Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Back in Jerusalem

My dear blogwatchers,

How sorry I am that such a long time has elapsed since my last entry.  I went back to England for April both because my visa needed renewing and because I was going back for the Week of Creative Prayer which St Peter's has during Holy Week - a special time for those who create it and those who come for spiritual refreshment - and of course Easter.

Whilst in WSM I made the most of every moment, both for ChA+,  St Peter's services, nursing home ministry, home communions, and of course family and friends.   So when I returned to Jerusalem on 8th May I knew I had overdone it, so much so that when I was getting on the plane I felt fine, but by the time I got off I knew I had a corker of a cold.

Some of you will know that flying is not easy for me, but it's a shortish flight 5.5 hours or so.   That is until the plane taxis to the runway and then announces that the senior stewardess is unwell and we will have to return to the stand .... well at least we hadn't taken off.   On came the paramedics, and eventually about an hour later they accompanied the stewardess off the plane (she was well enough to walk off), a replacement had been found and we were off again, exactly one hour late!  Quite a long time if you don't particularly like being on a plane in the first place!

As if that wasn't enough my  clutch bag with my passport in it stayed in the baggage trolley when I transferred my cases at Tel Aviv airport to go on to Jerusalem!  Oops!  But help was at hand, as it was for the complete arrival to Jerusalem procedure.   First it was necessary to get the car park barrier raised at the Ratisbonne Center - they did not  know when we would be arriving - but there was a seminarian at the entrance just at the right time to raise the barrier   Onward to the front door and Br Elio just opened the door as if by appointment, followed by someome else who provided a helping hand to get my bags up the outside stairs.  

But still there was the problem of the passport.   Not to worry though, one of the Bat Kol Board members from USA is also staying at Ratisbonne and his son works, guess where?, on security at Tel Aviv airport.  A couple of phone calls and the bag was located still in the trolley in the car park and was safely secured for me to pick up on Monday.

I have to say, delayed flight,  cold, passport problem, whatever, it still felt very good to be back.

Passport retrieved and I was soon back in the office, not having too much to catch up on as I had been keeping up with Bat Kol work in the evenings whilst in WSM.  But we still did not have a workable program, nor were professors booked - more of that perhaps later.

All was going well, although I missed church on the first Sunday because I felt really ill with my cold.   Then on Monday I was reunited with my passport, things were looking better but .....   There was still the fall to come!  Coming out of the kitchen at Ratisbonne, a plate in each hand, I decided I could close the door behind me with one foot!   Don't laugh - it hurt!   How could I have imagined I could balance on one foot when I'm not usually safe on two.    Suddenly the marble  floor and I met with a huge thud - I don't know how I could possibly land on my left eyebrow causing a gash and a black eye, without breaking my glasses or the plates,and also do so much painful damage to my ribcage.   When I resort first to Paracetamol and then to CoCodamol you will  know it is painful!!!!!!!

I think you may be getting the idea why the blog has not been done before.  For those of you who have worried about me and prayed for me - thank you so much, but be assured that I am now well again  and I will do another update in a day or two.   Just for now,  beautiful words from the Mishkan T'Filah. a Jewish  Reform Siddur, prayer book, remembering particularly my own recovery not just from the cold and the fall, but from all that has gone before:

In my half sleep, O God,
in my yawning confusion,
I thank you with a croaking voice.

How strange and spectacular
the body You have granted me
and fill with awareness each morning. 

For tongue, tendon, teeth and skin,
for all the chemicals and connections
that make this collection of cells

into a being who can stand and sing,
who can seek Your love
and offer love in return,

for the mechanisms and mysteries
You have implanted within me
I will thank You

and set about the task of being human
as the sun rises
and my eyes begin to clear. 

May you also know the miracle of God's healing presence as He restores and rerfreshes you each day.  For more wonders read Psalm 139 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Thursday, 13th March

Another day of much needed rain, but rain which stopped play, well,  stopped prayer actually, for me anyway.  A member of Christ Church had planned a Prayer Walk round the gates of the Old City this evening, but I wasn't sure whether I would make the distance (probably not) and the heavy rain and more thunder clinched the decision.  I was sorry not to be there but sometimes we just have to be sensible. 

Friday, 14th March

No Torah Study today as the Synagogue was to be prepared for Purim.   I missed the group; although only a few of us, I find it really helpful to read the Torah portion for the week, and to hear it discussed by the members of the Synagogue and to hear their concerns about life at present here.
I spent time in the office and then returned to prepare for the special day, Shabbat, and the very special service to welcome Shabbat, and to start a new week with a clean slate,  followed  of course by erev Shabbat supper.

This reading from Mishkan T'filah is for savouring, meditating upon, and through it may you experience the peace of Shabbat.

Where has this week vanished!
Is it lost for ever?
Will I ever recover anything from it?
The joy of life, the unexpected victory,
the realized hope, the task accomplished?
Will I ever be able to banish the memory of pain, 
the sting of defeat, the heaviness of boredom?
On this day let me keep for a while what must drift away.
On this day let me be free of the burdens that must return.
On this day, Shabbat, abide.
Help me to withdraw for a while
from the flight of time. 
Contain the retreat of the hours and days
from the grasp of frantic life.
Let me learn to pause, if only for this day.
Let me find peace on this day.
Let me enter into a quiet world this day.
On this day, Shabbat, abide.
Whenever you read this, may you know the peace of Shabbat.
So here it is, Shabbat, the blanket of Divine peace enfolding all who long, all who yearn for this special relationship with Yah, one true God. 

I paused in the peace of the day to attend the Hebrew worship at Christ Church, a combination of fun worship for Purim with the children dressed in all sorts of costumes, the girls as Queen Esther; they performed songs, played instruments, then went out for their own time, whilst the adults had readings from the Book of Esther and a sermon.  Afterwards there was time for coffee and nibbles in the garden.  Then walkabouts for me and eventually back to Ratisbonne.
Back to Christ Church again for 9.30 Eucharist, this has truly become my spiritual home in Jerusalem!   Aaron preached and Owen celebrated.  The Gospel was John 3:1-17 and Aaron's thinking was that Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because he worked during the day.  I feel it's much more exciting to think that Nicodemus went at night because he couldn't sleep through longing to talk to Jesus.   Whatever, it was a good service, beautiful worship music as always, then lunch in the cafe. 
I spent the afternoon in the Coffee Shop with Lyn from America who was leaving Jerusalem  next day for adventures in other parts of Israel.  Very inspiring testimony and prayer ministry.   Today was the King of King's  worship at 5 p.m. in the Clal Building.  I had been a couple of times and wasn't sure it was for me.  It's a theatre setting, with band on stage, pretty upbeat music, etc.   But because Lyn was leaving next day and she wanted to go, I went along with her and by chance we met up with Hildegard a member of the Wednesday Bible srudy group..  What a difference in tonight's worship from that of other times.   It was beautiful and inspiring; the founder of King of Kings spoke about intercessional prayer in a most powerful way - it was such a blessing to be there.   We had a photograph taken which Lyn posted on Facebook:   a friend commented to me 'You look so happy' and, yes,  I am happier than I have been for a long, long while.  
A season is set for everything,
a time for every experience under heaven.
There comes a time in life when to get to where you have to go  -  if there are no doors or windows - you walk through a wall.  (Bernard Malamud)
The question today was whether we would have a Purim celebration, or St Patrick's Day - with a  new Irish friend, Breda,   it  had to be St Patrick's Day - no Guinness or Jamiesons though, but a good glass of Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon.  A  lovely evening to which each of us contributed a dish and a good time was had by all.  
Almighty God.
who in your providence chose your servant Patrick
to be the apostle of the Irish people:
keep alive in us the fire of the faith he kindled
and strengthen us in our pilgrimage
towards the light of everlasting fire;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.
Special day:  office in the morning and then a trek up to the French Hospital for Incurable Diseases to join with the Ratisbonne seminarians for a service of Taize for the patients.   A beautiful chapel and an inspiring time of worship.   Afterwards some quick shopping and then another special celebratory meal to prepare - will this week go on getting better, probably not this must  be the best.   Words for a special occasion:
My God I thank You for my life, body and soul;
For my name, my gender, my way of thinking and speaking.
Help me realize that I am something new,
someone who never existed before,
someone original and unique in the world.
For if there had even been someone like me,
there would have been no need for me to exist.
What a birthday prayer!
Bible Study at Christ Church to start the day, then a quick snack and back to the office for a Skype with Murray.  Will we ever get these fourteen applicants?  How I wish I knew the answer to that question, but I go on in faith.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Can it really be 9th March when I last wrote anything.   So much has happened and such a journey.  So much spirituality and self-revelation.

WEEK COMMENCIING 10TH MARCH - this was the week of answered prayer for rain, also the week of some missed appointments because of the rain.    How it rained  and thundered on some days but the rain is certainly needed - but was it enough.

Tuesday, 11th March:  Saw the film 'Nabraska' on Tuesday - this is the second film I have seen here and stayed awake.  Those who know me will my epitaph will be 'Fell asleep and missed the end'.  Although this film has a lot of humour, there was also a lot of pathos.  The main character, an old man thought by his nearest and dearest to be somewhat demented, was really a product of how life, and his family, had treated him.   It was so good to see how his son came through for his father in the end.  Catch it if you can, and be prepared for new insights into how people lives are affected and  can be damaged by those who are closest to them.    Please don't keep telling someone they're a fool and they could become one.   We are called to love, that is to cherish and respect all, from those closest to those we don't even know!  Supper with friends after the film ended the day with a real blessing.

Who does not hunger for friendship, understanding, warmth and love.
Let us loend strength to one another and pray for the welfare of this community.
Mishkan T'Filah

'This community' may be our own families.

Wednesday, 12 March:  Another inspiring morning at the Christ Church Women's Bible Study.  I've probably said before, but what a group this is - such testimony, so prayerful, such a sense of God's presence among us.  After that, back to business, a snack lunch finished by about 1.30 -  should be easy to get to the office for three o'clock Skype with Murray.   OOOOer.  It would be if there was a bus!  I don't do buses in England for this very reason.  The time spent at bus stops is huge.  Finally,
if I was to make that call it had to be a taxi.  And so taxi it was and  I made the call!  Murray is a great guy and it's a pleasure to be working with him.

Now the highspot of today was  to be a talk at Christ Church in the evening.  The topic was
'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' based on the Book of Esther on which the speaker took her PhD.
This also is the book of this weekend's big celebtration of Purim.  OOOps,  it all went wrong again.  Left the office about 5.30 ish, waited and waited and waited for the bus.  The rain pounded, the thunder rolled, and I decided that if a bus ever came I would go home to Ratisbonne.   So, I'm sorry but I never heard tht talk which I replaced with  a lovely phone call with my friend, Jan.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Today was all about worship and fellowship, about variety of worship and encouragement through fellowship. 

The morning started with 9.30 a.m. at Christ Church for Holy Communion.  The church was full as usual, lots of extra seats brought in.  The music was inspiring.  The preacher (don't know who he was) was very challenging, preaching on temptation, etc.   The celebrant, in the absence of David, the Pastor, was Don ? who I was told  is a senior person in CMJ.  He chatted with me after the service for a few moments and said I seem to be 'bedded in' at Christ Church.  I explained my position, and it made me wonder whether I should request Permission to Officiate before I return in May.  I would love to celebrate the Eucharist in this church.

Then it was coffee in the courtyard, and I spent time with visitors from America, two of whom, Jeanette and her daughter Rachel, came for lunch with me and others from Christ Church.  I had intended going up to Ecce Homo to pick up some papers but as I couldn't contact either Srs Trudy or Rita to find out for sure that they had the papers, and it was raining quite a lot, I went off with Gila, Ava and Beatrice to go to King of Kings in the Clal Building, a Messiah Centred Community. doing brilliant work as well as great worship.  Check them out on  Their 5.00 p.m (Israeli time) Sunday service is streamed on the web each week, so you can join in. 

By the time we left, the rain was so torrential that the roof of the building was leaking, but praise Yah for the rain!  Israel is nearly into drought mode - so hopefully it will rain for a good few days and all will be well.

I returned to Ratisbonne for the final worship of the day, and what a delight that was.   Some days ago I had received an email from the Ratisbonne Salesian Monastery next door (same building but  the other end) inviting me to a Taize service.   Well, if you know me well, you'll know how much I like Taize.  The chapel was beautiful, the candlelight peaceful, the music lovely,  so it made the perfect end to a good day. 

Bless the Lord my soul, and bless God's holy name.
Bless the Lord my soul, who leads me into lufe.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

A fairly normal day, but first working day of the new week, remembering that all that is past and confessed is forgiven.  So a new sheet and a time to pray for all that is to come and to go forward with this prayer on our hearts:

Days pass and the years vanish
and we walk sightless among miracles.
Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.
Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning,
illumines the darkness in which we walk.
 Help us to see, wherever we gaze,
that the bush burns, unconsumed.
And we, clay touched by God,
will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder,
“How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”
From Mishkan T'Filah: A Reform Siddur
May your days and the places where you are be filled with awe!
A good day for fellowship.  Got on the bus to go to the Old City and there in the front seat was Dave one of the Wardens from Christ Church  - someone to sit and talk with.  Lunch with Sr Rita and Sr Trudy at Ecce Homo in order to get some Amutah forms signed.  Also me some of their volunteers.  Then a long walk back - thought I knew where I was going but I think I took the 'long cut' instead of the 'short cut' again.  Finished the day with a  lovely supper with a friend, what a result, two real meals out  in one day.    Went home and phoned my friend Jan for a catch-up, a lovely conversation with someone I miss a lot - our  Tuesday prayer group is very special to me, and particularly Jan and Jacky who regularly come.
Women's Bible study group in the morning at Christ Church Vicarage.   I'm so glad I joined this group.  It's amazing the diversity of the members of the group:  Israeli born in the Old City and now a Christian, Russian now living in Israel, the youngest member was  born in Bethlehem now living in the Old City, Canadians, Biblical Hebrew and Arabic student on a visit from  Germany,  plus another person from Germany, Americans, a missionary from the Assemblies of God, born in Greece, lived many years in Kenya, retired nurse from the UK who has lived in Israel some 20+ years,  another English who has lived most of her life in Israel - such an experience to be part of so diverse a group.   We bring so many different aspects to our study.
This week's section of the book was entitled The Life of Faith, still continuing with Andrew Murray's 'New Life'.   Because Carol's away, Sulah, the Assemblies of God missionary led us with  fire and passion.   Each session starts with the complete reading of the previous week's piece  as Andrew Murray says everything should be read three times.   I  get asked to do that reading as they describe me as having a lovely clear English voice!   It makes me feel like a BBC newsreader!  A superb morning - such a warm welcome and such good fellowship. 
'Who does not hunger for friendship, understanding, warmth and love.
Let us lend strength to one another and pray for the welfare of this community'

From Mishkan T'Filah: A Reform Siddur
This wonderful group certainly fulfils those words.   Praise God that I can be with them!

Then back to the office - bus numbers different now so I waited a long time for something which was never going to come and then walked to another road and got one which was going to Emek Refaim.  That wasted about an hour!  But it wasn't really wasted, I felt the warmth of the sun, looked around at the beauty of the city, spoke to one or two people, and had time to reflect on the morning, on the buses, and on God's great goodness. 
PRAISE TO YOU, Adonai, our God, Sovereign of the universe,
who made me in the image of God.
PRAISE TO YOU, Adonai, our God, Sovereign of the universe,
who made me free.   

From Mishkan T'Filah: A Reform Siddur

Fairly standard day at the office - it's becoming normal now!  Then home via the supermarket - must remember that hill.  Why is the shower gel (only LARGE  size available), the body lotion (yes, LARGE again), the milk,  the potatoes, etc. all need replacing at once.  Beast of burden that I am I did manage to get it all home, but the hill and then three flights of stone steps outside ........ where's the oxygen?   I give thanks that I have all I need.
Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe,
who sanctifies us with Thy commandments
and commanded us to engross ourselves in the words of the Torah.
Jewish blessing for the study of Torah.

Already it's Friday morning again and time for the Torah Study Group at Kol HaNeshama.  A small but very welcoming group who have easily accepted me in their midst.  We have just lost one couple who have gone back to the States for work reason.   We meet to study the Torah portion, the parashah,  which will be chanted in the synagogue on shabbat each week.   Today's study was on Ex. 38:21-40:38 and if you visit you will find a commentary on the parashah for each week as well as a commentary on the Sunday Gospel.
After Torah Study, some pastries and coffee make up for missing breakfast and then it's back home to prepare for Shabbat,  a new start to a new week, a day to share with G-d, to love Him as He loves us.
Words from Rabbi Levi during every  Erev Shabbat service:
Deep breath.
Whatever happened this past week is part of the past.
Let go of the past week, offer it up.
A deep breath to receive the special Shabbat soul.
On the Shabbat the soul is renewed.
Wow!  And as if that's not enough, the service ends with a prayer for peace:
Source of peace, Ruler of peace,
grant peace to your people Israel
and let peace spread among all your creatures,
so that there may be no hatred, jealousy,
competition or victory among people.
Let there be only great love and peace among us all,
so that we may all gather together,
each with their fellow,
speaking to each other,
learning the truth from each other.
O G-d - You are peace and peace is from You (in Arabic)
Source of peace, bless us with peace, amen (Hebrew)
Let every breathing thing God's praises sing.
Sung over and over, in a huge crescendo.
Then supper Sabbath table talk, music and home to bed.
Here it is again, this wonderful Sabbath day!  Today I went again to the Hebrew congregation at Christ Church, and it was communion.  Great worship, very powerul communion.   Another hour long sermon, going all round the houses, many scripture quotes, and the catch phrase to the effect that we are individually responsible for our own calling and are not to go with the crowd but seek G-d's will for our own life.   It was though a good three hours and with a lot of people there. 
Then I had lunch at Christ Church coffee shop, went to get a gift for Jeremy for his graduation, and enjoyed being in the Old City before going home.
Back to my favourite church again for Communion, and I was asked to administer the chalice, that feels amazing in this place.   The congregation was smaller this week as there was a demonstration in the city centre and people thought there would be a lot of congestion, there were no buses  and so it made things difficult for many people.  The people demonstrating were the Jewish religious who spend time in study, do not work, and who find miliatary service conflicts with their beliefs and practices so they wish to be exempt.   After church I met several interesting people at coffee, visitors from America, some here as prayer guides short term, some just visiting.   The location of the church and its ministries draws visitors from worldwide. 
After lunch at CC Coffee Shop with the others, I went on a quest for a havdallah candle (lit at the end of Shabbat) which Maureena needed.   My expectation was that the old city would have  many choice of havdallah candle ...... uh, uh, not so.   My searching took me through lots of the tiny streets full of shopkeepers eager to sell but lacking havdallah candles.   I finally reached the Wailing Wall again, and spent time there in prayer and observation.   There was a big lorry from which was being unloaded lots of Police barriers.  It made me wonder whether they thought the demonstration might come there, but there was no sign when I left.   My only chance now for the candle was in the Jewish Quarter.   Well, I'd already been through part of the Muslim Quarter (bearing in mind it's Sunday, and what do priests oftem do on Sundays, they wear their clerical collars, and I was still wearing mine).
In one small shop I found THE CANDLE and a good conversation with the shopkeeper who was interested to know why I was here in Jerusalem, we talked about my difficulty with the Hebrew language, and  he showed me a beautiful product which is for teaching children the Hebrew letters, vowels and so on.   He was not the normal pushy saleman, all his stock was priced and it was a pleasure to share that conversation with mutual respect for each others beliefs.  Oh, and the other good outcome was the candle was perfect.
Then onward back to Jaffa Gate.  I stopped to look at my map at one point - big mistake in one way, but I was at  a junction, and according to shopkeeper David, twho just happened to pop out, this spot was the meeting point for the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.  We had a long conversation, his English was good, he showed the small Gideon Psalms and New Testament whifh he said he's reading.  We had a lot of common ground in our faith, but then came the offer of tea, and his jewellery collection - I wasn't buying, and I wasn't lost to begin with - my map and I can go anywhere together.   We parted amicably, and I was sorry to disappoint him - the street was deserted and it was late in the day. 
Onward towards home and that led me through the smart, modern Mamilla shopping centre.  It was bout 5.30 and I wondered whether to stop for a coffee or just head for home.  Well, the decision was made for me:  as I passed one of the larger shops, I saw two women waving and tapping the window- Gila and Ava from Christ Church.  Now I'm really beginning to become a local.  So I joined them for coffee and a chat.  That's the sort encounter that makes the difference - strangely it doesn't seem to happen  in WSM - different culture I suppose - or maybe I'm busy, or maybe people think I'm busy - something to think about.   Anyway I enjoyed the time with them, and spotted a women from the synagogue, who when I waved and said hello looked confused, and then I realised it was probably that collar again - I never wear it to synagogue.    So all in all a pretty good day.
The start of a week which was to be quite heavy.   A decision was awaited regarding the future of the program and I was poised with 'Press Release' and 'Exciting News' ready to go far and wide as appropriate  as soon as the green light comes on - but the green light would not come on without a Board meeting and the days were going by quickly.   Tense moments relieved by a falafel in the sun for lunch!
 Mark arrived yesterday from Australia.  He will be living at Ein Kerm, just outside Jerusalem, to study.   Mark was on the program last July so it was good to meet up with him again.  He had left some of his belongings in the Bat Kol office when he left last Auugust, so came to collect them.  Then we both went to an inspiring talk by Rabbi Sheldon Lewis-of Palo Alto, California, who mades a persuasive case for peacemaking as a core Jewish value in his new book entitled Torah of Reconciliation (Geffen Publishing House, 2012, and websiite  This was put on by the International Council of Christians and Jews (Religions for Peace), and I was surprised and very pleased to be greeted by Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish, the Director, who addressed me as 'Mrs Bat Kol'. and to be introduced to the speaker.  It assured me of the esteem in which Bat Kol Institute is held, and affirmed me also as already recognised as representing the Institute.     
I went home in the evening to find a letter from my friend, Betty;  letters from home are a great support.  I'm really happy here but sometimes when I get back in the evenings, UK seems an awful long way away!
Having put credit on my Skype the other day, Skype then found another £10 of credit which they had stored away for me because I hadn't used it.   So now I have a really good amount and can phone a friend, computer to phone, with no prolem at all.   Betty and I talked for a long while and it was good to catch up.
 How quickly the days ago, and here I am back at Christ Church again for another brilliant Bible study, this week on Satan - very appropriate for Ash Wednesday.   Once again thirteen people attended, some the same as last week and a few new faces.  Always a good two hours!
Then the office, and home - no decision from the Board yet. Came back to find a letter from Jan - good week for letters!
Suddenly the Board meeting was on for a Skype at 6 p..m. Israeli time.  A tense day, and then the green light as long as we have fourteen students by 27th March!  The pressures on, we only have nine but I have a press release and 'Exciting News from Bat Kol' document ready to go far and wide.
Missed a talk at Christ Church, entitled The Heart of the Father, due to the Skype meeting 
Toral Study group, then pastries and coffee, then office to start the major publicity campaign. 
I stayed until 2.30 but really it's difficult when so often emails no longer work because people have changed servers or there's a glitch in the address, but I'll keep at it. 
Then back home to prepare for erev shabbat.   I think I managed to get the last bus, at about 4.15 p.m.
The first day since I've been here that I did not go out.   To start, I overslept so couldn't go to the syagogue on Agron where there was a special service at 8.30 for International Women's Day and all the worship was to be led by women.   Just didn't get there!  Most of today was spent on emails and updating my  blog.  
I had quite a difficult day; amongst other things, Jeremy, my eldest son, graduated from Oxford today and it is the first major family event which I have ever missed.  I was so sorry not to be there, and so proud of Jeremy who completed a major part of the work during his curacy - a great achievement with everything else he has going on - I'm very proud of him, as would my dear Peter be.  

A good day in many ways because it was about meeting people and sharing fellowship.  

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Well,  you could say these were the days of testing.   A meeting on each day:  first the Academic Planning Committee on Sunday and then the Local Planning Team on Monday, both in the Bat Kol Office, both needing refreshments, etc.,  plus Sunday would be partly a Skype meeting with the Chair of the Board in Canada.   No pressure then ....... but just for the final test - Saturday and Sunday it rained, making shopping  without a car and without a Tesco/Asda more difficult.  Finally, all went well although I missed church on Sunday as it would have been too much pressure to fit everything in. 

We had two very good meetings with exciting plans in place ...... but, as I know so well already from my previous work, it all  comes down to money!  Difficulties to be addressed. 

However, having got to the end of the meetings, I was quite tired - I'm  not used to taking minutes now and these were outside of my normal domain but on Monday evening there was a lecture at the Van Lear Institute with the Bishop of the Lutheran Church speaking about the Palestinian Israeli Situation, and Debbit Weismann, President of the International Council of Christians and Jews responding.  It5 started at 6.30 pm so would not be a late night: I hit a wall around 5.30 - spirit willing, flesh weak.  I was back at the Ratisbonne Centre - should I stay here or should I strike out to walk to the Van Lear.   Yes, you've guessed: this was a one off so it had to be done and so off I went.  One wrong turning made me ten minutes late, but others arrived later so I didn't feel too bad about it!   The Bishop spoke from the heart, particularly as a Palestinian whose grandfather's home was now occupied by someone who would not even let him and his father look inside when they visited, telling him that the home was theirs now given them by the government.  He spoke of the grassroots need for education to address relationships, to teach children to accept and love others and lots more about mutual respect and understanding.  Ignoring the other person/faith/culture can be taken as incitement, disrespectful, marginalising. All are created in the image of God, and worthy of respect.  The Bishop apologised for Martin Luther's anti-semitism.  The message this evening was to combat all religious persecution and seek a non-vioent resolution which would lead to peace.  It would be necessary to work for peace based on justice.  2014 must be the year of peace.  Jerusalem is the Holy City for the three Abrahamic faiths and there must be free access for all.  The Bishop's belief  is that 'peace at gunpoint' is no peace at all. and that peace in the Middle East will start in Jerusalem.

Debbie Weisman, Orthodox Jew and President of ICCJ responded saying that as long as we believe in a living God we must have hope  She did not share the Bishop's optimism about education.  Dhe believes we are all engaged in the 'suffering sweepstake' - who suffers most?  Debbie feels Israel is being demonised and that this is not a lot different from demonisation of the Jews.  At present, countries in Europe are trhing to ban circumsision - a rite important to Jews and Muslims. Also ritual killing of animals which Debbie saw as putting animal rights over the faith rights of Jews and Muslims.  Surely, we should see the face of God in people, not in animals.  The way forward is to open up new ideas and new ways.  Debbie called for the Lutheran church to partner against anti-semitism and Islamophobia.

On a personal note, I found it encouraging that out of an attendance of around 50/60 people, I knew two and was able to chat for a moment afterwards.   Both were Sisters of Sion, one from Ecce Homo and the other living outside of community near the Van Lear.   Just a small sign of progress but a good one when I've started here with almost a blank sheet and really do need to make my way and build relationships.

My day for producing the Minutes of our two meetings, but just as I got into them, Natalie, my predecessor came to the office in urgent need of computer time to complete some important business, so I kicked my heels for quite a while, went to check our post box at the Post Office and to post a letter only to find the post box empty and the post office closed!

A good day, with women's Bible study group at Christ Church in the morning, then to the office to finish the minutes, followed by an ordination to the priesthood at St George's Cathedral, Owen the Deacon at Christ Church was to be priested. 

There were fourteen of us at Bible Study and one of the people was young woman who is volunteering at Christ Church and who is from Bath - two of us from Bath & Wells in the same Bible study group in Jerusalem!  After the group I made my way down to the office:  it was a lovely day so I decided to walk thinking I knew a shortcut.   No, I think it was more like a longcut but I got there eventually and worked from 1.30 until 4.00 thinking an hour was plenty of time to get to the cathedral which is the far side of the Old City.   Wrong!!!!!!!!!!!   Waiting 20 minutes without any sign of the right bus I finally gave up and went for the taxi option, not easy as I didn't have enough cash and the taxi driver didn't take cards.   He was very helpful, taking me to a cash point, ducking round the traffic, and for about £10 (ouch) I was there in plenty of time.   There were very few people when I arrive but  even then I found that I knew one person.   Eventually the cathedral filled up.   I was given an order of service in English, but mostly everything was in Arabic, including the readings, and chapter and verse were not given for these in the order of service.   The first hymn  we sung as a processional was 'All hail the power of Jesus' name' in Arabic to a tune totally unknown to me.   Not the best start.

Most of the service was in Arabic, including the Liturgy of Ordination, but it was printed in full on my English order of service.  As I read thesse words, I must say I was challenged as to why I am here and why I have laid aside that great commitment, but I know without doubt that I am here in response to a 'calling' and await the further development of that calling.

As the service started and the choir of quite young children processed, I suddenly spotted with them another woman priest from Bath & Wells - two people from the diocese in one day.  I tried to find her after the service at the reception/refreshments but couldn't do so.   Then I met Linda who is volunteering at Christ Church, and she told me that she spoke in a church in WSM last year about the work of CMJ. 


Day in the office, finishing the minutes, and preparing for a finance meeting tomorrow with Sr Philomena, Chair of the Finance Board.


Good input today with two Shabbat Shalom emails - one from Anne in Ireland and the second from Jacky at St Peter's.   These are my two most important emails of the week.   They both keep me together with the communities I belong to:  Jacky's with my parish, and Anne's with my dear Class of 2013 friends.   Long may the messages continue.

Today I couldn't go to Torah Study because of needing time for  final preparation for the Finance meeting.  After lunch I was  going  to Ein Kerem, a Sion community just outside Jerusalam,  with Maureena and Natalie to meet with Sr Philomena who  is going to work out a budget for July, with less students, and to work out whether sufficient funds are available and if not, where the extra funding will come from ...... all seems a bit like ChA+ to me but on a bigger scale!  No one works to find any  money in!!!!!!!!!!!  Please pray for both Bat Kol and ChA+ as we each seek funding in order to stay afloat.  Also consider how you might be able to support one or both in their difficult financial situations.

Then the time of Shabbat, worship at the synagogue followed by erev shabbat meal.  The synagogue, Kol HaNeshama, was full again with visitors from various countries,  and tonight they were giving cds of their worship music to visitors - this is great to have as I love the music and can now learn it properly so I can join in better. Kol HaNeshama  is an active and vibrant centre for Progressive Judaism  in Jerusalem, and very welcoming.


Much as I could have wrapped myself in the Shabbat peace at Ratisbonne, I had made a plan for the day, and how amazing that turned out.   First stop was Christ Church for the Messianic service which I had been told started at 10 a.m -  wrong 10.30 a.m. and a bit!  Then it continued until 13.15, not too bad I suppose with a 1 hour sermon on the Beatitutdes followed by an altar call!  The church was full, the worship music beautiful, the prayers powerful, but the sermon - not sure! 

Afterwards I went to the Coffee Shop for cake and coffee before my trip to the Wailing Wall.  I had during the past week quite a few prayer requests from the UK and knowing that one person particularly had Jewish connections, I was asked to go to the Wall and pray for her there and of course put the document in the crevice.   This I did.and what a time it was.  Many  women of all ages were there,  schoolgirls and young women alone or with friends, young mothers with their children - some teaching really small children how to behave  incluidng how to walk backwards from the wall, then older women and very old ones.  There were very few men on their side. The air was thick with spirituality - the Jews believe that the Divine Presence, the Shekinah, dwells at this place of this remainiing Temple Wall - I believe the Divine Presence dwells at all times and in all places in His creation - but there can be no doubt the area of the Wall is very special.   I had written all my prayer requests on a small piece of paper before coming but it was quite difficult because of numbers to get close enough to touch the wall and find a crevice to place the paper.   However, I managed, and it was a very special moment.  I then sat a bit back from the wall for probably at least half an hour, praying and watching .

Entrances to holiness are everywhere.
The possibility of ascent is all the time,
even at unlikely times and through unlikeky places.
There is no place on earth without the Presence
Mishkan T'filah, A Reform Siddur page 145

Next stop for me was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.   Too many people and too ornate for me, but I got mixed up with a group who were making a candlelit pilgrimage around the church, led by a number of priests/brothers so before I knew quite what was happening I was given a service book and a candle, and realised I also was part of this.   The book was in four languaes incluidng Latin, but it was difficult for me to follow even the Latin,   Anyway it was a beautiful experience which lasted about an hour and ended in a side chapel where the Reserve Sacrament was removed from the tabernacle but no mass took place.  All quite amazing.   Then the long walk back to Ratisbonne (still Shabbat and so no buses).  My intewntion was to pick up some pizza from the little shop along the way back, but I was too early and they were not open, so supper was a sardine salad - not as good as pizza!


Today my plan was to attend Christ Church Communion, have lunch in the Coffee Shop, then come back home, and finally perhaps go to King of Kings at Clal Centre at 5 p.m.   I almost didn't get to Christ Church as my time was wrong on my mobile phone which doubles as the alarm clock.  However, with a rush and no breakfrast I managed to get there with a little time to spare and how glad I was that I did.  As I went in David, the Rector, asked me if I would administer a chalice - wow! that was as good as the first time I was asked if I would like to be a chalice assistant at St Peter's.  The church was packed with a variety of nationalities, and I had the same feeling as I get at Christmas Midnight Mass - this was such a special time for many of the people who received the sacrament - how would God touch each of them at this particular service?  An awesome privilege, and an affirmation for me especially following the wobbly I had been experiencing since Owen's ordination.  It was a beautiful service with David preaching on Lev. 19:1-19 and Matt. 5:38-48 - the road to holiness, discipleship, service - we are called to strive  be holy and the way is to imitate Christ as he imitated the Father, so we are to learn of his life, follow his teaching and become true disciples.

After the service the coffee queue in the courtyard was huge, it seemed that almost everyone stayed.  One of the visitors was a Bishop from Ghana with his wife.  They had been in Israel for nine days, funded by their link parish in the UK, and today was their last day before returning home.  I spoke to them afterwards and his wife, Carole, told me of their worship being 3 or 4 hours long with drums and other instruments, and dance but she said it never seemed to be that long.   That's how it is at
Christ Church  where it it always  hours - it just doesn't seem that long!  How can we ever time worship?  But we do! and I believe we shouldn't!

Then it was off to the cafe with a few of the congregation for a 'proper' lunch - cottage pie, potatoes, a selection of vegetables, and of course salad.   This is one of probably only two 'proper' meals a week - it's difficult to be very creative with four gas burners and a microwave!  I do miss my George Foreman.    After lunch the others left and I stayed in the coffee shop for a cappucino and to check my emails.  Just as I was about to leave I got into conversation with some American women who had been at the service, and as we talked I was amazed to bump into the woman from Bath and Wells who  I had seen at the cathedral on Wednesday and then couldn't track down after the service.   Her name is Caroline and she is chaplain at a school in Bath and also is at St Stephens, Bath.  So there we were,  the B & W contingent in Jerusalem:  Sheri the young volunteer at Christ Church, Caroline and myself!

By then  I decided that was enough for one day and returned to Ratisbonne to watch the King of Kings  service at the Clal Centre on the internet - not good though as it was rather jumpy. 

What a wonderful week, and what a good start to the next week.  I thank God that I have the privilege of being here, for all that is happening and for each person who has helped to make it happen - all of us  part of God's amazing plan! 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Another long time without an update, due to laptop problems but what a time of discovery, amazing peace, and some revelation. 

MONDAY, 3re  Start of the week and I went to the postbox to collect Bat Kol post.  Imagine my surprise to find an envelope addressed to me, without looking too carefully I put it in my bag, thinking it was from  a friend in the UK and looking forward to opening it at the office.  Even bigger surprise when I did:  it was from a woman in Australia who has twice studied on the Bat Kol Program, and who was sending me a message of thanks for my being there, words of encouragement, and a donation of the work of Bat Kol!  Wow, what a start to the week.  As the week continued things were good.


WEDNESDAY, 5th I attended the Women’s Bible Study at Christ Church Rectory for the first time.  It’s led by Carol, wife of David, the Pastor, and we were a group of twelve, some resident Israelis and others from America, Canada,Germany,  UK, dropping in and out  like I am.   We are studying a book by Andrew Murray called New Life edited by Carol to make it more usable for people for whom English is not their first language.   and then to the big moments – eve of Sabbath, Sabbath meal and the day itself – Shabbat.


FRIDAY, 7th  starts with Torah study at the synagogue, then most of the rest of the day is preparation for Sabbath.  and then to synagogue,  How I  wish I could record the synagogue worship to welcome the Sabbath on Friday evening, and the spirituality and joy of the Erev Shabbat meal after synagogue.  Table fellowship in which whole families share  and at which Sabbath candles glow,  wine and bread are blessed, reflections on the Parashat (the Torah portion for the week) are shared and  songs are sung.  In this combination of light, wine, bread, music, Torah and fellowship,   our Christian eucharistic worship becomes home worship in the Sabbath meal.   An amazing time.

Then Shabbat itself:

SATURDAY, 8th  The Sabbath peace, the silence. Oh, how I wish I could bottle it  and send it to you - it is phenomenal!    As I sat in my room, I was enveloped in a blanket of  divine  stillness which is  tangible, apart from the occasional birdsong everything was so still and so beautiful. There was a great temptation to remain there in the silence of my room, . but I felt the sunshine was for enjoying  and maybe this was a good day to visit the Old City again.  There’s not been much time for this :   the days speed  by as  during the week  I go down to the office Monday - Thursday for part of the day, Wedneday morning is Women's Bible Study Group at Christ Church and then Friday morning is Torah Study Group at the synagogue and the rest of the day is spent preparing for Shabbat.   So when Saturday was  really bright, but fairly cold it seemed it would be good to be out and about.. Decisions, decisions.

I set off and when I reached Jaffa gate, it was time for coffee and cake in the Christ Church Coffee shop.  I spent quite a while there – it was  quite busy with mainly foreign tourists.  Tthen in came a man I had seen just along the street a bit earlier.   He looked homeless,  he was dirty, he looked old and he had a problem with one of his feet.  In the street, he had been sitting on the ground, one shoe and sock off perhaps waiting for his foot to be healed.   He had nothing  in the Coffee Shop but just sat in a leather armchair in the corner, and no one took any notice of him, they were all busy with their own needs, their own group , no time for the stranger,  neither the dirty old man or any other stranger.  Just like him, I sat alone, were we invisible?   What made us invisible – it would have been so easy to say it was his dirty eccentricity but I don’t think it was that – I wasn’t dirty, didn’t look particularly eccentric, but we were both ignored.  Anyway, it was a time for reflection and then a time of decision to send him a cup of coffee just to let him know that someone noticed him.  Perhaps it would have been better  to give him the two shekels than a cup of cappuccino, but again perhaps not.   The result of my reflection?   Look out for the invisible people in your day and decide what makes them so and what you can do to make a difference to their day – it might not require you  to buying them coffee – a smile or a nod might be just as effective or even more so.

My plan for the day then was to make a pilgrimage up the Via Dolorosa – but spirit willing and flesh weak!   The old city was very busy and as I looked up the first  steep narrow street, thronging with people and with traders each side,  all wanting to sell something (or everything), I decided it was not for me on this partcular day.   I took the easy option and sat in the square just inside Jaffa Gate, people-watching and how fascinating that was!    Groups of various denominations of Judaism  identified  by clothing, hat, hair, prayer tassles and so on, each outstandingly  declaring their faith and mingling in their city with many nationalities.  What a delight.   Then it was time for the longish walk back, and imagine how good it felt to meet someone I actually knew – Deborah from Christ Church - who was with two friends, and I could walk with them for a while.  When I left them I found a short cut through the park – this is really feeling  like being a local now!

SUNDAY, 9th I went to Christ Church again, and was quite early so had time to listen of the music practice.  A few minutes before the start of the service David asked me if I would read the Old Testament lesson.  It was Isaiah 58:1-12 and how ChA+ it was!  Look it up and you’ll see what I mean!   If you’re a member of the ChA+ team I’m sure it will touch your heart and fire you up yet again for the great mission God has given each of us.      Right in the front was the young volunteer from the coffee shop  who was ‘go between’ to  deliver my offering of coffee to the old man the day before … 

The church was full, but at coffee afterwards one lady told me that the regular congregation is only about 30 so all the others are visitors.  I met several different people again at coffee  and joined a few other women for lunch.  Then afterwards  I was again the lonely person in the coffee shop!   It was my choice  and part of my social experiment -  I could have started a conversation with someone …. but someone could have started a conversation with me also.   Keep on looking out for the invisible people wherever you are!

MONDAY.10th  Sad news this week of the death of ‘little Sandra’ longterm member of St Peter’s – it’s times like this when I feel  far away, also later in the week hearing of the collapse and hospitilisation of Andrew Williams of the Life shop in WSM.  So lots of prayers there and of course for  all I know and love.  

But there are many good happenings – Jacky (St Ps) and Anne (class of 2013) who regularly send uplifting Shabbat Shalom messages which are eagerly awaited, a letter from Betty, things which are really important and helpful as 'boosters'.   Wonderfully helpful also, a long Skype with Ruth and Jeremy, finishing about midnight Israeli time, as Jeremy made great efforts to rectify my laptop faults by remote access – praise the Lord for clever son and patient daughter-in-law. That I’m writing this is a tribute to Jeremy’s achievement!   Hope Rebekah’s better now and that her RE exam went well.

TUESDAY, 11th   Great day!   Belated birthday party for one of the Ecce Homo sisters:  first a visit to the cinema to watch ’12 years a slave’, a horrific, painful true story  which leaves you speechless, then back for a lovely supper  -  I’m part of the family now so catering was a joint effort so I’m feeling really at home!  A super time.

The regular events of the week, CC Bible Study, Torah Study, Erev Shabbat have all been good.  Besides those happenings, quite a bit of my time has been prepation for the first meeting of the Academic Planning Committee which will be on Sunday afternoon.   Prayers please for that folks,  the Chair of the Board is joining us on Skype from  Canada.   Then we have a staff meeting on Monday morning.  

SATURDAY 15th   Having had a beautiful  time of spirituality, prayer and fellowship this week (oh, and work), I am now enjoying my Sabbath rest, doing something I’ve longed to do which is to bring my blog up to date but have lacked time, technology and energy to do.  So here I am, wrapped in that divine blanket of peace, listening to favourite music like The Fragance of Christ, Avenu Melkeinu, Le col ish yesh shem, Kineret, and much more, often  remembering but always looking forward to all that is to come, certain that :

You are with us in our prayers, our love and our doubts,

in our longing to feel Your Presence and do Your will.

You are the still clear voice within us.

Therefore, O God, when doubt troubles us,

when anxiety makes us tremble,

when pain clouds the mind,

we look inward for the answer to our prayers.

There may we find You,

and there find courage, insight and endurance.

And let our worship bring us closer to one another,

that all Israel, and all who seek You,

may find new strength for Your service.

Baruch ata, Adonai, HaMelech hakadosh

Praised are You, Adonai, Holy Sovereign.

  From  Mishkan T’filah – A Reform Siddur
Don't forget to visit the Bat Kol website,,  for full details of  Bamidbar (the Book of Numbers) this July's course - its not too late to apply and it is unique, and inspirational. Also visit the BatKol Institute page on  Facebook.   If you would like any information from me about Bat Kol, about the course, or how it was for me last July, please email: