Wednesday, October 05, 2016
Yesterday I found myself at a street corner in downtown Belleville standing next to a fellow I see around the community regularly. Sometimes he's in the yard of his century brick home which always has a "for sale" sign out front. We've exchanged pleasantries on a number of occasions. He is a cheerful guy, a bit of a character --in a good way. I noticed for the first time his yarmulkah, or kipah, the skull cap worn by Jewish men.
I said hello and observed that he must be one of the last men standing in what I know is a very small Jewish community in Belleville. For a moment he was uncharacteristically at a loss for words, then he conceded that my comment was true. I asked whether it was difficult to get a minyan, and then he looked truly perplexed. A minyan is essentially the quorum for Jewish worship, a minimum requirement of ten men -- not ten people, orthodox men. I could tell he was wondering who this relative stranger was, and how did I know about a minyan?
He admitted that it can be tough to scare up ten Jewish men for worship in this town. What do you do, I wondered, when there aren't enough. You wait and hope, was his answer. And some days there is no formal time of prayer because there isn't a sufficient number of men. I read an article a few months ago about a Jewish man who travels a lot. He regularly tries to find enough Jews in airports for prayer in the chapel, often asking for an announcement to be made over the public address system. His piece was comical, as he described who shows up to the call. One time an evangelical Christian woman arrived at the chapel. She didn't like flying and figured prayer of any kind would help. He shrugged his shoulders and invited her to join them.
After the light changed at the corner yesterday I thought about the conversation. In these days when fewer and fewer people in our society gather for worship of any background it's hard not to fret about the future. It is important to wait and to hope, rather than lose heart. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, Jew and Risen One, we choose to be in the moment and celebrate his abiding presence. Whenever two or three are gathered together, we have Christ-quorum.