On Sunday, Jan. 20, a 5 p.m. Evening Service in celebration of the week of prayer was held at the Anglican Cathedral of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem. The theme for Sunday was ‘Walking in Conversation,’ based on the Road to Emmaus story from Luke 24.
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani welcomed the large Christian congregation and spoke of the fellowship amongst the heads of churches in Jerusalem, how “we often walk together and share our common interests and concerns.”
Dawani spoke about the importance of “our care for and protection of Christian holy sites to ensure that Christian pilgrims of every denomination, and from around the world, can come to the Holy Land and experience the places sacred to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.”
Dawani said that “among our many important concerns and responsibilities is our mutual sense of urgency about the dwindling presence of Christians here in the Land of the Holy One. Not so long ago, indigenous Christians were more than 20 percent of the population. Today we are less than 2 percent. Christian faithful have been in Jerusalem since the First Pentecost, and we must ensure we remain present and faithful witnesses here till our Lord comes again.”
Dawani reminded the congregation that Christians in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East “have been peacemakers, building a bridge of understanding, tolerance, and acceptance between diverse peoples. The peace we seek and pursue is one with justice at its core. We are the voice of the voiceless and our voice needs to be heard here and around the world, as we remind Christians and non-Christians alike, that God demands justice for all God’s children.”
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he said, “is answered in our context by being bold in our witness to our Lord Jesus Christ, of encouraging indigenous Christians to remain in the Holy Land, and of pursuing peace with justice.”
Following the service, The Olive Branch Choir offered a performance of choral works, including Vivaldi’s Gloria and W.A. Mozart‘s Te Deum. The choir includes Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala and a number of resident foreigners. The director and accompanist for the choir is Fr. Aurelio Mule Stagno.
The theme of the Week of Prayer 2013 was prepared in India. It was decided that in a context of great injustice to Dalits (“outcasts”) in India and in the church, the search for visible unity cannot be dissociated from the dismantling of the caste system and a greater appreciation of the contribution of the poorest of the poor to unity.
The brochure for 2013 is available here.