On Sunday morning I worshiped at Christ Church which is just around the corner from my hotel. This is the local evangelical Protestant church, and gathers a wide variety of Christians. The church is actually associated with the Anglican Church (Episcopalian in the U.S.), and many Episcopalian churches have a liberal bent, but this one started as a mission to share the gospel with the Jewish people, and retains that founding thrust. The original name of the Anglican missionary society was “The London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews”, not exactly a marketing tool kind of name. But, in 1809, when the mission society was started, they didn't worry about such things. Its founders included prominent evangelical leaders from England such as William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon, and a Jewish Christian Joseph Frey. In 1838 Britain opened the first consulate in Jerusalem, and the ruling Turks would only allow Christ Church to be built within the British Consular residence, which is why it sits right inside the Jaffa Gate of the old city.
The music during the worship service was very similar to what we do, one hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and a series of more contemporary Christian songs. This was the must emotionally moving time for me since I have been here, being able to sing songs to my Lord here in Jerusalem. And the singing was robust, good participation from the congregation, and good leadership from the worship team. The preacher was good. With his British accent he reminded me of a young John Stott, author of many books including “The Cross.” And when I thought of John Stott I thought of hearing him in Urbana, Illinois on the University of Illinois campus where I was attending a missions conference, Urbana 79.
Urbana 79 was the place where the Lord helped me overcome my fear of becoming a pastor. Up until that time one of my great fears, and one of the reasons I resisted going into the ministry was because it always seemed to me growing up that the people sitting in the congregation I attended were rather passive in responding to the biblical message of the gospel. At Urbana 79 I meditated much on Isaiah 55:10, 11 - “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to t without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” At that time I decided that if the Lord was calling me to become a pastor or a missionary it was not my job to worry about the results. My job was, and is, to simply be faithful to what Scripture teaches, to proclaim what it says, and to leave the results with God. It works better that way anyway.
The worship service was good, but the liturgy was too long and the preaching was merely long (I won't say too long because I don't want to implicate myself). The main problem for me was that instead of ending with a song they added on a communion service. I know some people like communion every week, but this confirmed my belief that, (for my personal tastes) it is an add on at the end of the service that primarily lengthens the service, and I continue to retain the belief that it is a better use of worship time to make communion a special occasional event rather than doing it every week. If you think differently that is fine and we can be brothers and sisters. We each have our own inclinations, which is why there are so many different kinds of churches to choose from! But, other than that very minor thing, the worship service was a spiritual highlight of the trip so far.