The Council of Christians and Jews was formed during some of the darkest days of the Second World War to help Christians and Jews build bridges through dialogue and friendship. Last year was the 70th Anniversary of the Council of Christians & Jews. A number of the CCJ Branches celebrated though various local events during 2012.
In addition to the events at the branches, there have been a variety of celebrations throughout the UK by the National CCJ. One of my favorites was the special event hosted by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, at Lambeth Palace in London.
As the Chairman of the CCJ Lincoln & District Branch I received a personal invitation from the Archbishop to attend a reception celebrating the important part that Christian-Jewish relations have played in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ministry over the decade in which he has been in office. The event was to highlight the work of CCJ as it celebrates its 70th anniversary, as well as the Church’s relations with the Board of Deputies of British Jews. It was extra special in the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury was coming to the end of his time in office at the end of December.
I was able to ask one member from our branch to accompany me to this event. I chose Doug, the Treasurer of the CCJ Lincoln Branch. He has been a member of the branch for over fifteen years and I felt that this was a great way to reward him for all of his work in CCJ Lincoln.
We live three hours away from London, so Doug and I decided to take the train down to King’s Cross, one of the main train stations in London. I went online to book our tickets and saw that they had a senior fare, so I quickly called Doug and asked if he had a senior rail card, and he replied “Maxine, I have not been on a train in 30 years.” We both laughed and I continued to purchase regular priced tickets for each of us.
On the day of the event the weather was remarkable. The sky was blue, the air was fresh and crisp and the sun was shining. Doug drove to my house and left his car in our garage. We then took a taxi to the Lincoln train station. We were both very excited and looked forward to a very special day. After a three hour journey we arrived at King’s Cross Station, where we took a taxi to Lambeth Palace. Doug will tell you that it was quite a taxi ride through London. The driver was swerving in and out of the lanes as well as in between cars and buses with only an inch on each side to spare. I was enjoying the ride and was impressed with the way the taxi driver manoeuvred through the London traffic.
As we were passing landmarks, Doug was reminiscing about when he and his family visited London. Then he told me that it has been 30 years since he had been to London. I could not believe it, since it is only a three hour train ride into London from Lincoln. I realised how important and special this trip into London was for Doug.
We chose an early train into London not knowing what the traffic would be like and how long the taxi ride would take, and we wanted to arrive there in plenty of time. Well we did. In fact we arrived at the Palace about an hour early. The taxi dropped us off in front of the palace, we walked through the archway and was guided into the reception where we were warmly welcomed. After giving them our names we were escorted through the outside courtyard and into the Palace through the beautiful front doors.
As we entered, we were taken into the cloak room to hang up our coats and jackets and taken up a huge staircase that led to a long corridor decorated with lovely paintings of Archbishops dating back hundreds of years.
When we arrived in the Guard Room, we were offered a cup of tea (very English). It was only Doug & I who had a cuppa (as they say here in jolly old England). That was the advantage to arriving early. Another advantage was that they allowed me to wander around the many hallways and rooms on that floor to explore on my own and take pictures (one of my favourite things to do everywhere I go).
One more advantage was that we were able to choose our seats. Of course we wanted to sit in the perfect seats, front and centre. We were told that we could take pictures during the presentation, so I took that into consideration when choosing our seats.
After half an hour of wandering the palace and taking pictures I returned to the Guard Room where the presentation was about to take place. By now the other guests began arriving. I welcomed those that I did not know by introducing myself and learning about them and which CCJ Branch they represent and also meeting the various religious leaders. Some I already knew and others I got to know. I had had the privilege of meeting The Archbishop of Canterbury a few years earlier at a Jewish event in London, where I was able to talk with him and have a picture taken with him.
When he came into the Guard Room, he was surrounded by those taking part in the presentation. However as I walked by him, he looked up at me and smiled and nodded his head as he had remembered me from our first meeting. It was a special moment for me, a ‘Max’s Magical Moment’.
Everyone took their seats as the event began. There was an wonderful introduction about The Archbishop of Canterbury and the important part that Christian-Jewish relations have played in his Ministry over the decade which he has been in office. They highlighted the work particularly of the Council of Christians and Jews as they celebrate their 70th Anniversary and the Church’s relations with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Then it was time for the Archbishop to speak. He gave a beautiful speech, an account of many of the things that he had accomplished in his Interfaith work, and thanked the people from these organizations that contributed and supported his work over the past ten years, including all of us from the CCJ branches in the UK. Then there were a few more speeches by the leaders of CCJ and Board of Deputies of British Jews as well.
We were all invited into another beautiful room for refreshments and to mingle with one another. They even had a kosher company cater the whole event. All of the food and sweets were delicious. I introduced Doug to some of the people that I knew including Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism and a President of CCJ, and Revd David Gifford, Chief Executive of CCJ. Rabbi Danny introduced me to the Priest of the Greek Orthodox Church of England. Revd David introduced me to other religious leaders and the Secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs to The Archbishop of Canterbury. We had some very interesting conversations and I learned something new from each of them.
As we left Lambeth Palace, I caught a glimpse of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, sparkling in the evening sunset, and I realised how fortunate I was to be having Max’s Magical Moments all the time.
To top off the day, Rabbi Danny Rich joined Doug and myself for dinner at King’s Cross Station as we waited for our trains and shared with each other what the day had meant to us and what an important role Interfaith plays in our communities.