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Plans to reopen St Peter’s, Jaffa, put on hold

12 April 2024

The Anglican church closed during the Arab-Israeli war in 1948

Creative Commons

St Peter’s, Jaffa, pictured in 2013

St Peter’s, Jaffa, pictured in 2013

PLANS to reopen St Peter’s, Jaffa, an Anglican church closed during the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, have been put on hold indefinitely. But its ministry, including interfaith work, continues, the parish priest, the Revd Kevin Cable, has said.

Plans to reopen the church were announced in 2021. Work began on renovating the church building and grounds for a new worshipping community, after repeated requests for an Anglican presence in the area from residents and expats (News, 12 November 2021). Mr Cable, a CMS mission partner, was commissioned by the Archbishop in Jerusalem, Dr Hosam Naoum, during a service in St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem.

The hope was to reopen the church at the end of 2022 or early in 2023. But, in a CMS newsletter issued last July, Mr Cable reported that, while much had been done on the grounds of the church, and in building local relationships, it had not been possible to move forward with the building restoration, owing to “the ongoing legal issues surrounding the project”. Discussions with the diocese of Jerusalem had concluded that there was “no likelihood of the church building renovations beginning in the immediate future”.

Mr Cable wrote: “The amount of time spent on the situation with the church building, cemeteries, and other related issues was reaching a point that it was significantly impacting the time we had to continue our important work of strengthening the Anglican presence and working with our Christian neighbours to serve our local community.”

In the absence of a restored church, the congregation had been meeting at the Beit Immanuel Centre, Jaffa, a guest house owned by the Israel Trust for the Anglican Church (ITAC). ITAC is affiliated with GAFCON, and Mr Cable is a serving priest in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

In the newsletter, Mr Cable reported that the diocese of Jerusalem and CMS had agreed that forming a partnership with the Anglican Christ Church, in the Old City of Jerusalem, a church administered by ITAC, would be a “good fit”. Christ Church was “working autonomously in Israel”, but also “fully part of the diocese of Jerusalem”. While the congregation would remain part of the diocese, as a “daughter church” of Christ Church, its name would change. It is now known as Christchurch Jaffa.

Speaking earlier this month, he said that ministry in Jaffa was “going well”. He and his wife, Jen, had returned to the city in February, after relocating to Jerusalem for five months to help to support people displaced by the war in Gaza.

“A number of our congregation left the country, along with many foreign nationals; but we maintained our worship, prayer life, and fellowship online,” he said. “We returned to Jaffa in February, and things are picking up again here despite the ongoing situation. Our Little Lambs parent-and-child group actually had a list of people waiting for us to reopen when we returned, and we were greatly encouraged by that.” The largest cohort in the congregation was students.

Easter celebrations had been “subdued”, he said. “However, we were delighted to be joined at our Easter vigil by the local Reform Rabbi and members of his congregation, who had come to watch the Easter liturgy and to see how we celebrated Easter.”

Interfaith relations were “especially important,” he said. “In this difficult time, these connections help us all to stand together, and to support one another in these challenging times.”

This week, Dr Naoum’s Chaplain, Canon Donald D. Binder, said: “Unfortunately, the present devastating war has stopped all movement on the renovations of the church, as keeping our Ahli Hospital (News, 16 November 2023) open has become our central focus, as well as dealing with the ripple effects from the polarised situation here.” The diocese remained “hopeful to eventually move forward with St Peter’s renovation and reopening”.

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