AN ANGLICAN church in Israel is to reopen for worship for the first time in more than 70 years.
St Peter’s, Jaffa, was closed during the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and until recently had been lying damaged and disused. In September, work began on renovating the church building and grounds for a new worshipping community, after repeated calls from local people and expats for an Anglican presence in the area.
The church will be led by the Revd Kevin Cable, who was formally welcomed and commissioned by the Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Hosam Naoum, during a service in St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, in May.
Fr Cable, who was previously Vicar of St Katharine’s and St Nicholas’s, Southbourne, in Winchester diocese, felt called to St Peter’s while leading a parish pilgrimage to Israel in November 2018 with his wife, Jen. The couple underwent a process of discernment with the former Archbishop, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, whose father served on the St Peter’s vestry before its closure.
Fr Cable and his wife relocated in September after spending three months in Jerusalem adapting to life in the Holy Land and learning Hebrew.
He said on Wednesday: “We had sold practically everything we owned in the UK and so arrived in Israel [during the recent conflict] with just six suitcases to our name. In every sense, we knew as we began the ministry here that we were joining the diocese in a time of complete renewal and rebirth for this church building and the Anglican presence in Jaffa.”
Fr Cable has been working with a team of volunteers from the diocese, community, and embassy staff near by in Tel Aviv, to begin clearing overgrown vegetation, debris, and rubbish accumulated in the grounds over decades, and to form working parties to shape and tidy the garden.
“All of the windows of the church are currently broken through vandalism and pigeon strikes over the years, which has allowed the said pigeons to enter the church in large numbers, nest there, and cause damage. The windows will all be replaced with toughened glass to prevent further damage from the pigeons and vandalism.”
Fr Cable and his wife, Jen
The church office at the back of the building will be the first area to be repaired in full, including a small kitchen and lavatory to allow for meetings. This first phase is expected to cost about £37,000 of the estimated £260,000 needed to complete the project, for which the diocese of Jerusalem is currently seeking donations. Future phases will include replacing the electrics, external roof repairs, removing the original ceiling (which is beyond repair), professional cleaning and restoration of the interior, new furniture, and attention to the exterior stonework.
The hope is for the church to reopen at the end of 2022 or early in 2023. In the mean time, weekly Saturday worship and Bible study for the newly formed congregation — mostly residents and Anglican diplomats from embassies in Tel Aviv — has begun at the Beit Immanuel Centre, Jaffa, since last month. (Sunday is a working day in Israel.) Midnight mass is due to be held at Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Besides nurturing a new congregation, Fr Cable, who is already a chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers, has been tasked with ministering to the large diplomatic community in Tel Aviv, and to seafarers in the ports of Jaffa and Ashdod. “The parish will also, in conjunction with Mission to Seafarers, seek to establish a Christian Chaplaincy in the nearby port of Ashdod,” he said.
“With our new Archbishop, and our diocesan family here, I believe the reopening of St Peter’s represents a unique opportunity to enrich the Christian community here, and to work alongside all of our neighbours as we all seek to work for peace and reconciliation. Much prayer is needed, and we would invite you to commit the ministry here to your prayers, and, if you feel so called, to consider supporting us financially.”
Archbishop Naoum said: “We are excited about the reopening of St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Jaffa for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Jaffa-Tel Aviv metropolitan area. We ask for your prayers and support for Fr Kevin and Jen Cable as they work at building up the congregation there and raising funds for the remaining renovations of the historic church building.”