Sunday sees us dispersing ourselves to various churches in and around Jerusalem After so many new sights and sounds over the last week it is nice to be doing something familiar, although not quite as familiar as it would seem. The group being made up of Anglicans, Methodists, Church of Scotland, Free Church and Salvation Army representatives we each choose different ways of celebrating our Sabbath.
Some go to St Andrew’s Memorial Church, some to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, one to the Armenian Cathedral of St James and one travels out on a bus to the Pat Ba’Melach Bakery at Gush Etzion, about 10 miles outside Jerusalem to bake bread.
My choice is St George’s Cathedral, and a group of us take the Light Railway to the Damascus Gate, from there a five minute walk to the cathedral. We are running a little late and arrive just as the procession is forming at the back of the church, but are shown to the spare seats… at the front.
The service is led by the Dean, the Very Revd Hosam Naoum, the very first indigenous Dean of the Cathedral, having been born in Galilee. All around us I can hear American voices, but also Arabic, and we are told that the service will be in English and Arabic, sometimes spoken in one language and then translated into the other (the sermon); sometimes starting one response in one language and then finishing with the other; and sometimes using both languages at the same time (the hymns). It sounds like a bit of a nightmare to follow, but actually it works well and I am reminded of Pentecost.
The service finishes with a voluntary, Widor’s Toccata from his 5th Symphony in F, expertly played by the cathedral’s female organist and which drew a round of applause from the 200 congregants leaving the building, then out into the sunshine. Adrian Dorber, the current Dean of Lichfield spend one of his sabbaticals in Jerusalem and offered to show us one of the hidden gems in the Old City for an after service coffee.
I have to say that all the time I have been in Jerusalem I have felt completely safe, whether moving through the souks and different quarters or riding on the Light Railways, rubbing shoulders literally with people of all faiths and none. You also become used to the presence of armed soldiers on entrances and corners throughout the city However, on the way back to the Damascus gate, we passed the American Consulate in Jerusalem, a heavily fortified entrance which brings back a reminder of the tensions that exist in this region.
And then you find yourself in a complete oasis of peace and tranquillity.
Behind this very unprepossessing door is the Austrian Hospice. A slice of European elegance, built in the style of Vienna’s Ringstrasse palaces it houses its own Viennese coffee-house and terrace. Here you can sit in lush gardens and sip coffee and sample delicious pastries. The busy city is hushed and almost hidden from view.
For five shekels more you can visit the rooftop with its incredible views over the whole of the city. On this day the city shimmers in the heat and you can almost believe that the world is at peace.
Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.