A congregation in the Dogtown section of St. Louis, Mo., is stirring controversy among local Jews who find its services and preaching offensive, the Washington Post reports. Housed in a small storefront and frequented by a handful of members, Congregation Chai v’ Shalom is a Messianic-Lutheran congregation backed by the Lutheran Church: Missouri Synod. Their mission is to preach that Jesus was the messiah and to convert their Jewish follows to Christianity.
The congregation is led by Rev. Kevin Parviz, who grew up in an observant Jewish home before marrying a Lutheran woman and converting to Christianity. He founded Chai v’ Shalom in 1997 under the umbrella of Lutherans in Jewish Evangelism Inc., an organization recognized by the Missouri Synod, which has continued to try to convert Jews to Christianity even as other denominations have abandoned the practice.
The congregation’s weekly service, which takes place on Sunday mornings in a room decorated with both Stars of David and crosses, is preceded by Bible study, includes the Hebrew Shema prayer, and is followed by an oneg Shabbat.
Representatives from an organization called “Jews for Judaism”—which promotes Jewish identity in the face of “deceptive cults and missionaries”—have condemned the misleading melding of Jewish and Christian practices at Congregation Chai v’ Shalom.
Parviz won’t be deterred. He told the Washington Post his goal is to have a congregation like Chai v’ Shalom in every city with a significant Jewish population.