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Rose Sunday: Great Joy!

Rose Sunday: Great Joy!

By Jenny Thomas

On the third Sunday in Advent I attended worship services at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour, Palestine, and was warmly greeted when I first passed through the gates leading into the church.  How lovely to see the advent candles and the nativity scene in the front of the church.

While the service was in Arabic I could follow along because the bulletin had the familiar order of service and the text was also written with English letters so I could pronoun the words along with the rest of the congregation—that made me feel a part of the service and was a very inclusive gesture on the part of the church to make visitors feel a part of the community of believers.  And, it was good to hear familiar hymn tunes!

This Sunday the congregation was visited by an ecumenical delegation from the Philippines and I met the Rt. Rev. Taclobao, the Diocesan Bishop of the Central Philippines.  He was surprised and pleased to meet me, an Episcopalian from Vermont, and sends his greetings to St. Barnabas and the Diocese of Vermont.

Pastor Tannous delivered his sermon in Arabic, taking his text from Luke Chapter 3, John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus.  He emphasized John’s quoting the Prophet Isaiah:  how all nations would see the salvation of God.

In his English summary of the sermon Pastor Tannous emphasized the unique and remarkable family which is the church, and how as a family, we must take care of one another.  Certainly the Christians in Palestine, the first Christians, need the support of the universal Church.

The Pastor was joined by the Episcopal Bishop of India to celebrate communion.  To hear “brothers and sisters” in this context takes on a new depth of meaning I will carry with me when I return to Vermont, and even here in Beit Sahour I can hear an echo of Burton Cooper’s voice when he delivers the sermon at St. Barnabas.

The third Sunday of Advent—certainly great joy in celebrating “the communion of saints” in “one holy and apostolic church”!

About the Author: Jenny Thomas is a member of St. Barnabas Church in Norwich, Vermont. She is volunteering for three months with the Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil ( in Beit Sahour, Palestine.

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