BY HELEN GRAY, KANSAS CITY STAR—
This Friday, members of two religions will commemorate events from their faiths at the same time and the same place.
St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Overland Park will observe Good Friday at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary, where Jesus’ suffering on the cross will be remembered.
And in the parish hall of the church, a Seder will be held by Temple Israel of Greater Kansas City to initiate Passover, when Jews commemorate the Israelites’ deliverance from bondage.
The unusual arrangement comes as a result of a friendship between two clergy.
The Rev. Gar Demo, St. Thomas rector, and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn met four years ago when members of their congregations wed and asked them to participate.
A friendship developed, and they even taught classes at each other’s congregations.
When Cukierkorn, who had been at New Reform Temple, started Temple Israel, Demo offered the fledgling group space to meet last April. In August, the Jewish congregation, which now has more than 100 households, began renting space at Congregation Ohev Sholom in Prairie Village.
Demo said the Good Friday liturgy of the church has a history of being anti-Semitic, with much blame for Jesus’ treatment placed on the Jews.
“For us to gather in the same building and with no hostilities shows that we have moved beyond this,” he said. “That this is happening on Good Friday represents reconciliation in some ways.”
“Given the religious divide in the world, when we can do something like this, the more it says about peace,” he said. “The more we can do things like this, the more hope for peace.”
“And how wonderful,” Cukierkorn said, “having both faiths truly making the building a holy place.
“We are so fortunate to live in such a wonderful community, with common goals and interests. What we don’t have in common is so insignificant to all that we share.
“God helped us when we needed help,” he said, recalling that Demo refused to accept any payment for using the St. Thomas space. “It is wonderful to have friends who are different from you. I see God working through us, bringing us together.”
Cukierkorn has invited the St. Thomas members to join his congregation for a larger meal after their ritual Seder and reading from the Haggadah.