The Church of the Reformation at Beit Jala
The church compound of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation is located on a main street in Beit Jala that winds up a steep hill. The church steeple can be seen from the street but many surprises await the first-time visitor upon entering the main gate. A central courtyard on two levels with a raised garden in the middle is very welcoming, and the eye is caught by a bronze sculpture in the garden. Created by the well-known Palestinian artist Suleiman Mansour, the modernistic sculpture is of a family of four standing together in a row with arms stretched out horizontally behind each other. The impression given is that of family members loving each other and facing the world together, ready to reach out and embrace that world.
The sculpture is a visual image of the theology and the mission of this Lutheran congregation of the ELCJHL. Ministry to young and old, to families and people living alone, to Christians, Jews and Muslims, to the congregation and to the community at large, to people around the world – all of this and more is caught in the family sculpture showing love, unity, strength, steadfastness and openness.
Surrounding the courtyard are the church sanctuary and several other buildings which house the ministries of the congregation.
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We worship on Sundays at 10:15am, but our worship spills into the week and into everything we do at the Church of the Reformation. During Lent, we hold the Prayers of the Cross on Fridays and we have two to three weekly Bible studies throughout the year.
We cherish our youth here and we have two youth groups for older and younger children and young adults. Our older youth group sells snacks once a month at another Reformation ministry – Tambola (or Bingo) nights where families are invited to pray, socialize, and play games. The youth are enabled to decide what they wish to do with the money they raise and, more often than not, they donate it to the church. Confirmation class is also available as well as a Family Bible Study where parents and their children can join together to learn God’s Word. We have also created a Newly Married Couples Meeting to provide marriage counseling and guidance to those who just entering into family life.
Our newly-formed Women’s Ministry is important to the life of our church. Though they are starting with a Bible study, they hope to expand to handiwork and crafts as well as a ministry making and selling food to help raise money for the church.
Our social ministry is run by our church elders and is always looking for volunteers and your prayers. The elders collect names of the sick and needy and keeps the pastor up-to-date on what’s going on in the congregation. Once a month, the pastor will also give Holy Communion and prayers with the elderly and homebound as well as do hospital visits.
The Lutheran church in Beit Jala has a long history, dating back to 1845. A missionary, Mr. Mueller, from southern Germany gathered people together for Bible studies and devotions. This missionary effort was separate from the Anglican-Lutheran joint project that began in Palestine in the 1840s-50s. When Missionary Mueller left, another German missionary, Mr. Schneller, succeeded him. Missionary Schneller was able to establish an actual Lutheran congregation in Beit Jala. Mr. Giries Abu Dayyeh, the head of a clan (mukhtar) in the town at that time, was the first to join this Lutheran congregation.
The congregational members, led by Mukhtar Abu Dayyeh, wanted to build a church sanctuary. Missionary Schneller and the congregation, with help from the Jerusalem Foundation in Berlin, Germany, built the church that was dedicated in 1886. In 1887 Evangelist Bishara Can’an was appointed to serve the church on behalf of the Jerusalem Foundation.
In 1959 the Lutheran Church of the Reformation became a congregation of the newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan, ELCJ (the West Bank and East Jerusalem being under Jordan’s administration at that time). The congregation had been served faithfully since 1887 by Evangelist Can’an, and Pastors I. Haddad, S, Haddad, and N. Smir Bishop Dr. Munib Younan served as the pastor of the Beit Jala congregation from 1979-85.
From this long and rich history has emerged a congregation that is very cognizant of the needs of people in the immediate community and even in other countries, and finds many ways to address those needs.
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Sunday: 10:30 a.m.
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Pastor Ashraf Tannous
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation
Beit Jala, PA (via Israel)
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