Christians are celebrating their second locked down Easter this weekend. If Mr S wasn't a model of Christian charity, he'd quite like to remind certain people of this fact, especially those irritating folk who last year insisted that locking down just before the Muslim festival of Eid was somehow an attack British Islam. Perhaps not everything is motivated by conflict between different identity groups?
Oh wait, yes it is. With parishioners cooped up at home, someone in the Church of England thought it might be nice to encourage a bit of domestic ritual (yes, that antiquated idea of physical, structured worship). Church House officials launched an online campaign encouraging Christians to celebrate Maundy Thursday by borrowing elements of the Jewish festival of Passover. Families were encouraged to sit around a table laden with flatbreads, warm water, honey and a sprig of rosemary while children were encouraged to ask their parents about the history of the ritual.
A perfectly innocent, rather tender nod to fellow believers — or so you would have thought. In a CofE document called 'Prayer at Home', readers were told:
“While the prayers and actions echo motifs from the Jewish Seder, this is not such a meal. Jewish people will understand the resonance of the symbols and practices in very different ways from Christians.
Rather predictably, all hell broke loose. The Church's bleeding hearts started beating with righteous fury, accusing officials of 'stealing' Jewish ritual with their 'anti-Semitic' attempts to... err... celebrate elements of Christian and Jewish history? The rural dean of Grimsby and Cleethorpes, Nick Nawrockyi, told the Telegraph:
“It's not appropriate because it's appropriating a liturgy, a ritual rite from another faith, that we don't need to be doing. It's insensitive and it taps into ... and I don't think this was the intention, but it taps into centuries of anti-Semitism on the part of Christians.
Meanwhile, Dr Jo Kershaw, of St Anne's Wrenthorpe in Wakefield, decided that the Maundy supper ceremony was 'harmful':
— Dr Jo Kershaw (@mthr_jo) March 31, 2021
A) it is wrong (and harmful) to steal Jewish ritual. We have our own.B) they may say this isn’t a Christian Seder, but the duck test (if it walks and quacks like a duck....) applies, and that sure as heck isn’t what a normal Anglican Eucharist looks like. https://t.co/raxN1Nv6cd
Inevitably, the CofE caved. The guidance has been removed and an online event promoting the supper was cancelled. Now Mr S is no theologian, but Christianity might just be open to a slightly broader accusation of 'appropriation'. Perhaps the two offended vicars could take their bibles out and flick to that section commonly called the 'Old Testament', which has rather a lot of crossover with the Jewish Torah.
It's almost as though the entire Christian religion has 'appropriated' large chunks of the Hebrew faith...