Delegation from the Lutheran Church of Norway Visits the ELCJ

From March 15-23, 2004, a delegation of three people from the Church of Norway, Diocese of Borg, came to Jerusalem, Ramallah, the Bethlehem area and also Amman, Jordan, to learn more about the ELCJ churches, schools and community programs, and to enliven the partnership between the Diocese of Borg and the ELCJ.

Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme was the leader of the delegation and was accompanied by the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the new Executive Director of the Church of Norway and Office of International Relations, and the Rev. Leiv Levinsen, a pastor in the Borg Diocese.

The delegation also visited Augusta Victoria Hospital and Norwegian ministries in Israel. The group met several of the Heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem.

Bishop Younan Speaks in Milan, Italy on Co-existence in the Middle East

On March 23, 2004, Bishop Younan was the first of four lecturers in a series of cultural and religious events in Milan, Italy. Speaking on the topic “Co-Existence in Jerusalem and the Middle East,” Bishop Younan stated: “Jerusalem does not need walls. Jerusalem needs more places for bringing people together for mutual understanding. Christians around the world must help us by insisting on inclusivism, rather than any exclusive visions for Jerusalem. This city, Jerusalem, needs to be inclusive for all five groupings of people: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians.”

The four lectures in March, April and May are being sponsored by four cultural and religious groups in Milan: the Goethe Institut, the Casa della Cultura, the Communita di Sant Egidio, and the Chiesa Cristiana Protestante in Milano.

A Danish Church Delegation Visits Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip

Representatives from the Lutheran, Baptist and Methodist churches in Denmark as well as representatives from DanChurch Aid and the Ecumenical Council in Denmark visited Palestine and Israel from March 13-20, 2004. The leaders of the delegation were the Rt. Rev. Kresten Drejergaard, Bishop of Fuenen (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, ELCD); the Rev. Ane Hjerrild, the General Secretary on International Relations for ELCD; and Mr. Uffe Gjerding, DanChurch Aids Coordinator. The Danish delegation worshipped with the Arabic-speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Old City Jerusalem, on March 14 and visited with Bishop Younan and Pr. Sani Ibrahim Azar. The delegation also visited the International Center in Bethlehem, with the Christmas Lutheran Church and the ELCJ; Augusta Victoria Hospital; and the Middle East Council of Churches programs in Gaza. The delegation visited with church leaders at Notre Dame in Jerusalem where the delegation members were briefed about the current political and humanitarian situation.

The Rev. Kjell Jonasson and Ms. Inger Jonasson Installed in ELCJ Staff Positions

n Sunday, March 21, 2004, Pr. Kjell and Inger Jonasson were installed in their ELCJ positions during the Arabic-language service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Old City Jerusalem. Pr. Kjell Jonasson, from the Church of Sweden, is ELCJ Bishop Dr. Munib Younan’s Assistant for Ecumenical Affairs and International Relations. In addition, part of Pr. Jonasson’s time will be given to the Swedish Theological Institute in West Jerusalem. Inger Jonasson is the Coordinator of the Art Program at the International Center in Bethlehem, connected to the Christmas Lutheran Church and the ELCJ.

Bishop Younan and visiting Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme of the Diocese of Borg of the Lutheran Church of Norway, together with the Rev. Anders Bloomquist of the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem and the Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar, pastor of the Arabic congregation at Redeemer all participated in the installation service, using four different languages: Arabic, English, Swedish and Norwegian. Bishop Kvarme preached the sermon in English, highlighting and uplifting the ELCJ congregations, schools and community projects and encouraging the ELCJ to continue being a servant, as Jesus was servant to all. Pr. Kjell and Inger Jonasson shared a song with guitar accompaniment as part of the worship service.

In the 1980s Pr. Jonasson previously served as the Overseas Secretary on the staff of then ELCJ Bishop Daoud Haddad. He and Inger lived in Beit Sahour at that time, and are happy to return to Jerusalem and the ELCJ to meet old friends and make many new ones.

Visitors from the U.S. and Germany Come to Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Bishop Emeritus Krister Stendahl, the former Dean of Divinity at Harvard University, USA, and his wife Brita visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem in February.

Two visitors from Germany recently consulted with Bishop Younan in Jerusalem: Dr. Cornelia Coenan Marx of Kaiserswerth in Germany and Rolf Peter Wiegard, the administrator of the Berlin Mission Work (BMW), Germany.

A delegation of four people from the Community Church of Joy, Glendale, Arizona, USA, included an appointment with Bishop Younan as part of their recent tour. The group also visited the International Center in Bethlehem and the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb.

Five Young People Confirmed at the Lutheran Church of Beit Sahour

On Sunday, November 23, 2003, the congregation of the Lutheran Church of Beit Sahour rejoiced with five confirmands who affirmed their baptisms. Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan confirmed Maher Munir Odeh, Nassim Majed Nassar, Mariana Faraj El-Lati, Lu’ay Iyad Qumsieh and Samir Muhannad Qumsieh in the morning worship service. Evangelist Hani Odeh also participated in the service. The congregation and the newly confirmed young people also received the Eucharist, celebrated by Bishop Younan. Many people warmly congratulated the young people at a reception following the service.

Dedication of Abrahams-Herberge in Beit Jala

After seven long years of prayer, work, construction, delays, curfews, closures and determination, Abraham’s House (Abrahams-Herberge in German) is a reality at last. On October 30, 2003, the building and its ministry were dedicated to the glory of God in the presence of hundreds of people. Located on the church compound of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala, Abraham’s House is a retreat and study center with a guest house where youth and adults of all three Abrahamic faiths can gather to build understanding and reconciliation.

Over two-hundred people from Germany came to celebrate the dedication, representing many churches and individuals that had contributed financially to build Abraham’s House, including the EKD, the NMZ and many other churches in Germany. The Lutheran Church of the Reformation was overflowing with Palestinian, Israeli, German and American people, many of whom sat outdoors or in the parish hall, listening to the service. Rev. Jadallah Shihadeh, pastor of the Reformation church, greeted the many visitors, including several Jewish rabbis and Muslim clerics. Music, God’s Word, messages, expressions of gratitude and great joy filled the people and the church. Bishop Maria Jepsen of the Northelbian Church in Germany joined ELCJ Bishop Dr. Munib Younan and Propst em. Helmut Glatte from Germany in bringing messages, and Rev. Herman Keller of Hamburg, Germany, brought the sermon.

The sanctuary of the Reformation church has also been completely remodeled as Abraham’s House was being built. At the front of the church a stained glass window now towers behind the altar area, showing Abraham welcoming the three angels, as described in Genesis 18. The hospitality of Abraham is the model for what the new Abraham’s House and its ministry is offering to Jews, Christians and Muslims as they gather to know and understand each other, leading to reconciliation. In Abraham’s House the natural stone and beautiful Palestinian tiles and painting combine to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The guesthouse can hold about fifty people, and the youth housing also on the church compound can hold about forty.

Rev. Jadalah Shihadeh is the pastor of the Abraham’s House and may be contacted about holding conferences or retreats in Abraham’s House or about staying in the guesthouse.; Telephone: +972 – 2 – 274.2613; Fax: 2744.966

Dedication of the newly renovated Hall in Amman

The Lutheran Good Shepherd Church in Amman, Jordan, dedicated its newly renovated congregational hall on Sunday, October 19, after the worship service. The Northelbian Mission Center in Germany (NMZ) generously donated the money for the extensive renovation and Rev. Samer Azer, the church elders and the congregation worked relentlessly to complete the work which adds a whole new dimension to the beauty of the entire church building. As Bishop Younan said, “The congregation hall will now serve the congregational work, the children’s, youth and women’s work, as well as ecumenical relations among the Amman churches and our dialogue with Muslims.”

Representatives of all the Amman churches, Muslim clerics and friends and members of the Jordanian parliament joined with the Good Shepherd congregation to celebrate the dedication. Very importantly, this work and dedication follows in the line of Bishop Emeritus Daoud Haddad’s statement when the congregation was established: “It is mission in the heart of the Arab world.” The ministry which this renovated parish hall will enable serves not only the congregation but all of Jordanian society. The ELCJ center in the Good Shepherd church is a light for everyone in Amman, Bishop Younan said in his dedication sermon.

Many thanks go to the NMZ for the funding, to Rev. Azar, the church council and members of the Good Shepherd church for their hard work in completing this renovation, and to all those who donated gifts in kind.

Installation of Pastor Russel Siler

On Sunday, September 7, 2003 Rev. Russell Siler was installed as the pastor of the English-speaking ministry at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan installed Rev. Siler and many pastors from various countries, speaking in their languages, laid hands of blessing on Rev. Siler as part of the installation service. Bishop Younan and Rev. Siler both preached. Many guests from Jerusalem were present with the congregation, worshipping in the Cloister Chapel of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Dedication of Dar al-Kalima Health & Wellness Center in Bethlehem

On Friday, September 5, 2003 the Dar al-Kalima Health and Wellness Center celebrated its dedication and grand opening in an outdoor ceremony on the school grounds. Bishop Younan, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb and Dr. As’ad Ramlawi, director of Preventive and Community Medicine at the Palestinian Ministry of Health spoke to the many guests from Palestine, the United States and the Nordic countries. Wheat Ridge Ministries from the U.S., a major contributor to the Wellness Center, was represented by a delegation of eighteen people; Mr. Gregg Smith and Dr. Richard Bimler addressed the audience. Performing were karate students from Dar al-Kalima and musicians from the community. Dar al-Kalima students sang the school anthem and released many baloons. The Health and Wellness Center tour following the program revealed exercise and training rooms, classrooms, and a beatiful swimming pool. “As the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has the theme ‘For the healing of the world’, such a Health and Wellness Center shows that the Lutheran Church’s theology is to care for the whole perons, mentally, physically and spiritually,” Bishop Younan said.