Pastor at a Yizkor Service
by Mark Wendel
My Rabbi motions me to come up to the bemah.
I am reading a Psalm in front of the congregation.
The week before we were worshiping in a church
I had actually looked forward to being in a church –
the first time in decades.
I remember Dad reading Psalms in front of our congregation
back when I was a Christian.
Because of Dad I am now part of a religion again,
I never even cared to talk to him about religion
back when I was anti-religious.
Last year we had plenty to talk about.
This year he is gone.
Now I am reading a Psalm at the Yizkor service
where we remember our loved ones who have died the past year.
I recall telling Mom the day before.
She loved to hear how we remember our loved ones
and how I am honoring Dad at my congregation.
Yesterday I read the Psalm to her –
the Psalm she remembers so well from her religion.
Today I read the same Psalm from my religion.
She knows the politics of religion as well as any Pastors’ wife –
(or any group of more than two people for that matter).
She knows why the Church officials changed their mind.
Neither of us understand why it was so sudden –
last minute cancellation – the day before Yom Kippur.
Last week we were worshiping with Clergy from Mom’s religion.
This week I cannot find any.
I remember this moment.
I actually dreamed it many years ago.
Never saw this gym until today,
but from my dream I remember it.
Instead of being anxious like in my dream,
I am now calm.
Some time after I sit back down,
my Rabbi reads the names of those who departed this past year.
As he reads my dad’s name, I am almost startled.
Not because I am not expecting it,
but because it is aloud.
As I come back to reality,
I am unexpectedly moved to tears.
Not just because he says my dad’s name, but because he first says “Pastor”.
We might not have a Christian Cleric physically with us at this moment,
but Dad is part of our present memories,
and Pastors and Priests are still part of my Rabbi’s friendships.
Mark Wendel completed his conversion to Judaism on Shevat 18, 5769 (February 12, 2009) at Temple Beth El in San Antonio, Texas. He is currently a member of Temple Beth Shalom in Austin, Texas, and is involved in the congregation’s Brotherhood and Interfaith committee.
Share your story! Help us to create a community of communities – amovement of a million and a half Reform Jews, listening, caring, and finding meaning ineach other’s words. Submit your stories to the Sacred Conversations project for possible inclusion on the RJ Blog.