HAINES CITY – Passover, the Rev. Dr. Skip Lewis noted, originated in the days when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt.
“Passover originated back when Moses led his people, the Israelites, out of Egypt, when the sacrificial lamb was slain and the Pharaoh let the people go because of that,” Lewis said. “It’s an Old Testament subject that we use at this event. What we’re teaching is that the Christians have Jewish roots.”
Those historic roots will be explored at the upcoming event that Lewis was referring to – the Third Annual Community Seder, which will be held in Haines City on Friday, April 6 at the Lake Eva Banquet Hall from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Congregations from more than 40 area churches will participate in the three-hour event. The Seder teacher will be Rev. Jerry Clark, director of church relations for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in Chicago.
“At this three hour event, literally you’re eating for three hours while learning about the history of Judaism,” said Lewis, the director of chaplains at Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center.
“Everyone is familiar with Christ’s last supper and the painting by da Vinci of the Last Supper,” Lewis added. “One of the things they don’t realize is that Christ was doing the last meal when he was at the Last Supper. They broke the bread, and he said ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ Then he took the cup and said ‘The cup is the new covenant. We feast and teach people over those three hours — not just Christians and Jews, but all Christian denominations. It doesn’t matter what kind of Christian you are — your Christianity has roots in Judaism.”
The Third annual Community Seder meal is being hosted by Heart of Florida Coalition of Churches, Heart of Florida Chaplains and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Heart of Florida Chaplains is the religious service provided at the hospital on U.S. 27 in Haines City.
“Doctor Lewis is our chaplain coordinator, and he coordinates the group of chaplains that serve the patients at Heart of Florida,” said Linda Vendl, the director of marketing at Heart of Florida hospital.
As Lewis noted, those chaplains he supervises spend countless hours ministering to the spiritual needs of the patients there.
“We recorded 5,283 bedside visits last year,” he said. “That’s more than 100 bedside visits a week. That’s our recorded bedside visits. Besides that, our chaplaincy group has a Helping Hands ministry. Every person who is discharged from the hospital’s medical unit gets a follow-up call from our chaplain within 24 hours to see if they need anything – calls to the doctor’s office, maybe they need transportation, maybe they need to pick up medication or go to the store, or maybe all the food in their home has gone bad while they were in the hospital, and they need more. We have a team of 49 people that just do that. We do chaplaincy a different way.”
And part of that, he added, is the Seder meal, and the educational and religious benefit it offers, he said.
“Now we have a Heart of Florida Coalition of Christian churches, and it’s just been a huge progression,” he said. “We just serve the needs of the community. All of the churches get together one day, and they volunteer for six hours and go into the community and make a difference. This year we’re doing it in the fall, in October. Normally it’s done the week before our Passover Seder, but we had so many people who got burned out doing so much right before the Seder that we decided we needed to move the event to the fall.”
As for the Seder program, Lewis noted that “Prior to the dinner and after the dinner, there will be a display area with all the ministries involved.”
And if having 40 churches involved sounds impressive, Lewis acknowledged that he wishes it could have been far more.
“Unfortunately, that’s less than half the churches in this area,” he said. “I started the Heart of Florida Chaplain program at Heart of Florida hospital two years ago. It took me six months to get six pastors together.”
Clark has been with The Fellowship for ten years and leads the annual Journey Home Tours to Israel. He issued a statement noting that “I am excited to have the opportunity to present the Jewish roots of Christianity in the form of the Passover Seder Meal.”
Those attending this meal will share in the traditional Seder Feast, while also being served fresh fruits and vegetables during the first part of the Seder teaching. A 36-page Seder Haggadah will be given to each attendee, as well as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s latest book, “Holy Days of Israel.”
Rabbi Eckstein, the founder and president of The Fellowship, will detail all the important feasts of Israel and their Hebrew Bible meaning, and provide insight into those feasts for Christians.
Seating is limited to the first 725 ticket holders. Tickets are $25 in advance and $40 at the door on the night of the event. For ticket reservations and availability, call Lewis at 863-255-5143.
Additional information is available at www.hofchaplains.com by clicking on the Seder tab.
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