Two Congregations Coexist in Friendship and Fellowship

Fr. Shane and Rabbi Rothbaum on Memorial Day 2011

Though it may not be common for a synagogue and a Christian church to share real estate, the Philipstown Reform Synagogue (PRS) and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church have been doing so in Cold Spring since 2005. On Sunday morning, July 10, they will hold their second combined service. According to the church, the opportunity to welcome the Jewish community of Philipstown was a natural outgrowth of St. Mary’s policy of inclusion for all seeking to worship. When PRS found itself in need of a meeting place, St. Mary’s Parish Hall was the logical choice. “From our very first gathering,” says Diane Botnick, president of PRS, “it was clear that we had found a home. It is very generous of St. Mary’s to share their lovely space with us, but the hospitality they have extended to us goes far deeper.  We hope this spirit of partnership will serve as an example for others.”  Led by Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, PRS meets once a month on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath. These services include a lively discussion of Torah, the Hebrew Bible, prayer, meditation, and the ritual breaking of bread.
       The July 10 service will be jointly led by Rabbi Rothbaum and Father Shane Scott-Hamblen, rector of St. Mary’s. The Sunday service is divided into two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. On that day, Rabbi Rothbaum will read from the Torah and Father Shane will read from the New Testament. “What is interesting,” notes Father Shane, “is that when our more modern Christian liturgy is put side-by-side with the ancient Jewish liturgy, one can see so many connections.” 
       “We worship the same God,” Father Shane continues. “And we want to show the public that we get along.  Many of our Christian community are already friends with many in the Jewish community. We want to celebrate that as well as strengthen our bonds into a stronger friendship.”
       “It is so wonderful that St. Mary’s and Father Shane have given PRS a home, and provided a space for Jewish life to thrive in Cold Spring,” says Rabbi Rothbaum. “Though our religious traditions are different, St. Mary’s has been a literal Makom Torah (Place of Torah) for our special little community. The partnership continues to be a great blessing for all our members.”
       At the end of the service, St. Mary’s will dedicate the newly restored steeple. “It is particularly meaningful for this to happen after the combined service, because the PRS was one of the first groups to make a financial donation towards the restoration,” the church noted in a news release. 
       The program on Sunday begins with Torah study, at 9:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall, with a welcome going out to all those interested in learning more about the Hebrew Bible. At 10:30 a.m., the two congregations will hold the joint service, followed by the rededication of the steeple, with refreshments afterward.
       St. Mary’s church and hall are located at the intersection of Chestnut Street (Route 9D) and Main Street (Route 301), at the traffic light in Cold Spring.
Photo courtesy of St. Mary’s Church

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