Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ship of Fools Reviews the Last Supper

2882: Upper room, Mount Zion, Kingdom of Judea and Samaria
Mystery Worshipper: Synagogue Shopper (official Ship of Fools reviewer).
The church: The upper room of an anonymous residence just outside the city walls of Jerusalem, Kingdom of Judea and Samaria.
Denomination: Jewish.
The building: An unremarkable building in near suburban Jerusalem. Not poor but not showy or upperclass either.
The church: As implied, it wasn't a church per se. The room itself was spacious, longer than one would think from looking at the outside of the building. It was sparsely decorated but well cleaned and kept. I particularly noticed the restored lighting fixtures.
The neighborhood: Basic mud and stone architecture. The area itself has a strong Essene presence. I find them annoying but not dangerous.
The cast: A Rabbi (I didn't get his name) and a small group of parishioners, all male.
The date & time: April 1, 33 (Passover), 9.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
The Pasch.

How full was the building?
I would estimate 10-20. The room was fairly large but only had seating for that many.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. I was there because I overheard men talking of a Passover meal, and having no other place to go, decided to attend. First I followed a man carrying a pitcher of water. Then, upon entering an unmarked building I gave a sort of password to the butler and was directed to an upstairs room. When I entered, I saw a table set for the Passover meal with all of the seats already taken. I was glared at by a number of the parishioners, as if it were a "private" service or something. But the Rabbi made a sign that it was permitted. I took a seat in the corner and tried to be unobtrusive. Throughout the service a few of the parishioners kept occasionally glaring. In other words, it was pretty unwelcoming.

Was your pew comfortable?
The chair in the corner was not very comfortable. No.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Not very prayerful. People were talking amongst themselves and making sure they had the right silverware and so forth.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None, as far as I could tell.

What musical instruments were played?
None. The atmosphere was quiet and sombre. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but on reflection there seemed to be a significant lack of joy in the place.

Did anything distract you?
Well, I was quite hungry at the time so I was distracted by the sight of the food laid out for the regular parishioners. And then of course I was distracted by observing them eating it. But due to the hostile glares, I didn't feel comfortable going up to the table. 

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I guess I'd say, "or what." It was neither stiff not happy clappy. On the one hand the atmosphere was somewhat informal and everyone including the Rabbi seemed to know each other. On the other hand, everyone except the Rabbi seemed a bit stressed out and depressed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – That's a tough one. Much of the Rabbi's sermon was quite moving, but there were some elements to the service that were very bizarre. For example, at one point, the Rabbi got up from his position, picked up a rag and bowl and actually started washing his parishioners' feet! There appeared to be some argument about this from one of the parishioners, but then everyone got up and began doing it, madly washing feet and then in turn having them washed. I had never seen anything like it at my regular synagogue. The other weird thing was that towards the end, the Rabbi actually instructed his parishioners to purchase weapons! Without missing a beat, two of them started waving swords around--in the middle of the service! Thinking I had gotten mixed up in some politics or something, I hid in my corner. However, after all that
, and for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I have to admit there was something about that Rabbi I really liked.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Well, I gather it was sort of a farewell sermon due to the Rabbi being transferred or something (he looked too young to retire). But the whole thing was a bit mysterious as to where he was going and why, and I think many of the parishioners didn't understand it either. I decided this was the main reason why everyone was sombre.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The Rabbi asked his parishioners to love one another as they loved him, and as he in turn loved them. In addition, as he was pouring the Passover wine and breaking the Passover bread, he said that the wine was his blood and the bread was his body. I won't claim this wasn't initially off-putting and confusing. And I'm still not sure what he meant exactly. But I do have to say that the more I think about it, the more it seems that something very important was being communicated.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
So, I've seen Rabbis publicly reprimand people for talking and whispering during synagogue, and frankly, I think that's rude on the Rabbi's part. It's certainly not welcoming or inclusive. But this Rabbi did something I have never seen. Right in the middle of the sermon he accused his parishioners of harboring the intention to betray him! First it seemed to be directed against just one parishioner but then he accused another! Unbelievable! This was so offensive that one of the parishioners got up and left right then and there, never to return. 
Of course I surmised that the Rabbi was being transferred because he was a paranoid. 

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After singing a hymn, everyone filed out quickly and I was left alone in the room. I shouted for the butler but I think he had gone to sleep.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no coffee.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – It was certainly an experience, I'll tell you that. I'm giving it a low rating partly because I don't think services are held there on a regular basis.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What's a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The restored lighting fixtures.

For further reading, see herehere and especially here. This is for Fr. Blake, from an idea by Liam Ronan.


  1. Then there was disciple who walked out and was so upset he hanged himsel.

    1. Well, I wanted to mimic the alleged cell phone incident. But you're right. I guess that's what happens when the atmosphere is unwelcoming. :)

  2. I've heard that Rabbi kept whispering privately to the man reclining next to Him at the meal.

    Never good to get too cosy with one particular member of the congregation. Makes people talk.

    I missed the whole thing. My ass fell into a pit and I had to haul it out.

  3. I wonder if a certain fool is cringing somewhere in his imaginary ship?