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Short Hops: Bethelehem, Visiting Church, and Prayer – Shawna R. B. Atteberry
Jul 232007
 

At God’s Politics Becky Garrison interviewed Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian pastor. He is the senior pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Christian Church in Bethlehem.

The conflict in Gaza is a very difficult one. People now are convinced that we are dealing with so much politics, but there is no concern for the “polis,” for the city and community … and that there is too much religion in Palestine and yet too little spirituality. We have too many peace-talkers and only a few peacemakers. Our mission is therefore about caring for the community not through words but deeds. Our mission is to introduce a different kind of spirituality that gives people room to breath. Here at our center we show the potential for our people and country in a way that people can touch with their own hands. It’s all about giving a foretaste of the kingdom to come here and now and in the midst of a difficult context.

In Razzmatazz or Ragamuffins two non-Christians have been paid to visit churches in Toronto. Here are some of their thoughts:

The paid church visitors also made a stop at the Sanctuary, a downtown congregation with deep involvement in the community—particularly with the homeless and poor. The Sanctuary provides free meals and cloths as well as medical care to those in need. One visitor’s first impression was telling:

I could tell then and there we had found what this experiment was set out to accomplish, a church that saw past the money, power and the heighten sense of moral superiority that we have grown accustomed to. Charity, real charity. About time.

He continues…

I was floored, for close to a month now I have been told of all the wonderful things the Christian church provides without any physical evidence of its truth, but here it is, in the flesh. I have to smile, we have traveled to the city’s massive churches where thousands worship and yet we find what we are looking for in a turnout of 35 on Sunday.

This is the only Church where the majority of time, finances and energy is NOT spent on the Sunday service. At Sanctuary, it actually would have been unfair to only score them on their Sunday service, the smallest part of what they do.

At Theolog’s Blogging Toward Sunday, William Willimon wonders why the prayers we pray in church are so different from the way Jesus taught his followers to pray.

In most churches I visit, a time of prayer is often preceded by a time of “Joys and Concerns.” I notice that in every congregation, the only concerns expressed are concerns for people in the congregation who are going through various health crises. Prayer becomes what we used to refer to as “Sick Call” in the army. Where on earth did we get this idea of prayer? Not from Jesus. He healed a few people from time to time, but he doesn’t pray for that. He prays for the coming of God’s kingdom, for bread (but only on a daily basis, not for a surplus) and for forgiveness for our trespasses. It’s curious that physical deterioration has become the contemporary North American church’s main concern in prayer. Jesus is most notable for teaching that we are to pray—not for recent gall bladder surgery—but for our enemies!

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