No one needs to tell the Rev. James Gertmenian that holding a Christian worship service in a Jewish synagogue is pretty unusual.
But for Plymouth Congregational — the church he leads in Minneapolis — worshiping on Sundays at Temple Israel has been a perfect fit. From June 30 through Aug. 18, Plymouth is holding its services at the Minneapolis synagogue while a new sprinkler system is installed at the church.
“There’s just no way we can use the sanctuary while this work is being done … that involved extensive scaffolding,” Gertmenian said. “I knew a few months ago we were going to have to have some alternative for worship services. We thought we could use one of our other spaces and maybe have two services on a Sunday since those spaces aren’t big enough.”
“But then I got to thinking: What if we turn this into an opportunity to do something a little bit more creative?”
So Gertmenian called his longtime friend Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, who leads Temple Israel, considered the largest Jewish congregation in Minnesota with close to 6,000 members. She immediately welcomed the idea of the church using the space on Sundays. The synagogue holds its worship services on Friday evenings, so the times didn’t conflict.
This Sunday , “she actually will be our preacher,” he said. “So she’ll be preaching in her own sanctuary, but to our congregation.”
Gertmenian says Plymouth congregants also have welcomed worship at the synagogue and have not made changes to the space. “We’ve really chosen to understand ourselves as guests in their space, not remaking their space to be ours,” he said.
“I think it’s just a really good sign about relations between faith communities in Minneapolis,” he added. “It’s a sign of collegiality and fellowship and friendship among faith communities.
“This is a symbol of … the great relationships between faiths in Minneapolis that [have] been going on for years. So while it sounds unusual, in fact it was as natural as anything.”