SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Angela Owens, you might say, is passionate about the Passover.
So much so that the Kentucky Baptist, a member of Simpsonville Baptist Church, has participated in Seder Meals within her own family for about 20 years and she has studied the Passover over that time.
While a Jewish celebration, which often draws questions and raised eyebrows from those in Baptist circles, Owens said the biggest argument to doing it is “that it’s God’s feast. There are seven feasts that are attributed to him. While, yes, Jews have celebrated that, they don’t keep Jesus as the central focus. That’s what we have done to bring it more in line with Southern Baptists. We’re celebrating it with redemption, salvation, deliverance and the future component of Jesus returning.”
Owens, a lifelong Southern Baptist, has taken away some of the academics of the Seder Meal, including the Hebrew language and some of the symbolism with the items in the meal that a non-Jewish person wouldn’t understand.
The members of Simpsonville Baptist Church who came last year had a worshipful evening, Owens said. Pastor Steve Boyd liked it so much he put it on the calendar again this spring for Saturday, April 4. Easter will be April 12.
“The moment at the end of Passover, where we were worshiping, I turned around and saw all these people praising the Lord,” she said. “I thought, ‘What has happened?’ I felt like we were at a Chris Tomlin concert. I know it was the Holy Spirit. That was the right answer, but I still can’t explain it.”
Nearly twenty years ago, after reading through the gospel accounts of Jesus' last week, Owens said she noticed the word Passover popping up. “I had a vague idea of Passover, but my studies soon focused on this singular subject,” she said. “The Lord laid it on my heart to host our first Seder using what little information that I could find online. My dad was the first to object, saying that it was too ‘Jewish.’ Mom dragged him to my house anyway! By the end of the Seder, everyone, including my dad, was on fire praising the Lord. Since that first Passover, we've hosted families in our home most every year and it's become our ministry.”
When she and her husband, James, moved to Shelbyville they started attending both the Messianic synagogue and Simpsonville Baptist Church.
“Both places feel like home, but one thing I've noticed is a newfound hunger (from the church) to learn about Passover,” Owens said. When the Barnabas Sunday School class at Simpsonville asked her to do a Seder meal, she was delighted.
“I worked over several months to write a large group Haggadah that was Southern Baptist friendly,” she said. “The goal for me is experiencing revival, not having an academic understanding of the Passover.”
Messianic congregations, like most Jewish ones, use an extensive amount of Hebrew, she said. “While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, ours is entirely in English. The reason for this is probably obvious but I felt that because we are dealing with such a heavy subject matter, it was imperative to not confuse our first-time participants.”
She also took out the rabbinical traditions of Passover and scrutinized each session for spiritual support. “If Jesus didn’t observe it, it was cut from the Haggadah. Scriptural support references are noted for each section.”
Owens incorporated Jesus clearly in the third cup, which is celebrated in church as the Lord’s Supper. Music is also played but the style is determined by the church, she said.
Simpsonville Baptist Church even had an altar call and one came forward to receive salvation, Owens said. “We were just bowled over. It turned out to be an evangelistic event.”
Passover is “the gateway for Christians to celebrate something Messianic in nature,” she said. “There are other festival just as important to celebrate but they don’t know where to start. Passover is a great introduction.”
The church will have a couple of tables open for visiting ministers who may want to learn more or have a Seder meal at their church, she said.
“Anybody that has never been to one should at least try one,” she said. “It’s such a special experience.”