So what is an introductory week in Jerusalem like? We have now been here just one week, and starting to fall into a pattern. In short, so much in so few days.
It's easy to rise early here, especially during Ramadan with the early morning calls to prayer echoing from nearby minarets and then the cannon sounding to begin the daytime fast and to announce the approaching sunrise. The patio is perfect with the predawn cool breezes and view of the city for early morning Arabic study and devotional reading.
By 8:00 a.m. we're off to the old city (sometimes by car, and sometimes on foot down the Mount of Olives and across the Kidron Valley) -- entering Jaffa Gate we make our way to the church via David's Street, Christian Quarter Road, and winding through the Muristan section by its fountain (Muristan is the Persian word for hospital). All along we greet shop keepers, sweeping their doorways and setting out wares, "Sabbach la her." or "Marhaba" or "Kif Halak?" It's apparent that we have become familiar faces from their smiling replies, "Assiz" (pastor), or even "Abuna" (Father) and a "L'hamdilla" (Thank God).
Within the limestone walls of the church compound, our office is cool and peaceful, as the sun warms the city. The routine begins to set in:
- participating in the weekly house meeting with German probst, Bishop, Church Secretary, and Arabic pastor to discuss schedules and compare planning.
- preparing for the Bishop a pastoral letter on the Pakistan floods for circulation among LWF churches.
- proofreading the Bishop's weekly sermon (and ensuing discussion of what constitutes theological differences and what is cultural).
- getting ready for our own English Sunday worship, hymn, liturgy, sermon, and the usual bulletin.
- and various getting acquainted visits from ELCJHL staff and meeting foreign delegations to the city.
Outside the walls, there were special events-- just the first week.
- an afternoon interfaith gathering, where a panel of Muslim and Jewish speakers shared on the meaning of Ramadan and the upcoming Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
- a four-hour tour of Augusta Victoria Hospital and the ministries of the Lutheran World Federation on the Mount of Olives near our home.
- a reception for the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, here to give momentum to the upcoming peace talks.
- a festive Saturday wedding of the bishop's son, with Fred reading and sharing the podium along with the Greek, Latin, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox, and Armenian patriarchs, and also an evening of celebration and laughter with Palestinian friends whose daily walk is all too often punctuated with tears and struggle.
The rhythm of ministry now begins to take shape among those people, like us whose walk in Jerusalem is limited in time--expatriates here from three months, a year, or multi-year terms, some volunteers and others paid, but all having come here to serve. And so a first week of punctuated both with arrivals and departures:
- a pot luck meal for a departing couple from Canada who worked with the YMCA (she's heading back to Canada, and he's leaving for work with the YMCA in Afghanistan)..
- our congregation's church Wednesday night of volleyball, dinner together, and discussion at the house of our neighbors the Browns--with no less that forty showing up, all seeking a respite from high stress and challenging weekday routines.
- Sunday morning gathering for word and sacrament in the St. John's chapel at Redeemer in the old city.
- a planning session with our congregational church council for our Sept. 12 installation along with a service of dedication for numerous newly arrived volunteers:
- six ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission who will work with West Bank Schools,
- a young couple (he from the states, she from Norway) from the Mennonite Central Committee,
- a UCC pastor from Oregon assisting the director of Lutheran Church while her husband does graduate work at Hebrew University,
- a Sabeel volunteer from Scotland,
- and on and on.