Let the stranger in your midst be to you as the native

So for those of you who didn’t spend fifteen years at Beth Tikvah Congregation, or any reform synagogue for that matter, the title of this post is from the good ol’ Gates of Prayer. Quite aptly, it sums up what I learned today (and in the life of a college student, the day has barely begun!).

Strangers do care.

I promise, I am not as naive as I seem. I went to church with my friend Katie today for a diversity project for my FIG (Freshman Interest Group). Katie is Greek Orthodox, and while they do not have extreme views, I did expect to feel some modicum of uneasiness as I sat in the pews listening to the priest expound upon the virtues and life of Jesus.

Of course I was respectful; I listened, stood, and sat when I was supposed to. I have no problem respecting her faith and participating quietly. Was it awkward nonetheless? Oh yes.

When I had about had my fill of services for that morning, the line for communion formed. I graciously declined, and watched the children scamper to the alter and fill their hands with communion bread (Yup, Orthodox Christians are a step above the cardboard wafers). Katie and the other people in our row headed back. As the man in front of me returned to his seat, he turned around and offered me a piece.

He had taken extra bread so he could share it with me.

In a church that has a “closed” communion policy towards non-Orthodox Christians, this man whom I had never met before tried to include me in his ritual. Me, the tired, perpetually yawning, Star-of-David-wearing Jewish girl sitting behind him.

Needless to say, I was touched. Beyond touched. To be included in a place where I am so obviously the “odd man out” was extremely comforting. It was possibly the most enlightening part of the whole service. Sure, I enjoyed being exposed to Katie’s faith and one different from my own, but perhaps best of all was being exposed to the notion that being a stranger does not necessarily make you strange.

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One thought on “Let the stranger in your midst be to you as the native

  1. Shaina,

    This post is beautiful and moved me to tears. Even as a Christian, I, too, know what it is like to sit on the pew while almost everyone else goes up for communion. Orthodox and Catholic churches typically require one to be of that same denomination in order to partake in communion. Evangelical and other Protestant Christians only ask that one profess a relationship with Jesus Christ and have no unfinished issues (of the heart) with one’s fellow man in order to receive it. I definitely understand “odd man out.”

    I’m so happy the gentlemen wanted to include you and made you feel welcome. What a great example of how Jesus lived! It reminds me of a verse in the New Testament book of Hebrews where the Apostle Paul says, “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Heb. 13: 1-2

    God bless you, Shaina. You are “uniquely and wonderfully made” – and definitely NOT strange! 🙂

    ~ Wendy

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