A Closed Synagogue
I was unaware until this week that Blackpool has a synagogue, a Jewish place of worship. In fact it has two, one Orthodox for conservative Jews and one Reform for the more liberally-minded. The former closed down in 2012, owing to a depleting congregation. I couldn’t gain access to the interior but was still pleased to discover it in the first place. It was evidently opened in 1916 during the very war which would precipitate the rise of Hitler, during which many Jews suffered so horribly.
Synagogue simply means ‘gathering’, and its origins are uncertain. Until 586BC, Hebrew worship was very much based upon the temple in Jerusalem (when it wasn’t directed at Baal or Molech); it is likely that those at a distance still met weekly together to receive instruction, hence they had synagogues. When Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Solomon’s temple in the 580s, Jews still met together in captivity, thus creating synagogues in their new land. When they returned and rebuilt the temple at the time of Haggai, the synagogue was already well established.
The New Testament church was almost certainly modelled on the Jewish synagogue rather than the temple. Christians had no need for sacrifice in light of Christ’s finished work, but they did have the need to worship together, hear the scriptures read and to enjoy fellowship with other believers.
It’s sad that this synagogue has closed but it is, with respect, deeply symbolic. Judaism was waiting for, and fulfilled, when Christ came; that His own people received Him not, and continued worshipping in Christ-less synagogues rather than in the fulfilled and fulfilling Judaism of the sacrificed Messiah, is the real tragedy.