Tuesday, 13 July 2010

St. Andrew’s Galilee
Just back from Church. Yet again a fascinating group of people. A couple from Germany, a woman from Poole in Dorset (fortunately a good singer, who knew the hymns I had chosen), a couple of Armenian seminarians (one with a rich Canadian accent). It is always touching to stand round the Table with people from different countries and traditions. It is a must, apparently, for Armenian priests to have beards, so the Canadian seminarian wondered why not all protestant ministers are bearded (though admittedly I have stubble!!). If he stays in the Middle East, he will have to remain celibate, whereas if he returns to Canada, he can choose to marry.

For a tiny congregation, a lot seems to happen, and a few weeks ago, we had a special service admitting Andrew Donohoe to the eldership. He had been ordained in Dumfries about 25 years ago, but now that he has come back to Tiberias permanently, it seemed good to utilise his leadership skills. The following week was Shirley’s last Sunday with us. A Mennonite and Director of Nazareth Village, she has been coming faithfully to St Andrew’s for about 5 years, but now it is time for her to return to the States and to Maryland. She has been a good support, and it is sad to lose her, but exciting that she is moving on to new things.

We have been moving things around in the church. There are some bare walls, so we decided we needed some banners to add a splash of colour. We are not quite up to making any yet, so if anyone has some spare banners lying around, they would be most welcome! Also, one of the local scout groups in Sakhnin have a pipe and drum band, and are desperately looking for old bagpipes...!

Lutheran Young leaders
At the end of June we hosted a group of 20 young people, mostly from the Lutheran churches in the West Bank. It was touch and go whether they would be granted the necessary visas, but to our relief they were. They could never afford to stay at the Hotel on normal rates, but we are able to subsidise some groups (though the budget soon runs out!). It was a joy for them to see the Sea of Galilee (they can only dream of the sea in the West Bank) and visit the sites associated with Jesus. Bishop Munib, who is such a wonderful person, was there facilitating, which I found very encouraging, as sometimes leaders don’t associate with the youth. During their worship, their hymn-singing drew some of the Jewish and Moslem members of staff, and their excellent behaviour won the praise of all.

Jaffa & Bethlehem
Schools have broken up for the summer holidays, and Tabeetha was no different. I travelled down for the graduation ceremony, as the 6th formers said their goodbyes. I was amazed at how mature they were and also excited by their dreams for the future, which they so ably put across by video, as well as by speech. A good evening, and fortunately far cooler in Jaffa than Tiberias.

The next day I went with George (minister in Jerusalem) and Lindsay (a student on summer attachment) to Bethlehem to visit some of the projects supported by Sunbula. The one which stood out for me was the Ma’an Lil-Hayat project, which is based at the L’Arche community. It aims to ‘bring together people with and without intellectual disabilities, who share life through work, celebrations and mutual relationships of friendship and trust. They aim to ‘ celebrate the unique value of every person and recognise the need for one another’. As one of my friends at the Hotel commented, if only everyone in Israel-Palestine thought the same! It was so good to see how the wool was carded, then made into felt – and suddenly caterpillars and ladybirds and nativity scenes were created. There was lots of excitement as well, as the group had just been to a swimming pool, the first time for most of them. After the visit to Ma’an Lil-Hayat, we spent the afternoon with Usama at Wi’am, the centre for Reconciliation and Dialogue. He took us into the Aida Refugee camp, which was right next to the Wall which seems to encircle Bethlehem. A more chilling end to the day.