Saturday, February 25, 2017

Jerusalem archbishop rededicates Israeli church closed for nearly 80 years

Dio Jerusalem Acre Church Rededication Bp SuheilA service of rededication has taken place at St Saviour’s Church, in Acre in northern Israel, which was closed in the late 1940s. 

This rededication follows the re-opening and re-dedication of St Paul's Church in West Jerusalem in 2011 – which was closed around the same time. 

There are also plans to begin the renovation of a third church closed in the late 1940s - St. Peter's in Jaffa-Tel Aviv.

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Reverend Suheil Dawani, in his sermon, expressed overwhelming “happiness, gladness and gratitude” and said the revival of the church and its activities will be a beacon of hope and faith. 

“This evening we, the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, with our sister churches, and the people in Acre, although we are from different backgrounds and affiliations, unite together to celebrate this important and historic event of rededication of this spiritual place after so many years of waiting. God has empowered us to revive God's house of prayer, and to re-open it as a space of welcome to all people without exception.”

The ancient city of Acre expanded at the beginning of the 20th century to a population of around 9,000; it had six mosques and five churches. The Anglican ministry was started in Acre by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) when a school for boys was opened in 1874 and a school for girls was opned in 1887. The two schools later merged.  

In 1886, the first church committee meeting was held to elect a Pastorate Committee; the church's ministry included education, healthcare, and rehabilitation, especially among the needy. English lessons were held and there was regular Bible Study. As for the medical ministry, a small clinic was developed to a small hospital in the old city. 

Ten years later the hospital was closed and later the school as well. At the beginning of the 1940s the Pastorate Committee bought a piece of land in order to start a new church building with the help of parishioners and their generosity. The foundation stone was laid in August 1946 and the church building was ready for use by January 1947. However after the war of 1948 the majority of the parishioners at Saint Saviour's left the city and the church was soon closed.

Archbishop Dawani expressed hope for its future after the rededication: “Our Christian theology invites us - even though we are diverse in worship, liturgy and theological thinking - to be one body in Christ Jesus. We are to reach out to those other religions, Muslims and Jews. We do not claim that we have no differences: on the contrary, it is natural to have this kind of diversity. We share in worshiping the one living God and our conviviality for the sake of true humanity which leads us to goodness, security, justice, peace, and prosperity for all. One of the basic needs that all the world strives for today - especially here in the Middle East which suffers so much through war, violence and extremism - is for a real peace that restores true humanity. The spectrum of the tragedy and the bitterness of suffering causes people to fear what the future will hold for them."

“There is a dire need for a new education that teaches people to respect life and to perceive the human person to be of a sacred value because we are all created in the image and likeness of God,” he went on. 

“This new education will provide healing to the wounds of our bleeding humanity and restore relationships of broken societies. History has proved that war breeds war, violence breeds violence; yet we know too that peace can bring peace. Reviving the ministry of this church and its activities is to engage, share, and join together in God's mission in the world. We are to be bridge builders for love and mutual understanding. We are to strengthen the bonds of unity. We are to live together among the different monotheistic religions to the glory of God and service of humanity.”