Why can’t we all just get along?
by Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman
My congregation is in Cape Coral, Florida, part of the greater Fort Myers area. There are four other Messianic congregations in our area. Most people are loyal to their particular congregation. There are a few people who bounce back and forth, visiting different congregations.
The congregations are all different, and all small. One congregation focuses mainly on worship music and dancing. They have a Torah scroll, take it out, and parade it around, but don’t open it up or read it. Another congregation is made up of Hispanics and the service is in Spanish. Another congregation is very charismatic in their worship style, and the other two are more traditional, with different emphases.
At our congregational meeting, I had a woman ask why we can’t all just get together, and wondered why we can’t just come together and be one. Its a question that most people wonder about our movement in general. To most people, style of worship is really important. Some people really want a more Charismatic service. Others don’t care for it at all, but would prefer a more traditional Jewish service. Some want dancing, while others don’t think its appropriate for worship. Some want more liturgy, some want more heart. These are all good things, but everyone feels differently about how to worship the Holy One.
Historically, there has been a lot of water thats gone under the bridge. People left one congregation and started another. Bad memories of conflict and feeling betrayed persist. If we all tried to get together even once, there would be arguments about who’s congregation we would go to? Who would be in charge? Who would set the agenda? What would the service look like? Getting together in such a setting would just remind us why we have five congregations.
The reality is, its not a bad thing that we have different congregations. We all have different needs. Its not one size fits all, or my way or the highway. God allowed the different congregations to form and develop so we would have a place to go where we could worship feeling connected. Thats not a bad thing. The important thing is not that we all get together in one congregation, but that we learn to accept one another as sister congregations, and view one another as family. People don’t need to do the same things I do for me to get along with them. People don’t have to be in my congregation for me to care about them. We need to have an attitude of cooperation and mutual support.
One of the other congregations in our area was holding a concert. They asked us to advertise it to our people. I was put off at first, because they have never really been supportive of things we do, and I had approached the artist performing the concert some months ago to come to our congregation, and I never heard from him. I was feeling slighted. After all, I am human.
After I got over the idea that I don’t want my people going there, lest they skip my precious bible study, I thought better of it, and placed a message on our congregational page that our sister congregation was hosting a concert and suggested to our members that they might want to check it out. I wasn’t worried I would lose people, because if my people wanted to be there, they would be. Meanwhile, they can go and enjoy a good concert. I called them our sister congregation because that is exactly the relationship I would like us to have with them, as well as the other congregations in our area. First we have to think it, then we have to say it, and hopefully, we can become it. I am praying that their concert will be a great success. Our congregations may never become one congregation, but I have hopes, that we can one day have an all Lee County, Messianic Picnic. There is unity in diversity.