07 July 2023
Coventry Jewish Reform Community was formed in October 1993, and celebrates its 30th anniversary later this year (2023). It was interesting during my visit to Coventry last week to learn about this community and how it is thriving, in contrast to the sad story of Barras Lane Synagogue, which I recounted last Friday (30 June 2023).
For several years, the community shared the facilities of Barras Lane Synagogue with the Coventry Hebrew Congregation. But this arrangement came to an end when the synagogue building fell into a state of disrepair, and the community now holds its services at the Friends’ Meeting House (Quakers) in Coventry and in members’ homes.
Coventry Jewish Reform Community was formed in October 1993, primarily through the efforts of Dr Martin Been, who became the congregation’s President.
But the history of the community goes back to 1960, when a local area group of the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue was founded in Coventry in 1960. Its then minister, Rabbi Bernard Hooker, addressed the first meeting, in the Bimbo restaurant in Coventry, by courtesy of its owner, Alan Blank.
However, most of the interested people came from the Warwick and Leamington Spa area, and the group transferred its centre to Leamington Spa where it became the Leamington and District Progressive Jewish group.
After some years meeting in members’ homes, it received an invitation from the Warwick Quakers to use their hall at the Friends’ Meeting House in High Street, Warwick. Interestingly, this was an extension of Jury Street and backing on to Castle Lane, where the mediaeval Jews of Warwick had lived in the 13th century.
The members of the Progressive Group in Leamington and Warwick were gradually dying or moving away. The group became unsustainable and was formally wound up. Some of those who remained were made welcome in the Coventry Reform Community and helped swell its numbers.
The Coventry Jewish Reform Community was established in 1993 by Dr Martin Been. The idea of creating a Reform Community in Coventry dated back to 1989 when Martin, who was then living in Newcastle on Tyne, applied for a position at Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry, at a time when there were few consultant cardiology posts with cardiac catheter labs.
He was already an active member of the Reform Community in Newcastle. When he asked about Jewish life, he was told, ‘do not come here, no one else is, people only leave!’
Somewhat taken aback, Martin spoke to his community leader, Rabbi Willie Wolf, who told him there would be Jews in Coventry, and all it needed was someone to go there and start a community.
The Been family joined the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue and Martin Been also joined the Coventry Hebrew Congregation at Barras Lane Synagogue
After some time he discovered that Rabbi Willie Wolf was right – there were indeed Jews living in the area, many of whom had no affiliation with any organisation.
A new congregation was formed with the advice and support of the late Mick Berger.
One of the biggest challenges over the years has been a lack of a permanent home, although the community shared the facilities of Barras Lane Synagogue with the Coventry Hebrew Congregation for several years. However, this arrangement came to an end when the synagogue fell into a state of disrepair.
Coventry Jewish Reform Community has thrived and flourished despite the setbacks, and celebrates its 30th anniversary later this year (2023).
The Movement for Reform Judaism has given much support and continues to provide advice and guidance. Regular Friday night Shabbat services take place at the Friends’ Meeting House (Quakers) on Hill Street, Coventry, and in members’ homes. High Holy Days Services and other celebrations have also been held at the Helen Ley Centre in Leamington, Baginton Village Hall and in members’ homes.
We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and the week began with the Fourth Sunday after Trinity (3 July 2023).
Before this becomes a busy day, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.
Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:
1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Holy Trinity Church, Corfu:
There has been an Anglican presence in Corfu since 1814, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands became a British Protectorate. The High Commissioner, the administrators, and the soldiers and sailors based in Corfu, required a place of worship, and a chapel was built in the Doric style in the Old Fortress and was named Saint George.
Saint George’s remained the garrison church until 1864, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands were incorporated into the modern Greek state. The Greek Parliament in Athens wanted to turn the old fortress into a military base, and Saint George’s became an Orthodox church.
Indeed, this was the church where Prince Philip, later the Duke of Edinburgh, was baptised according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1921.
When the former Anglican Church of Saint George in the Old Fortress in Corfu became a Greek Orthodox in 1864, the Anglican community was left without a church. On the other hand, with the incorporation of Corfu and the Ionian Islands into the Greek state, Corfu no longer needed a parliament building. The Greek government offered the former Ionian Parliament building to the Anglican community. The building was designed by a Corfiot architect John Chronis.
The gift was ratified in Greek law in 1869, and the building was given to the ‘British community of Kerkyra (Corfu) of the Anglican faith so long as it might serve as a house of worship of the said persuasion.’
The deed of consecration was signed in 1870, the Ionian Parliament building became Holy Trinity Church, and the premises to the rear became the parsonage or residence of the Anglican chaplain.
Holy Trinity Church was in a unique position because it belonged not to the British Government nor any church body, but solely and entirely to the Anglican community in Corfu. The church flourished from 1869, with a permanent resident chaplain until 1940, and for 71 years the church served the island’s many British residents.
At the outbreak of World War II, most British residents left Corfu, and the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society (now ICS) was appointed trustee of the church.
The church was bombed during World War II, leaving only parts of the outside walls. Although the parsonage to the rear suffered bomb damage, it provided shelter for the Maltese community. However, with the slow return of British residents to post-war Corfu, the Mayor of Corfu took advantage of this situation, the city took over the church, restored the building, and retained it.
Later, through negotiations, the residence part of the building was retained, repaired and served many uses. While he was the British Vice Consul, Major John Forte set about recovering this part of the building. Major John Forte is also known for reviving the game of cricket in Corfu, and for helping to prevent L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, from setting up a university on Corfu in 1968.
On Easter Day 1971, Holy Trinity Church Corfu reopened on a permanent basis for the first time in 31 years.
For more than half a century later, Holy Trinity Church has been part of the Diocese in Europe and has a vital congregation that continues to reach out to residents and visitors alike in Corfu.
Matthew 9: 9-13 (NRSVA):
9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ 12 But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘FeAST – Fellowship of Anglican Scholars of Theology.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Canon Dr Peniel Rajkumar of USPG.
Find out more HERE.
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (7 July 2023) invites us to reflect:
Proverbs 3: 19-22: By wisdom, the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken,
you have fed us at the table of life and hope:
teach us the ways of gentleness and peace,
that all the world may acknowledge
the kingdom of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org