An extravagant welcome awaits at Bethany Beyond the Jordan
Photo by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
Along the banks of the Jordan River, at Bethabara, Jordan, sits a church where people of the United Church of Christ and beyond can come to visit, to meditate and to reflect. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the United Church of Christ Church Building and Loan Fund to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, visitors from Protestant traditions now have a house of worship to call their own at Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan is the location where John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. The baptism of Christ is celebrated this year on Sunday, Jan. 11.
Church Building & Loan Fund sent the $10,000 grant in December to make sure the grant arrived before Christmas. The money helped support the final cost of construction, which began in 2012 and wrapped up in January 2014.
“It’s an international project, connected to the UCC, and an important message that we stand with our Christian brothers and sisters in parts of the world where being a church is difficult,” said the Rev. Patrick Duggan, CB&LF executive director.
The view from the roof of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Photo by The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
“It’s a congregation where the Evangelical Lutheran Church can shine a light to the world at the site of Jesus’ baptism,” said Peter Makari, UCC area executive for the Middle East and Europe. “Visitors to Bethany Beyond the Jordan come from a variety of traditions—there are already Orthodox churches there—and now this is a place where people can visit and feel that it’s theirs and identify with it.”
The ELCJHL inaugurated the church and pilgrim center at Bethany Beyond the Jordan one year ago, on Jan. 6, 2014. The land was donated by the king of Jordan, King Abdallah II, to be used as a site for a church.
After a long and intense period of construction, the church and other surrounding buildings were completed, and the location was transformed into a pilgrimage site on the map of holy and historic places in Jordan.
“All of this could not have been accomplished without the support from our many partners and friends who have chosen to accompany us in our witnessing for Jesus Christ in the Holy Land and strengthening Arab Christianity as an integral part of its fabric [in] society,” said Lutheran Bishop the Rt. Rev. Munib Younan, who presided over the dedication service last year.
CB&LF provides a range of loan and grant services for UCC and non-UCC churches, and organizations that advance its mission, which is to advance the church through church-building projects.
“We get three or four requests a month from all over the planet—India, places in Africa, South America,” Duggan explained. “In this case, I had a conversation with Peter to get a sense of the challenge [of building that church]. Having a UCC person on the ground there, who can speak to the [character of] people, the leadership of the church, that’s an important measurement for our decision-making.”
Said Makari, “The church’s presence is an invitation to visit and connect in the Middle East, to learn about our witness there.”
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