Ross mentioned in her post yesterday that we had the opportunity to meet with the rector of Christ Church Anglican in Nazareth. It was such a unique opportunity to connect with other people who follow our specific Christian tradition and for that I am grateful. I am glad that we had this opportunity to hear firsthand what it is like to be an Anglican Christian in the Holy Land. Being a Christian is hard enough over here, especially as numbers continue to dwindle because Christians are moving to America and Europe in search of more opportunities and freedoms. This is only compounded even more for Anglicans because they are a minority within an already slim minority.
When we look at the Christian landscape of the Holy Land it is dominated by by two groups: the Franciscans and the Greek Orthodox. (There are many different Orthodox traditions present in the Holy Land, Armenian, Russian, Georgian, etc.; but it is the Greeks who enjoy the place of primus inter pares, or first among equals, though the Greeks may not view others as equals.) The Franciscans were given custody of the Holy Land by the Vatican partly becasue the Roman Catholic hierarchy felt that they were less threatening than, say the Jesuits. Almost every church, shrine, and holy site that has a Roman Catholic presence is in the hands of the Franciscans or the Poor Clares, the female equivalent to Franciscans. Likewise, almost every church shrine, and holy site has a Greek Orthodox presence. This gives them a considerable amount of authority and weight when it comes to decisions regarding the land and holy sites.
The Anglicans on the other hand are relative newbies to the Holy Land with our presence dating back to the late 19th Century. British missionaries and pilgrims have been coming to the Holy Land for centuries and also played a major role in the crusades, but those did not lead to any lasting British/Anglican presence here. But since the late 19th Century and with the British governance during the British Mandate period the Anglican presence has increased significantly. While the Anglican Church is thriving in the Holy Land they still struggle in many ways that parishes back home do as well. They struggle with membership, finances, deteriorating structures, etc. Regardless of what they do not have they give thanks for what they do and they are strongly committed to the mission of Christ. Situated in the hometown of Jesus, the people of Christ Church feel a special call to carry on the mission of the Jesus.
Rev. Nael said that they work collaboratively with the large Christian denominations in order to achieve meaningful goals that continue Jesus’ mission of peace and reconciliation. In order to have peace though, Rev. Nael believes we need to have love, mercy, and justice. We cannot have peace if we are missing just one of those three elements.
We are called to offer love in the face of animosity and persecution; to offer mercy instead of cruelty or retribution; to seek justice instead of perpetuating the cycle of religious violence. We are anointed, filled with the spirit, and we have been given gifts to achieve this. We must follow Jesus, to seek justice in all we do with a heart of love and a heart for mercy and forgiveness. We must pray for Palestinians and Israelis; for Christians and Muslims and Jews. We can think about the church as an institution, bishops and priests, vestries and committees, but in the end that will all disappear and we will only find Jesus Christ…that is what endures.
Rev. Nael Abu Rahmoun July 9th, 2015
His simple words: love + mercy + justice = peace. I will leave you to ponder his words.