value in making room for people’s feelings. I don’t know if the music director actually ever discharged, but I think that my decision to respond calmly, to not overreact and instead be loving toward her outburst, allowed her to change her way of being in the world, at least for a few meetings. The whole incident “cleared the air” of something.

Bruce Clezy
Northcote, Victoria, Australia
Reprinted from the newsletter
of the Melbourne, Victoria,
Australia, RC Community

1 Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion.
2 Holy Week is the week preceding Easter.
3 “Take on” means do something about.
4 Good Friday is the Friday preceding Easter and is a time when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
5 “Back off” means retreat, withdraw from my position.
6 Vestry is a church meeting.
7 “Minuted” means noted.
8 “Gone off” means gone.
9 “Material” means distress.
10 “Precious little” means very little.

Last modified: 2014-12-09 23:15:37+00