Dialogue with Black Clergy
This week the Board of Deputies hosted a dialogue between Rabbis and Black Clergy, a continuation of a long running process of engagement between the two faith groups during which race and faith sow the seeds of an intriguing dialogue.
Rabbis representing every denomination and Black Clergy leaders from across the UK, gathered at the Board of Deputies to speak honestly to each other on the difficult theme of ‘God’s Chosen People’.
It was a topic that brought out profound disagreements, not simply between the faiths but within them as well.
One rabbi commented that only within the safe walls of the Board of Deputies’ wide embrace, could such differences be openly explored. One of the ministers stated that never before had he heard such an honest portrayal of how the Jewish people grappled with its role as an 'am segula' – ‘God's treasured nation’.
However, from within the friction of this intensive dialogue that pushed boundaries and crossed deep chasms, there came gems of profound worth.
"Though I am devoted to scripture,” confessed a Christian clergyman, "as a black man, I am troubled by certain passages. Why must the Song of Songs, assert rather infamously, 'I am black, BUT beautiful, must there be a 'but'?"
The Rabbis amongst the group answered nearly in unison, “But in the Hebrew, the text reads 'I am black, AND beautiful!'"
This interfaith gathering was the latest in a long line of such meetings, stretching back nearly two years and continuing into the future. The Board of Deputies’ Interfaith programme is constructed towards challenging perceptions within a supportive environment. Through this dialogue we create strong links between faiths so that when difficult situations arise, we are better equipped to deal with them.
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Sounds like a very meaningful discussion. I'm grateful to the Board for recognising how important it is to keep lines of communication open and build relationships. Relationships cannot be built during times of tension when they are often are most needed.