Several months ago Rabbi Sharfman connected with Reverend Jeff Proctor-Murphy of Via de Cristo Fellowship (VDC), a Methodist group in North Scottsdale. At the same time that we were searching, VDC had been seeking out a partner of another faith – one who shares many of the same values: social justice work, radical inclusivity, building bridges of mutual respect and understanding, being a progressive voice, modeling open-mindedness, being of service to the community around us, repairing the world, and living lives of meaning and connection. VDC was founded with the ideas of one day having an interfaith Campus where religious pluralism and acceptance could truly be modeled. With this sharing of space, each group will absolutely retain its independence, beliefs, and practices. Without question, our Jewish rituals, services, customs, beliefs, etc. remain intact and the core of our identity. As a community and as individuals, we must be able to live in a physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional space that will help us to truly concretize our vision and values – we know that our partnership with VDC will do just that!
We will be moving to share space with Via de Cristo in May – our last Kabbalat Shabbat at Har Zion will be April 25, and our first at VDC will be May 9. We will finish out religious school this season at Har Zion. VDC is located at 7430 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd, Ste 134, Scottsdale, 85255.
Several questions have been shared, so we’ve put together the “FAQ’s” (Frequently Asked Questions) below that should help you understand our plans for the new chapter of Kehillah. Feel free to send us any more of your questions so that they can be appropriately addressed: [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you and to sharing this exciting vision with the community!
Members, please save the date to visit and tour our new facility:
Tuesday, April 29
7430 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd, Ste 134, Scottsdale, 85255
RSVP’s are appreciated! [email protected] or 602-369-7667
If you are interested in touring the facility but unable to come on the 29th, please let us know and we will try to set up an alternative date.
Kehillah “Search for Home” FAQ’s
1. What prompted the move?
Congregation Kehillah has had a two- year agreement with Har Zion (HZ) that expires in May. Towards the end of 2013, we learned that HZ’s future plans as an independent congregation were uncertain – they are currently in the process of merger discussions with Or Chadash, and the HZ property may soon be sold. As a result, we convened a Search Committee to proactively and diligently locate a new home for Kehillah.
2. How comfortable will I be there? Will there be Christian symbols?
Early on in our discussions with Via de Cristo (VDC) leadership, they brought this topic up first! With much openness and understanding, they have agreed to allow us to cover crosses and other Christian symbols or remove them entirely during our programs. Many of their wall hangings are quite universal (e.g., “All are welcome in this place”) so can remain in place. (See photos below). In addition, our ark, prayer books, and the Rabbi’s lectern will be permanent fixtures in the sanctuary.
3. Please explain this vision of “modeling religious pluralism.”
Both Rabbi Sharfman and Reverend Jeff Procter-Murphy, of Via de Cristo, share the value that there are many paths to G-d, and those paths should be respected and honored. They also believe that if we all modeled that acceptance and respect, our community (and world!) would be much stronger, more peaceful, and more joyful. This is actually about modeling our own Core Values. How beautiful to engage in “Tikkun Olam,” Healing the World, with different groups coming together to collaborate on social action and social justice!
4. What other venues did the Search Committee consider?
Under the leadership of Rich Goldman, Chair of the Search Committee, we explored ideas such as partnerships with schools, synagogues, churches, community centers, community colleges, Veterans’ organizations, and more. All leads were investigated. It became clear quickly that it would not be a wise use of resources to rent or buy our own space – it would not be cost effective to commit to space that we use only infrequently during the course of a month. With our funds and usage needs being limited, we focused on sharing or subletting space. At the same we time, we were clear that we were looking for a Home, not simply a space to meet. To us a “Home” includes a sacred worship spot, comfortable meeting space, and a place where our larger and smaller items could ‘live’ with holiness and dignity.
5. Tell me more about VDC. Someone said we have lots of “shared values.”
Via de Cristo is a progressive United Methodist church serving Desert Ridge, North Phoenix and Scottsdale. The Methodist Church credo is “Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors.” To them, that means:
- “We are a church working for justice and restoration in the community.”
- “We are a Living the Questions church engaging those deeper questions in conversation.”
- “We are a Reconciling Congregation — straight, gay, doubter, believer,
Democrat, Republican, ties, shorts — all are welcome!”
More from the Via de Cristo website:
“Our worship celebrations are casual, relevant and inspirational. Our messages are thought provoking and our music is an uplifting fusion of traditional and contemporary styles.… We are passionate about helping others and actively advocating for social justice in the world around us.… If you hunger for conversation around the big questions of faith, or for supportive space to rethink and rejuvenate your faith walk, or for a community that is passionate about helping others, you will be in good company…”
6. Why aren’t we going to share space with another synagogue?
Rabbi had conversations with several synagogues, but, to no one’s surprise, our usage needs and times overlap with the needs of most synagogues. As a practical matter, those who own their own buildings prefer to retain space for the use of their own congregational programs.
In addition to the practical challenges of such an arrangement, the more we investigated possibilities, the more it seemed to make sense for us to assert our identity in a new way. Congregation Kehillah is a niche congregation; as we grow in size and scope of offerings, we want to remain independent and continue to carve out our unique identity and mission on the landscape of Jewish life in Phoenix.
7. What kind of relationship will we have with VDC? What does “joint programming mean?”
At this point, we have only just begun to outline some joint possibilities. We of course will continue to have our regular services, programs, and classes the way we have always done – any joint programming would be in addition to what we are already doing. We expect there will be opportunities to cooperate on social justice projects and in joint learning situations. Rabbi has been invited to participate in a VDC service on a Sunday morning in May, and we plan to reciprocate with the VDC clergy. In addition, Rabbi and Reverend would like to do some joint teaching in June. Surely there will be more opportunities in the future!
8. What should I expect when I walk in? What does the space look like?
The first thing you’ll notice is that the “church” is not very church-like. In fact, the sign on the building says “Fellowship,” not “Church.” It’s located in an office park in North Scottsdale (Scottsdale Road & Pinnacle Peak). The interior space is light, modern, comfortable, clean, and very inviting. The first room you enter is a café that includes a small kitchen and provides a room for informal conversations at small tables. The adjoining sanctuary has comfortable chairs and many windows. There are some additional rooms for adult and children’s classes.
Members of CK are invited to tour the VDC facility on Tuesday, April 29, 6:30 pm. RSVP’s are appreciated!
9. Will we be welcomed by the VDC congregation?
All contacts between the CK leadership team and VDC have been enthusiastic and welcoming. At the same time that CK was looking for a new home, VDC had been searching for a partner of another faith that shares its values – VDC has held the vision of an “interfaith campus” since its inception in 1998, with founding Reverend David Felten. The current VDC leadership team is very much in support of this vision – a shared space where each group retains its independence, beliefs and practices and where bridges of mutual respect and understanding would be built.
10. What are the demographics of the area? What’s the neighborhood like?
There is a growing Jewish population in North Scottsdale, including many young families. From what we understand, much of this group is unaffiliated. This is not surprising, as there are no official synagogues north of the 101 (there is one small “community” that meets occasionally). We are eager to meet our new neighbors in this area!
11. How do I get there?
VDC is located near the intersection of Scottsdale Rd and Pinnacle Peak Rd, about 8 miles north of Har Zion. It is accessible from Scottsdale Road, Tatum Blvd and the 101. The address is 7430 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd, Ste 134, Scottsdale, 85255. Click here for more specific directions or a MAP.
12. I’m concerned about driving that far at night.
CK will organize carpools which will not only give our members an opportunity to get to know one another better, but also will help us to become a “greener” congregation! If you currently need help with a ride, or anticipate needing help, please contact our Membership Chair, Leona Garza, at [email protected] or (773) 301-8805.
We’re serious about this! Please ask for help from your Kehillah – this is what we’re about. Leona is waiting for your phone call…
13. I heard their Reverend is leaving – what does that mean for us?
VDC has held the same values they espouse today predating their current Reverend’s tenure and they are committed to continuing to do so. Unlike the relationship between Rabbis and the congregations they serve, it is common practice for Methodist ministers to have relatively short tenures in a congregation before being transferred to a new post by the Bishop. Hence, vision and values tend to be deeply ingrained in the church’s culture, championed by the lay church council, as is the case with VDC. We will certainly miss the opportunity to work with Reverend Procter-Murphy, but we are confident that our relationship with VDC will remain a strong one. The new Reverend has not been chosen yet, but the transition will happen in July.
14. I have more questions – who should I ask?
Please email your questions to us at [email protected] or call us at 602-369-7667. We’d love to hear from you!