St Pauls in Jerusalem 4
St Pauls | Involvement
Jerusalem - 4
|St Paul's helps sponser ministries outside of its walls. Here is an example of one such a ministry. Here the Rev. Paul Lillie describes how his life in Jerusalem is progressing.|
I hope this newsletter finds all of you well.
As many of you know, it has been a busy two months in Jerusalem-church dedications, ordinations, Lenten retreats, clergy installations, concerts, visits with the Druze community, an Episcopal anniversary-the list of events is endless. I mention this because, even though the Christian community is small in Jerusalem, the birthplace of our faith, the community is active spreading the message of Christ's peace.
Yes, the Christian community here is small. And yes, it is shrinking. In fact, this is true for all of Israel and Palestine. We are less than two percent. Some of this is because Christians have left this land for other countries; some of this is because the Christian birthrate is less than the other children of Abraham.
What is often surprising is that Westerners are often surprised to find indigenous Christians here. The common assumption is that all Christians in this land come from the West. People are continually surprised to meet Arab Christians.
At St. George's Cathedral, we ask that all pilgrim groups come to the 9:30 Eucharist in Arabic on Sundays. You might find it interesting that most tourist groups resist this suggestion. Their main preference is to come on Sunday's at 11:00 for the English service, and you might say, "well, this is logical. People who speak English would obviously want to go to an English service." However, it is most illogical to go to the English service for one main reason-one does not meet the indigenous Christian community by going to an English service. The local Christians speak Arabic, and they worship in Arabic. (The main purpose of the English Eucharist is to minister to expatriots who are based in Jerusalem for an extended period of time.)
One of the problems of pilgrimage to this land in the past has been that groups never meet the local community. They come, they see the sights, they worship in English, and they go home. When some groups go to Bethlehem, they only look at the city from a hill afar; they are told it is dangerous to go to Bethlehem-i.e. the local Christian community is not safe.
Recently my parents and some friends came over for a visit, and I was pleased that in every case, their first impressions of the Holy Land were provided by local Christian communities in their liturgical contexts. We attended a patronal feast for St. Paul's in Shef Amer; we witnessed confirmations at Christ Church in Nazareth; we celebrated Christian Unity at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. From these occasions it was evident that the church is filled with the Holy Spirit here; people are seeking to follow Christ in word and action.
We are busy preparing for Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, the cathedral and other churches will re-enact Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. On Maundy Thursday, we will process to Gethsemane, on Good Friday we will walk the Way of the Cross, and on Easter Eve we will light the new fire. The Christians here will re-enter into thousands of years of tradition as lived in this city.
The churches here also continue to pray for Jerusalem. The churches here will pray that the rest of the Christian world will not forget Jerusalem this Easter; the churches will pray that Christians from every land will seek to be in communion with the indigenous Christians here who have been faithful to Jerusalem for centuries. The churches here will pray that Jerusalem may some day be honored with Christian pilgrimage that parallels the faiths of Judaism and Islam. May the church's rediscovery of Jerusalem be one way in which we live the new creation of Easter.
The Holy Land has been in the news a lot lately; however, things on the ground have not changed. Transformation takes time; we know this from lived faith. Even though leaders may be talking, people are still struggling.
Please continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,
PS: These newsletters have taken on a life of their own. I find they
are forwarded all over the place. With this in mind, I have decided
to speak of my ordination only briefly, for I do not wish to bore many
people with the day's events. Nevertheless, I wish to thank everyone
for their prayers and support. It was a truly wonderful day, and it
was extremely humbling that so many people visited from abroad. On the
Sunday morning after, as I gazed out at the congregation, I thought
I was in Buffalo! Christ's peace to all of you.
Rev'd Paul Lillie
©2005 St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo New York