President Annette Kurschus of the Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen Visits ELCJHL

ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan presents Westphalia President Annette Kurschus with a gift of appreciation.  © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL
ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan presents Westphalia President Annette Kurschus with a gift of appreciation. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

JERUSALEM – The President of the Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen, Annette Kurschus, visited the ELCJHL on invitation of Bishop Younan to help nourish and grow the relationship between the two churches. Annette Kurschus, joined by Rev. Gerhard Duncker and a delegation of leaders from her church in Westphalia, visited a number of the ELCJHL’s ministries, including the school in Beit Sahour and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.  The delegation also visited the ministries of the Evangelischen Kirche (EKD) in Jerusalem.

Westphalia President Annette Kurschus preaches with Pastor Ibrahim Azar © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL
Westphalia President Annette Kurschus preaches with Pastor Ibrahim Azar. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

President Kurschus and her delegation joined Bishop Munib Younan at a service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem on Sunday, April 7th. The service was held in both German and Arabic with President Kurschus giving the sermon in German and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer pastor Rev. Ibrahim Azar translating for the congregation.

Bishop Younan welcomed the President and her delegation and said that he hoped that the relationship between the ELCJHL and the Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen would continue to grow. Bishop Younan presented gifts to both President Kurschus and to Rev. Gerhard Duncker, who Bishop Younan recognized for his service to the ELCJHL over the years in representing the Church in Westphalia.

To see photos from the event, visit the ELCJHL’s photo gallery.

Pastor Azar Honored For 25 Years of Service

Pastor Ibrahim Azar
Pastor Ibrahim Azar receives a plaque honoring his 25 years of service to the ELCJHL. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

JERUSALEM – The ELCJHL celebrated the 25th anniversary of ordination of Pastor Sani Ibrahim Azar during the Arabic Speaking Congregation’s Palm Sunday service at the Chapel of the Ascension.  Pastor Azar has spent his 25 years at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.  Pastor Azar has also worked in the past as a youth pastor and as President of the Synod.  He currently serves on a number of committees for the ELCJHL.

Pastor Azar was honored by Bishop Younan, the Bishop of the ELCJHL; Mr. Samih Abu Leil, the Vice President of the Synod; Ms. Rima Khleif; and Ms. Aida Haddad and Mr. Ghassan Kasabreh with gifts, poems, and words of thanks.  Bishop Younan delivered a speech on the three qualities that have made Pastor Azar so successful including his humility and his natural ability for pastoral care and counseling.  Bishop Younan spoke admirably about Pastor Azar’s true Lutheran spirit and how he has kept unity in his congregation.

Congratulations to Pastor Azar for all of his hard work and faithful service and great thanks for his dedication and the dedication of his wife and family to the call of the church.

To see more photos from the celebration, visit here.

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.

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.