Beit Halutzim - a Messianic Jewish Campus Ministry
To establish a Messianic Jewish house, adjacent to Exeter University campus, to be used as a base for ministry, a "home" environment for young people and students, and a centre for Messianic Jewish fellowship, education, worship and prayer; working initially through Christian students and young people in the city, to attract Jewish and Messianic Jewish students as well as continuing our established classes and seminars for an older age range; to be a springboard for cloning this vision to other university campuses and to jump-start a vibrant and Spirit-filled Messianic Judaism in the UK.
Exeter and the University
Exeter University currently has around 15,000 students (roughly 4,000 are overseas students, many from the Middle East), offering a wide range of undergraduate degrees, masters degrees and doctoral programs. It has four campuses: two in Exeter, one in Cornwall and one in Dubai. Recently ranked fourth among the top ten English universities and second among the best UK research universities, it has a reputation for law and theology.
The university has a small Jewish student population drawn mainly from the less religious constituency. It has a JSoc - Jewish Society - as part of its Guild of Students and two part-time Jewish chaplains on the University's multi-faith Chaplaincy team. Few students openly identify as Jewish although there are both non-affiliated and Messianic Jews among the student body. The University campus has been used during the summer holidays as a study centre by Chabad Lubavitch UK. Exeter has the third oldest synagogue in the UK; this has a membership of around 50-60 families and offers both traditional (Orthodox) and progressive (Liberal) services on alternate weeks.
Exeter also has a large tertiary college - Exeter College - offering a large range of academic and vocational courses to a wide range of students mainly drawn from the local area.
Messianic Education Trust
Messianic Education Trust was founded in 2003 as an educational charity to provide a focus and framework for ministry. The Trust's aims are to use education as a means of outreach and reconciliation between the church and the synagogue. Since then, we have been inviting people to share the Jewish feasts with us, teaching Hebrew classes, offering hospitality, and "being there" for people. We have led seminars and taught programs and study days both in local churches and for an out-of-area Bible college. We usually lead four or more Passover Seders each year, both in churches and in homes, impacting hundreds of people. The leaders of MET have had the vision of using their home as both an open-house and a base for ministry to students and young people for twelve or more years. MET is overseen by Tikkun Ministries International, an international Messianic Jewish network of congregations and ministries working among the Jewish people in Israel, Cyprus and the Unites States.
Experience shows that MET is very popular among people in the student age-group, who like coming to our home to be fed, to be talked to like adults and have someone take an interest in their lives, to listen to them and get some "homeyness", to celebrate Shabbat and the feasts.
Apart from teaching, MET's giftings are in the area of hospitality and entertaining, listening, cooking and "making home". Jonathan is currently a member of the UK "Towards Jerusalem Council II" Steering Committee. Judith is the Coordinator for the Exeter Street Pastors project. Most of the team have IT skills and Jonathan was ordained as a Messianic Rabbi in 2002.
We propose to establish a Messianic Jewish "house", close to the Exeter University campus, in something of the style of the "Hillel" or "Chabad" houses. The work is to be based around a family home, rather than a formal ministry centre, to be in a home atmosphere where there are people available to talk, a warm and friendly environment, with food, drink and space to relax, or just time to read a book on a comfortable sofa.
Although the vision is couched in Jewish terms, it is likely that a greater percentage of our natural constituency will be Gentile Christians. Whilst we will position ourselves as a Messianic Jewish ministry, we see a great need to educate the church from our unique perspective as Jewish believers in Messiah. We therefore expect to see and impact many Christian students, for whom we will provide a background in the Jewish roots of our faith in Messiah and with whom we want to build a unity and understanding for Jews and Gentiles working together in the Kingdom of God.
In terms of events or activities, we see:
At a more individual level, we want to be able to provide:
Longer Term Objectives
As students and young people are influenced by this ministry, we will encourage them to catch the vision for a vibrant and Spirit-filled Messianic Judaism here in this country. We aim to raise up potential leaders and visionaries who will be able to "clone" this type of ministry to other university campuses; we see the formation of a new relational Messianic Judaism that will be linked to ministries in Israel, and that will be able to work with the church in this country on an equal footing.
As the vision develops, we would expect to be operating an "intern" or short-term training scheme. This will allow people to come and learn how the ministry works and experience working with the student and youth aged groups. Offering accomodation on-site, training could be either for the period of a year as a formal internship, or shorter periods from a month upwards on an informal basis.
In time, our vision includes the idea of developing a Bible College and training centre - with a Messianic Jewish foundation - that, without compromising on standards, would be less academic and more practical/vocational than the formal universities, allowing greater access to local people on a part-time basis, bringing relevant and challenging courses to where people are - both geographically and educationally.
Beit Haluztim - a vision of Messianic Education Trust