A few months ago I attended Devar Emet (The Word of Truth) Messianic Synagogue in Skokie Illinois. It was a lengthy drive but it was worth it. When I arrived they had just started, I was given a kippah (male head covering) and I was invited into the sanctuary.
The congregation was smaller, but there were older individuals as well as older, but they all were united in worshipping God together. The music was primarily in Hebrew, I was provided with a guide that had the Hebrew on one side and the English translation on the other. Some of the songs and also the prayers were familiar to me having gone to a few synagogues before, and the familiarity made it all the more easier for me to engage with the worship. It just happened that their sister synagogue of sorts were visiting them, so in a way it also had a family reunion feel to it as well.
If any of you readers have experiences with church camp, it kind of had that vibe to it; communal, relational, intentional, and worshipful. I was the novice to this experience, but I was warmly welcomed and I communicated with others my intentions of being there and I also talked about my church incognito project.
Over lox and bagels I asked questions, seeking to find out why they identified with the label Messianic Jews. For the majority of people I talked with were of Jewish descent and practice. A lot of them attested that for them Messianic Judaism was a continuation of their Jewish faith, as if they didn’t skip a beat in faith traditions but merely stepped off one platform onto the next. There was also the feeling amongst the individuals that while their identity was Jewish, it started off as a spiritual identity and then merged into their cultural and historical identity.
I shared that there was a time in my life when I gave thought to aligning myself denominationally that I almost went the route of Messianic Judaism. I was informed that it might have been difficult for me to do given that I was not raised in a Jewish setting, that had I been it might have been an easier jump had I done that. And in a way it does truly make sense when Christian denominations have ties to heritage and culture, past as well as present.
I was asked by a young man if my Church Incognito project was to find some identity and place to call my own. I informed him that I wasn’t, that I was already involved and active in a church I called my own. He was encouraged that this was the case and he encouraged me to enjoy this time of exploring different denominations.
Overall it was a worthwhile time to learn and partake in Messianic Judaism even if for only one time. I was greatly encouraged to have talked to individuals who can speak at length about what their faith means to them on a spiritual as well as cultural level. I have a great level of respect for those who are able to incorporate their faith into all facets of their lives rather than attempt to live a compartmentalized life, it is these individuals that strike me as the most sincere and devout.