Shalom! Welcome to First Friday!
On the first Friday of every month, something unusual takes place in Richmond, Virginia. It’s a Shabbat (Sabbath) service where pastors and members of area churches gather in a church fellowship hall to welcome the Jewish Sabbath and learn more about the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith.
“We light the candles, recite traditional Jewish blessings (Kiddush and Hamotzi) over the juice and bread, bless our wives and our children, and sing Jewish songs––or at least Christian songs with Hebrew lyrics mixed in. Then we progress to a family fellowship meal,” said Mark Jenkins, the U.S. representative of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem and the organizer of First Friday.
“We encourage people to bring a dish to share,” he said, “observing semikosher requirements. We’re not strict, but we do prohibit pork and shellfish. After the meal, a guest speaker takes us deeper into the Hebrew foundations of our Christian faith.”
Established in 2011, First Friday Shabbat has hosted such distinguished Bible teachers as Ed Hindson, theology professor and author of more than 40 books; Randall Price, author, archaeologist, professor, and president of World of the Bible Ministries; and Jim Showers, executive director of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Those attending also have heard from many leading experts on topics that range from foreign policy to eschatology––all designed to engage the local church for Israel.
Initially, Jenkins said, First Friday “was developed with a local group of pastors in response to returning ‘Jerusalem pilgrims’ who wanted to better understand the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith in order to gain context for their Bible studies—similar to what they gained by walking in the land of the Bible.
“People who returned from trips to Israel have also wanted to better understand the complexities of the Middle East, the Jewish–Christian relationship, and the modern State of Israel. First Friday Shabbat became an excellent forum for this.”
But at its core, Jenkins said, First Friday “is for people who love the Lord and love what the Lord loves; and that most certainly includes ‘the apple of His eye’” (Zech. 2:8), meaning Israel and the Jewish people.