The Rev’d Matthew Dayton-Welch
November 25th, 2018
Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, Newtown Square
The Feast of Christ the King (John 18: 33-37)
Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Amman is a city thousands of years old, nestled among nothing but the deserts of Jordan, littered with Roman-era ruins and the residue sprawl commonplace in any city in any part of the world with four million people. It is cosmopolitan in places and congested nearly everywhere; it is the jewel of Jordan.
Zarqa, fifteen miles to the east, is not. It is a relatively new city, settled by Chechen refugees not even a hundred years ago, and it is also crowded but with industry; fifty percent of the country’s factories are located here, along with a heavy military presence and a little more than half a million people. Zarqa feels like another world—a more depressed world, a more theologically-conservative world, without the attention Amman gets.
There in the center of the city is St. Saviour’s School, a ministry of the Episcopal church in Jerusalem, whose diocese includes Jordan. The school is a full-service K-12 operation providing quality education to the city’s most hopeful. It is the only school to educate girls and boys together in Zarqa. And it is wonderful.
The faculty and staff are excited about the work ahead of them, and the children were excited to attend. You could see it on their faces; these were happy kids. And there in the center of the school—whose students were nearly all Muslim—sat an Episcopal church, its cross mounted adjacent to a basketball hoop. It kept watch over the whole affair.
Well, actually, there was another presence that kept watch over the whole affair. Off to the side of the school entrance hung a nearly life-sized portrait of the King of Jordan, Abdallah al-Thani bin al-Hussein. The portrait is friendly if not a little faded, and at its feet sat a small offering, a bougainvillea plant potted in an old metal tin that used to contain cheese. The tin was rusted, and the plant was little unkept, and the whole shrine was sweet in its own way, if not a little odd to this American.
by Elizabeth Keesee Henry
In October, during an AFEDJ Board visit to a number of the Diocese of Jerusalem institutions, I was moved to see that a common thread among them was the living out of our baptismal vow “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” All people are served, no matter their ethnicity, religion, ability or disability, or economic means. All are given treatment, advice, or education, and more importantly, each person is treated with dignity, respect, and open arms offering the love of Christ to all people.
That respect and sensitivity were evident at the medical institutions in their programs to empower people to become part of their own or their children’s education, healing, and therapy. At Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, a nutritionist works with the parents of more than 200 underweight children to devise the most nutritious meal plan possible within the family’s budget, and women are taught to do self-exams for early detection of breast cancer. At the Princess Basma Center in Jerusalem mothers learn to perform physical and other therapies to help their children with disabilities.
The medical institutions also serve families by helping them with the transportation challenges of the region. St. Luke’s Hospital in Nablus and the Jofeh Community Center near the Dead Sea offer satellite or mobile treatment options so people may benefit from medical tests, therapy, and obstetric care when it is impossible to travel far from home.
Sermon by the Rev. Matthew Dayton-Welch
November 18, 2018
Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, Newtown Square
As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”
We left early in the morning, just as the sun was beginning to peak over the Mount of Olives and beam down iridescent orange on to the parking lot of St. George’s College in East Jerusalem. We knew it would take us about two hours to get to Erez Checkpoint, and then God knows how long once we got there. We sat in the bus, largely in silence. The board of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem had overnight shrunk by half, it seemed, as eight of my colleagues came down with food poisoning; the rest of us felt eerily unprepared.
I had been to the Gaza border before, but I had never made it in. In that sense, Gaza was this mythical place for me, a strip of land on the Mediterranean coast about 100 square miles in livable land occupied by about two million people who cannot get out. In 2006, the people there elected the terrorist organization, Hamas, to govern them, and since then the place has been the epicenter of one of the worst quagmires the modern world has known—the world’s largest open-air prison—and a perpetual humanitarian disaster.
Israel built a checkpoint called Erez on the northern border with Gaza, and they built it with the intention that it would handle a fairly large volume of day traffic, so it looks a bit like an airport terminal. But the day we visited, it seemed like we were the only ones there, and the terminal now had this post-apocalyptic vibe. We walked into a large glass hall and called out for someone to instruct us, and eventually someone did—“go through that gate there”—and the process began.
by the Rev. Dr. Ann J. Broomell
The first time I traveled to Jerusalem was in 2004 with a group of other clergy and spouses. The trip was planned to be a mix of visiting the holy sites and learning some of the life of people living on the West Bank. We toured Jerusalem, the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum. I was deeply moved to look over the Sea of Galilee from the hillside where Jesus had preached, to touch the rock on which we believe he was crucified. We also visited the Arab Evangelical School in Ramallah, a ministry of the Diocese of Jerusalem that AFEDJ trustees visited again in October.
On that first visit we saw an end of the year Science Fair and Art Show. As is the norm in Science Fairs most everywhere, we saw posters of the blood flow in and out of the heart and projects on magnetic fields. The Art Show brought me up short. In the midst of drawings of flowers and hillsides of olive trees, there were drawings of soldiers with guns and the dividing wall that was just then being built.
Towards the end of that visit we met with the principal and academic staff of the school. It was a time of young Palestinian suicide bombers. I have carried in my heart since that day the conversation during which we asked about the well-being of the children. We were told that many were depressed, and one of the main goals of the school was to prevent them from losing hope and committing suicide. Sadly, we knew what they meant with those words.
by the Rev. Cn. Nicholas T. Porter
Our first morning in Jerusalem began with a visit to St. George’s School. The sprawling school is an integral part of the St. George’s Cathedral Close, and the sound of students announces the arrival of each new day. It is a celebrated school with many illustrious alumni; it is a school that bares the scars of occupation and conflict; and it is a school with a vital mission to young men.
The first classrooms that we saw were filled with lower school girls and boys. The spaces were bright and the teachers eager. Seeing young children happily studying and playing filled our hearts with warmth and hope.
The contrast to the lower school could not have been greater. “What is going on here?,” several board members asked. My heart, too, filled with doubt. When we exited the school, I was glad to escape.Our tour eventually took us across the street to the all-boys high school, which, until recently, was all-boys. An eloquent introduction by the new principal and a lively conversation with a group of promising seniors were muted by the presence of hefty hall monitors and rowdy behavior in the classrooms.
Then against my will, I felt my heart strangely warming as I began to recognize a greater truth – the truth about the difficult and vital work of boys’ education in East Jerusalem.