MARCH 29, 2018 – Earlier this month, I drove right by the Lutheran Church I was called to preach from, and parked my car instead at Temple Sinai. Entering the hall I saw wall- to-wall volunteers in goofy looking hairnets (and between home-brewing Lutherans and conservative Jews quite a few beard-nets were in use too) packing 14,000 meals. What blew my mind was that these folks were from Beverly, Lynn, Salem, Swampscott and Marblehead. They were representing their Boy Scout troop, their bank, their Interact Club or just came because of a social media post. They were from the Middle East, from Africa and from right down the street.
As the hour for our joint time of worship began, some chose to remain and finish the final packing. We had so many more volunteers than we expected that the job was done in record time. But even as they worked on, they sang the songs we shared in worship, led by our musicians working in literal harmony. The community feel was so warm, so triumphant and for a moment it felt like anything was possible.
Who knows, perhaps if our two congregations can explore their mutual commitments to justice and abundant blessings; can form inter-religious friendships; can learn from one another’s faith in sincerity and growth, then perhaps we’re going to be okay in this messed and mucked up world.
The journey concluded that day, but was only the last part of a long and intentional process we called: The Manna Project. After connecting together, our leadership from Temple Sinai and Clifton Lutheran asked what we shared together. Quickly it became apparent that a love of our neighbors, the stranger and a call of feed (with very good food) were the answers to that question. So we got to work! We raised funds together, I preached at the Temple, Rabbi Cohen-Henriquez preached at the Church, and we had celebratory dinners together. We made the project both a spiritual and a physical task. Together we learned, strategized and hashed out our plans. One of the factors that I quite enjoyed about this process was that we ended up inviting each other to so many events that the other faith community might not have seen or enjoyed. I’ve never seen anything like it.
– Pastor Jim Bixby, Clifton Lutheran Church