Pentecost in Jerusalem. Where better to celebrate the birthday of the church?
And it was a true Pentecost experience. St George's Anglican Cathedral with a Communion dominantly in Arabic because Christians from all over the Diocese of Jerusalem had been invited to join the celebration. Thus they came in from all around Israel with many having had to get permits to come. Two Palestinian Christian communities had been prevented from being there as 'too many passes had been issued to Christians' recently'. These churches really do need our ongoing prayer support.
But those who were able to come, having had to start early to ensure checkpoint delays did not mean their missing the service, joined with pilgrimage groups from England (us and one from the Diocese of Norwich) and the Diocese of Tokyo. We also knew of Canadians and South Africans present and it was clear that many other countries were represented. As we were all invited to sing the hymns in our own language, there was a real sense of the Pentecost spirit which will stay with most of us for a long time to come.
The sermon, delivered first in Arabic and then in English by the Diocesan Bishop took the theme of the Continuing Pentecost - meaning the call to us Christians to work for justice, peace, truth and righteousness - a theme especially poignant in a church where some have our faith journeys along fairly easy paths in community terms, and others are engaged every moment of every day-in struggle and often in fear.
The readings had also been in both Arabic and English and the movement of the Gospel reading being in one language by the Gospeller who switched places with the Gospel bearer for the second-language reading, felt richly symbolic.
At The communion itself there were some 9 or 10 priests in the sanctuary from at least four nations. There was one delightful unscripted moment when two small altar attendants, one boy and one little girl, fully robed, wove their way through the communicant line and shortly afterwards ducked back into the chancel area. Thankfully, it felt that everyone was thoroughly accepting of this: it would be an awful shame if trouble followed.
We were graciously invited to join in lunch served outside for all the worshippers who chose to stay and that too was a thoroughly cosmopolitan affair.
We elected to rest for a while after lunch and let the day cool a little before we wandered for a while in the old city. Much to see, wonderful aromas and again a plethora of languages being spoken all around the city. Pentecost indeed! But also the stark contrasts; bullet holes (we assumed) in the massive doors of The Damascus Gate.
Several of our party's impressions of the morning were gathered into a rooftop Evening worship.