Breaking bread leads to big change
GYPSUM First Lutheran Church in Gypsum celebrates a Seder meal each year, because of its special religious significance. The Seder Meal is actually an ancient Jewish tradition, commemorating the Passover, the celebration of when Jews were freed from slavery in Egypts. But some Christian churches have embraced the tradition as well.”For us, there’s just a very clear connection. Jesus was Jewish,” said First Lutheran Pastor Doris Nolan. “Jesus, at the Last Supper, was celebrating a Seder meal. It’s a beautiful tradition.”And this April 4, the Seder meal promises to be no different.Few have lent the church’s Seder tradition more significance than congregation member Gail Cameron-Britt. And few have gained more inspiration from it. Britt, who has a Jewish background, will soon start a Christian ministry of her own. She said her journey in faith began with First Lutheran’s Seder Meal.
First Lutheran’s Seder Meal tradition actually started many years ago, but it was Britt who is credited with breathing new life into the local event. Britt was drawn to First Lutheran’s Seder Meal 13 years ago because she was familiar with the tradition, having grown up in a Jewish household. She was excited to relive the traditions of her childhood, she said.She was welcomed as she arrived, but the food she was served bore little resemblance to what she remembered. “I thought, maybe I should talk to the pastor about the authentic Jewish food I could bring to the church,” she said. The church embraced the idea. “Pastor Nolan has been very open and very appreciative to that … and the congregation,” Britt said.Britt began instructing some of the congregation volunteers on how to cook a traditional Jewish Seder meal. Then, since she knew Hebrew, she agreed to cantor part of the service with the pastor, lending more authenticity and a deeper meaning to the church’s own tradition. The first half hour of the Seder service talks about the exodus of the Jewish slaves from bondage in Egypt, followed by the Seder meal itself. Then, it is brought full circle by a Christian Holy Communion.Pastor Nolan explains that Jesus was actually celebrating a Seder meal with his disciples during the Last Supper. “The Passover meal is part of our tradition,” says Nolan. “There are many Lutheran churches that do this.”In the sharing of her Jewish traditions, her fellow Christians reciprocated with sharing of their own. It wasn’t long before Britt had converted to a Christian and become a member of First Lutheran.
When contacted for this story, Britt was in St. Paul, Minn. at a Lutheran seminary. This former volunteer coordinator for the Eagle County Volunteer Center is now working on obtaining her master’s degree in art and ministry of daily life. This was no recent decision, however, “I’ve been really moving toward this goal for about 10 years,” Britt said. She went back to school to get an organizational management bachelor’s degree from Colorado Christian University in Grand Junction, which she completed in 2003. Then, at the age of 53, she decided it was time to pursue her real goal. Now 55, she is living in a dorm room with students half her age. In fact, her son is a freshman at the University of Northern Colorado right now, and she waited until he headed to college before pursuing her own master’s degree.”It’s pretty challenging,” Britt admits. Still, she draws solace from the fact she is far from alone. “Actually, several of us are working on our second, third, or fourth careers. Really, a third of the students here are around my age.”When she graduates a year from this summer, she will go to the Rocky Mountain Synod in Denver, part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA), to become a diaconal minister. “I would not be a pastor per se,” she explained. She would not have her own congregation; rather, as a professional lay person, she will speak to congregations or hospitals or in hospice settings about the world and community issues and the Word of God.Britt is still a member of First Lutheran and will fly back to Eagle County to “cantor” or lead this April’s Seder.”It’s also a wonderful education of the Old Testament,” she said. “I think for Christians to see what it was like makes it so much more meaningful.”
• 3 Matza (unleavened) crackers: Used during the first part of the meal to symbolize the exodus of the Jews from Egyptian slavery. These are placed in a fold of a napkin to remind of the hate of bondage. Pastor/cantor recites four traditional questions in Hebrew about why this meal is different. After the Matza crackers are consumed, the leftovers, “aftkomen,” are hidden for children to find later and given a prize.• Maror, usually horseradish: It means bitter herbs, and symbolizes the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.• Charofef, a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, cinnamon and honey: Reminds of the mortar the slaves used to build the pyramids while in slavery.• Karpas, vegetables, usually served with parsley or celery: Represents hope and redemption. It is used in combination with a bowl of salt water, symbolizing the tears shed by the Jews in slavery.• Zeroah, traditionally roasted lamb shank bone: symbolizes the sacrificial lamb.• Wine: Represents the full promise of redemption. In the traditional Jewish home, participants would drink four glasses during the service. At First Lutheran, they have four sips. A glass of wine is traditionally left out for the prophet Elijah.• Matzoh ball soup: Served in a pot at each table, it is lovingly prepared the day before.• Followed by brisket or lamb and a “kugal,” a potato or noodle casserole, and dessert.This story appeared first in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.