Meet Rev. Rolf Pearson, The Pastor for the New Baptismal Site

Rev. Rolf Pearson
Rev. Rolf Pearson
Rev. Rolf Pearson (©ELCJHL)

Rev. Rolf Pearson and his wife Kerstin will be taking over the role as caretakers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan.  Rev. Rolf Pearson will be developing worship services and spiritual practices and both Rev. Pearson and Kerstin will be working on creating a pilgrim center.

We sat down with Rev. Pearson to talk to him about himself and the Baptismal Site at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Sweden and always grew up in a Christian environment.  First in the Salvation Army, but then I was involved in the youth movement in our home congregation in the Church of Sweden.  I started out studying journalism, but after a year, I changed my mind and went into theology.  I met my wife, who is a bio-chemist, when I was studying theology.  We married and I became the pastor of a small congregation in Sweden.  Then, we went to Zimbabwe in 1982, just after the War of Independence.  Kerstin set up a laboratory at a hospital that had been closed during the war and I became the pastor of a congregation.  I spent two years there before being asked by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ) to start an educational center in the south of Zimbabwe.  I wrote a textbook and grammar in Shona, the local language, and we also taught the language to missionaries and NGOs working in Zimbabwe.  We went back to Sweden in the ‘90s and I took over the missionary education for the Church of Sweden.  But we didn’t stay long – we went to the Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, for 10 years, working with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).  We worked as the Gulf Liaison Officers of the MECC with the goal of helping churches coordinate their services to the often abused and oppressed migrant population.  After finishing our commitment in the Gulf and moving back to Sweden, we thought our traveling days were over.  After two years, we found the Ecumenical Secretary position in Jerusalem where I have been serving.  And now we’re heading out again!

Continue reading “Meet Rev. Rolf Pearson, The Pastor for the New Baptismal Site”

Donate To The Completion of the Baptismal Site

The Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan
The Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan
The Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

The Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan is nearing completion.  The site, which contains a church, pastor’s house, and multipurpose hall, will be the first Lutheran Church on a holy site, the site mentioned in John 1:28.  The site will dedicated on January 6th, 2014, but we need your help before then.

We are still looking for donations – of either money or in-kind gifts – to help us complete the building process.  For those desiring to support the Baptismal Site monetarily, please send checks made out to “ELCA” and “GMG0196 – ELCJHL Baptismal Site” noted in the memo line to:

ELCA Global Mission
Attn: Finance, 10th Floor
8765 W. Higgins Rd.
Chicago, IL 60014

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A Thank You To The Grand Priory of Denmark (OSMTH)

Bishop Munib Younan With Donated Organ
Bishop Munib Younan with organ donated by the Grand Priory of Denmark of the OSMTH. (© Grand Priory of Denmark)

The ELCJHL would like to sincerely thank the Grand Priory of Denmark of the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani (OSMTH) for their donation of a church bell and an organ for the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan. We greatly appreciate this gift. If you would like to provide a donation to the ELCJHL to help furnish the church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan, please contact us directly in order to appropriately receive your greatly appreciated contribution.

ELCJHL Breaks Ground on New Church at Baptismal Site

ELCJHL Bishop, pastors, representatives, and members celebrate following the official groundbreaking at the new ELCJHL Pilgrimage and Retreat Center at the Baptismal Site at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan.

JORDAN/JERUSALEM, 16 January 2012 – On the Feast of Epiphany, 6 January, ELCJHL members and leaders gathered at the Baptismal Site at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan to celebrate the ground breaking for the new Evangelical Lutheran Pilgrimage and Retreat Center at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan.

Celebrations began with a service of Holy Communion by the Jordan River with Bishop Younan preaching and presiding, and Pastor Mitri Raheb, pastor in Bethlehem and President of the Synod; Pastor Sani Ibrahim Azar, pastor in Jerusalem; and Pastor Samer Azar, pastor in Amman assisting.

In his sermon, Younan celebrated the gift of Baptism and reminded those gathered of our shared baptismal calling:

“In Lutheran theology we baptize infants according to our understanding of Baptism as a gift of God given through grace by faith, and not because of our works. In Baptism we carry Christ and becomes heirs, with Christ, of the promises of God. To this gift of grace and promise the whole church has been continuously witnessing.”

“And we Arab Christians, too, have carried this witness for 2,000 years. Our existence has always been a call to be apostles of love to the world and to be integrally involved in our society, in which God has called us to carry out the call of our Baptism as living witnesses to ourselves and to others.”

“Because of our covenant of Baptism we have stood steadfast in this place, as we have stood steadfast to our calling to be instruments of peace, brokers of justice, defenders of truth, advocates for the voiceless, promoters of human rights, including the rights of children and women, and ministers of reconciliation in service for the sake of all humanity.”

“Today, we renew our baptismal covenant and witness again to the manifestation of God, by the Holy Spirit, through Christ Jesus, and to the love of God, through which we are all called. And we break ground today as we begin to build this new church to the glory of God and the service of all Christians—not only Lutherans—who wish to come to this place to pray and renew their baptismal promises.”

The land for this project was granted the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the ELCJHL in 2008 and visioning and architectural planning has been underway since then.

The new Evangelical Lutheran Pilgrimage and Retreat Center will be one of twelve churches built at the site that aims to focus on the spiritual, historical, and environmental aspects of the area, with special emphasis given to:

  • the rootedness of Christianity both in the history and in present-day life in Jordan,
  • the deep ecumenical relationships between the local churches, and
  • the strong interfaith relationships on both individual, community and leadership levels.

Bishop Munib Younan and Minister of Tourism Mr. Nayef El-Fayez break ground for the new ELCJHL Pilgrimage and Retreat Center at the Baptismal Site

Mr. Nayef El-Fayez, Minister of Tourism, was present on behalf His Highness Prince Ghazi, the Special Advisor to the King on Religious Affairs, for the service and groundbreaking, speaking words of welcome and encouragement to the ELCJHL.

Others present included Mr. Akel Baltaji, a Senator in the Jordanian House of Senate; Mr. Ghazi Musharbash, a Representative in the Jordanian Parliament; and Father Nabil Haddad, from the Board of Trustees of the Baptismal Site.

Mr. Nabil Zaki Goussous, Principal Architect at NZG Architects, has served as architect on the project.

With construction beginning soon, the ELCJHL hopes to have the Pilgrimage and Retreat Center finished before next year, and to hold the consecration of the site on the next Feast of Epiphany on 6 January 2013.

Bishop Younan invited all present this day to return in one year, and extended an invitation to “all Lutheran churches, both the local congregations of the ELCJHL and the global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition to… come on the 6th of January to celebrate the Feast of Epiphany at the Baptismal Site at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan in the spirit of love and ecumenism.”

The ELCJHL gives thanks for the generous support given and pledged by various international partners, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) working closely with the OSMTH, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland for their grant, and many other friends of the ELCJHL.

Funds given in the US may be directed through the ELCA Global Gifts “ELCJHL Baptismal Site Project”. Donations from other countries abroad can be directed to the ELCJHL.

Click here or on the photo above to view more photos from the day.

Click here to view other galleries of photos from the Baptismal Site.

Click here to read Bishop Younan’s full sermon from the groundbreaking.

Kingdom of Jordan Gives 5 Dunums of Land to the ELCJHL on Baptismal Site

His Majesty King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has given 5 dunums of land on the Jordan River where John the Baptist is thought to have baptized Jesus. Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, the king’s adviser on churches in Jordan, officially gave the land to ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan during a visit by Archbishop Jukka Paarma of the Lutheran Church in Finland and his delegation, where the group and members from the ELCJHL’s Amman Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd participated.

Prince Ghazi, a Muslim scholar, has been trying to reawaken awareness of the holy sites in Jordan, particularly the Baptismal site.   Land is being given to individual local churches to create a church home and center of their own at the site so that they can invite their churches worldwide to use the site for pilgrimage and baptism.

For a photo slideshow, click here.
For more information on the Baptism Site, click here.