My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Friday, 24 January 2014

Ecumenism in Jerusalem

walking through Old Jerusalem
Just down the road from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we find the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, and it is here that we all meet up again to celebrate Eucharist as a whole group. On the way out I pick up their leaflet, and learn that three different congregations worship here on a regular basis: The Arabic speaking congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL for short!), the German speaking congregation of the Evangelical church in Germany, (EKD), and the English speaking Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Sometimes even the Danish Lutherans use this church. As the leaflet goes on to explain, the Christian community in Jerusalem "has always been multi-ethnic, diverse and multi-lingual. Here you will find Greeks and Armenians, Syrians, Coptic Christians from Egypt, Ethiopians, Maronites with Lebanese background, Orthodox Russians, Palestinians, and Hebrew Christians praying side by side."
Here we have a fine lesson of working together in fellowship and partnership, and the church is very clearly a vital part of the ecumenical Christian tradition in the city, from which many of us could learn a thing or two! There is much more information about the church and its ministry, its educational programme, its projects, resources and partners, on its website where there is also plenty of information about the real plight of the Palestinian Christians, which we really cannot discover in such a short pilgrimage visit.
Dormition Abbey - mosaic of Virgin and Child 
It is certainly now time for lunch. Our mornings start early, in an attempt to steal a march on the other coach parties! Without any break, the mornings seem long and many of us are noticeably wilting every day by lunchtime.
Today we walk into the Armenian quarter for our restaurant. As usual the appetisers are fantastic, but the veggie options for main course tend to be unreliable. Today the veggie option is dire - a huge plate of pasta with a very tasteless tomato sauce. I cannot eat it, and even my usually hungry companions are not tempted to take it off me!
Dormition Abbey Basilica
Dormition Abbey Bell tower
Suitably fed and watered, we are off again, this time to Mount Zion and the Dormition Abbey (Dormitio Sanctae Mariae: the falling asleep of St Mary), where legend has it that the Virgin Mary spent her last days. However the House of Mary in Ephesus and the Tomb of St Mary in Gethsemane also make this claim. There is a life size statue of the reclining Mary downstairs in the crypt, made from cherry wood and ivory, marking the place where she is supposed to have died. Some were venerating this edifice, but I have to confess that I felt totally unmoved by it. What struck me was the beauty of the mosaics, on the floor and in the six side chapels, in the main body of the church.The circular floor mosaic represents the spreading of the Word, through space and time and is really very special.
Sadly we are hurried away all too soon as there is still plenty to see today…We are off to the Upper Room, The Tomb of David, and the Wailing Wall.

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