SUNDAY AND MONDAY, 16TH AND 17TH FEBRUARY:
Well, you could say these were the days of testing. A meeting on each day: first the Academic Planning Committee on Sunday and then the Local Planning Team on Monday, both in the Bat Kol Office, both needing refreshments, etc., plus Sunday would be partly a Skype meeting with the Chair of the Board in Canada. No pressure then ....... but just for the final test - Saturday and Sunday it rained, making shopping without a car and without a Tesco/Asda more difficult. Finally, all went well although I missed church on Sunday as it would have been too much pressure to fit everything in.
We had two very good meetings with exciting plans in place ...... but, as I know so well already from my previous work, it all comes down to money! Difficulties to be addressed.
However, having got to the end of the meetings, I was quite tired - I'm not used to taking minutes now and these were outside of my normal domain but on Monday evening there was a lecture at the Van Lear Institute with the Bishop of the Lutheran Church speaking about the Palestinian Israeli Situation, and Debbit Weismann, President of the International Council of Christians and Jews responding. It5 started at 6.30 pm so would not be a late night: I hit a wall around 5.30 - spirit willing, flesh weak. I was back at the Ratisbonne Centre - should I stay here or should I strike out to walk to the Van Lear. Yes, you've guessed: this was a one off so it had to be done and so off I went. One wrong turning made me ten minutes late, but others arrived later so I didn't feel too bad about it! The Bishop spoke from the heart, particularly as a Palestinian whose grandfather's home was now occupied by someone who would not even let him and his father look inside when they visited, telling him that the home was theirs now given them by the government. He spoke of the grassroots need for education to address relationships, to teach children to accept and love others and lots more about mutual respect and understanding. Ignoring the other person/faith/culture can be taken as incitement, disrespectful, marginalising. All are created in the image of God, and worthy of respect. The Bishop apologised for Martin Luther's anti-semitism. The message this evening was to combat all religious persecution and seek a non-vioent resolution which would lead to peace. It would be necessary to work for peace based on justice. 2014 must be the year of peace. Jerusalem is the Holy City for the three Abrahamic faiths and there must be free access for all. The Bishop's belief is that 'peace at gunpoint' is no peace at all. and that peace in the Middle East will start in Jerusalem.
Debbie Weisman, Orthodox Jew and President of ICCJ responded saying that as long as we believe in a living God we must have hope She did not share the Bishop's optimism about education. Dhe believes we are all engaged in the 'suffering sweepstake' - who suffers most? Debbie feels Israel is being demonised and that this is not a lot different from demonisation of the Jews. At present, countries in Europe are trhing to ban circumsision - a rite important to Jews and Muslims. Also ritual killing of animals which Debbie saw as putting animal rights over the faith rights of Jews and Muslims. Surely, we should see the face of God in people, not in animals. The way forward is to open up new ideas and new ways. Debbie called for the Lutheran church to partner against anti-semitism and Islamophobia.
On a personal note, I found it encouraging that out of an attendance of around 50/60 people, I knew two and was able to chat for a moment afterwards. Both were Sisters of Sion, one from Ecce Homo and the other living outside of community near the Van Lear. Just a small sign of progress but a good one when I've started here with almost a blank sheet and really do need to make my way and build relationships.
My day for producing the Minutes of our two meetings, but just as I got into them, Natalie, my predecessor came to the office in urgent need of computer time to complete some important business, so I kicked my heels for quite a while, went to check our post box at the Post Office and to post a letter only to find the post box empty and the post office closed!
A good day, with women's Bible study group at Christ Church in the morning, then to the office to finish the minutes, followed by an ordination to the priesthood at St George's Cathedral, Owen the Deacon at Christ Church was to be priested.
There were fourteen of us at Bible Study and one of the people was young woman who is volunteering at Christ Church and who is from Bath - two of us from Bath & Wells in the same Bible study group in Jerusalem! After the group I made my way down to the office: it was a lovely day so I decided to walk thinking I knew a shortcut. No, I think it was more like a longcut but I got there eventually and worked from 1.30 until 4.00 thinking an hour was plenty of time to get to the cathedral which is the far side of the Old City. Wrong!!!!!!!!!!! Waiting 20 minutes without any sign of the right bus I finally gave up and went for the taxi option, not easy as I didn't have enough cash and the taxi driver didn't take cards. He was very helpful, taking me to a cash point, ducking round the traffic, and for about £10 (ouch) I was there in plenty of time. There were very few people when I arrive but even then I found that I knew one person. Eventually the cathedral filled up. I was given an order of service in English, but mostly everything was in Arabic, including the readings, and chapter and verse were not given for these in the order of service. The first hymn we sung as a processional was 'All hail the power of Jesus' name' in Arabic to a tune totally unknown to me. Not the best start.
Most of the service was in Arabic, including the Liturgy of Ordination, but it was printed in full on my English order of service. As I read thesse words, I must say I was challenged as to why I am here and why I have laid aside that great commitment, but I know without doubt that I am here in response to a 'calling' and await the further development of that calling.
As the service started and the choir of quite young children processed, I suddenly spotted with them another woman priest from Bath & Wells - two people from the diocese in one day. I tried to find her after the service at the reception/refreshments but couldn't do so. Then I met Linda who is volunteering at Christ Church, and she told me that she spoke in a church in WSM last year about the work of CMJ.
Day in the office, finishing the minutes, and preparing for a finance meeting tomorrow with Sr Philomena, Chair of the Finance Board.
Good input today with two Shabbat Shalom emails - one from Anne in Ireland and the second from Jacky at St Peter's. These are my two most important emails of the week. They both keep me together with the communities I belong to: Jacky's with my parish, and Anne's with my dear Class of 2013 friends. Long may the messages continue.
Today I couldn't go to Torah Study because of needing time for final preparation for the Finance meeting. After lunch I was going to Ein Kerem, a Sion community just outside Jerusalam, with Maureena and Natalie to meet with Sr Philomena who is going to work out a budget for July, with less students, and to work out whether sufficient funds are available and if not, where the extra funding will come from ...... all seems a bit like ChA+ to me but on a bigger scale! No one works to find any money in!!!!!!!!!!! Please pray for both Bat Kol and ChA+ as we each seek funding in order to stay afloat. Also consider how you might be able to support one or both in their difficult financial situations.
Then the time of Shabbat, worship at the synagogue followed by erev shabbat meal. The synagogue, Kol HaNeshama, was full again with visitors from various countries, and tonight they were giving cds of their worship music to visitors - this is great to have as I love the music and can now learn it properly so I can join in better. Kol HaNeshama is an active and vibrant centre for Progressive Judaism in Jerusalem, and very welcoming.
SATURDAY, 22ND :
Much as I could have wrapped myself in the Shabbat peace at Ratisbonne, I had made a plan for the day, and how amazing that turned out. First stop was Christ Church for the Messianic service which I had been told started at 10 a.m - wrong 10.30 a.m. and a bit! Then it continued until 13.15, not too bad I suppose with a 1 hour sermon on the Beatitutdes followed by an altar call! The church was full, the worship music beautiful, the prayers powerful, but the sermon - not sure!
Afterwards I went to the Coffee Shop for cake and coffee before my trip to the Wailing Wall. I had during the past week quite a few prayer requests from the UK and knowing that one person particularly had Jewish connections, I was asked to go to the Wall and pray for her there and of course put the document in the crevice. This I did.and what a time it was. Many women of all ages were there, schoolgirls and young women alone or with friends, young mothers with their children - some teaching really small children how to behave incluidng how to walk backwards from the wall, then older women and very old ones. There were very few men on their side. The air was thick with spirituality - the Jews believe that the Divine Presence, the Shekinah, dwells at this place of this remainiing Temple Wall - I believe the Divine Presence dwells at all times and in all places in His creation - but there can be no doubt the area of the Wall is very special. I had written all my prayer requests on a small piece of paper before coming but it was quite difficult because of numbers to get close enough to touch the wall and find a crevice to place the paper. However, I managed, and it was a very special moment. I then sat a bit back from the wall for probably at least half an hour, praying and watching .
Entrances to holiness are everywhere.
The possibility of ascent is all the time,
even at unlikely times and through unlikeky places.
There is no place on earth without the Presence
Mishkan T'filah, A Reform Siddur page 145
Next stop for me was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Too many people and too ornate for me, but I got mixed up with a group who were making a candlelit pilgrimage around the church, led by a number of priests/brothers so before I knew quite what was happening I was given a service book and a candle, and realised I also was part of this. The book was in four languaes incluidng Latin, but it was difficult for me to follow even the Latin, Anyway it was a beautiful experience which lasted about an hour and ended in a side chapel where the Reserve Sacrament was removed from the tabernacle but no mass took place. All quite amazing. Then the long walk back to Ratisbonne (still Shabbat and so no buses). My intewntion was to pick up some pizza from the little shop along the way back, but I was too early and they were not open, so supper was a sardine salad - not as good as pizza!
Today my plan was to attend Christ Church Communion, have lunch in the Coffee Shop, then come back home, and finally perhaps go to King of Kings at Clal Centre at 5 p.m. I almost didn't get to Christ Church as my time was wrong on my mobile phone which doubles as the alarm clock. However, with a rush and no breakfrast I managed to get there with a little time to spare and how glad I was that I did. As I went in David, the Rector, asked me if I would administer a chalice - wow! that was as good as the first time I was asked if I would like to be a chalice assistant at St Peter's. The church was packed with a variety of nationalities, and I had the same feeling as I get at Christmas Midnight Mass - this was such a special time for many of the people who received the sacrament - how would God touch each of them at this particular service? An awesome privilege, and an affirmation for me especially following the wobbly I had been experiencing since Owen's ordination. It was a beautiful service with David preaching on Lev. 19:1-19 and Matt. 5:38-48 - the road to holiness, discipleship, service - we are called to strive be holy and the way is to imitate Christ as he imitated the Father, so we are to learn of his life, follow his teaching and become true disciples.
After the service the coffee queue in the courtyard was huge, it seemed that almost everyone stayed. One of the visitors was a Bishop from Ghana with his wife. They had been in Israel for nine days, funded by their link parish in the UK, and today was their last day before returning home. I spoke to them afterwards and his wife, Carole, told me of their worship being 3 or 4 hours long with drums and other instruments, and dance but she said it never seemed to be that long. That's how it is at
Christ Church where it it always hours - it just doesn't seem that long! How can we ever time worship? But we do! and I believe we shouldn't!
Then it was off to the cafe with a few of the congregation for a 'proper' lunch - cottage pie, potatoes, a selection of vegetables, and of course salad. This is one of probably only two 'proper' meals a week - it's difficult to be very creative with four gas burners and a microwave! I do miss my George Foreman. After lunch the others left and I stayed in the coffee shop for a cappucino and to check my emails. Just as I was about to leave I got into conversation with some American women who had been at the service, and as we talked I was amazed to bump into the woman from Bath and Wells who I had seen at the cathedral on Wednesday and then couldn't track down after the service. Her name is Caroline and she is chaplain at a school in Bath and also is at St Stephens, Bath. So there we were, the B & W contingent in Jerusalem: Sheri the young volunteer at Christ Church, Caroline and myself!
By then I decided that was enough for one day and returned to Ratisbonne to watch the King of Kings service at the Clal Centre on the internet - not good though as it was rather jumpy.
What a wonderful week, and what a good start to the next week. I thank God that I have the privilege of being here, for all that is happening and for each person who has helped to make it happen - all of us part of God's amazing plan!