Congregation now will pray to matriarchs


November 17, 1995|By Frank P. L. Somerville

Following an ancient tradition of Jewish liturgy everywhere, members of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation have since 1830 invoked only the names of males as they prayed to the "God of our fathers," the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

That is changing. Congregation leaders have begun what they call "an historic revision in the formerly male-oriented, traditional worship" in the temple at Park Heights and Slade avenues.

Baltimore Hebrew's worship committee, at the urging of Rabbi Murray Saltzman and Cantor Faith Gurney, directed that the names of matriarchs -- "our foremothers" -- be added to communal prayers to the "God of all generations."

Consequently, the names of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel have joined those of Abraham, his son and his grandson in the prayer book.

Recently, under the supervision of Rabbi Angela Graboys and Hebrew teacher Joey Malin, the temple's youth group pasted a revised prayer -- in both English and Hebrew -- inside every copy of "Gates of Prayer," the book used at all services of the congregation.

The new words include:

"Praised be our God, the God of our fathers and our mothers: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob; God of Sarah, God of Rebekah, God of Leah and God of Rachel . . . We praise You, Eternal One, Shield of Abraham, Protector of Sarah."

The prayer-book change is likely to be adopted at other temples of the Reform branch of Judaism. Baltimore Hebrew is one of the largest and most influential Reform congregations in the country, with a membership of nearly 2,000 families.

It was the first Jewish organization to be chartered by the state of Maryland and is celebrating its 165th anniversary this year.

Information: 764-1587.

"Alive and transforming":

From a distance, the pale stone English Gothic spire of Seventh Baptist Church at North Avenue and St. Paul Street catches the sunlight and conjures up the fabled skylines of Oxford and Cambridge.

But up close, its array of social-service programs such as the Shepherd's Clinic that provides affordable health care for uninsured working people, the Family Life Center for children and youth and the St. Paul low-cost housing project make clear that Seventh Baptist is very much a part of its gritty, blighted city neighborhood.

Seventh, which moved to its present mid-town location a century ago -- when the area was a fashionable part of Baltimore County -- began a search for an African-American co-pastor this year as it celebrated its 150th anniversary.

The move was part of an effort to make the church's music and worship style more diverse culturally and to promote "spiritual and racial reconciliation."

Calling the challenge of remaining viable in an urban environment "exciting," the church's optimistic pastor, the Rev. Jack VandenHengel, said, "The Holy Spirit is really alive and transforming everything at Seventh."

For more information, phone 837-3797.

Carey memorial:

Towson Presbyterian Church, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave., will present a concert at 4 p.m. Sunday in memory of Phillip E. Carey, former director of the church's handbells and youth choirs, who died of AIDS early this year.

An offering will be accepted.

All contributions will go to AIDS organizations.

The handbells choir under its current director, Louis E. Rusk, will perform, as will Towson Presbyterian's Chancel Choir.

Among others participating in the program are Doris H. Eicher, organist and music director at the church; George Johnson, the organist at Govans Presbyterian Church; and Thomas Spacht, who teaches music at Towson State University.

For additional information, call 823-6500.

Handbells dedication:

St. Mary's Episcopal Church at 5610 Dogwood Road in Woodlawn will dedicate a two-octave set of handbells at the 9:30 service Sunday.

The St. Mary's handbell ringers will perform.

The public is invited.

Call 944-4236 for more information.

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