When the Anglican Journal recently caught up with the Rev. Robert Camara, he was hard at work writing his sermon for the first-time observance of Jerusalem Sunday on June 1. “I’m planning to weave in Jerusalem Sunday with the Ascension, which we’re also marking. It shouldn’t be too difficult to tie them together, but I’m not quite there yet,” said the rector of St. George’s Anglican Church in Chateauguay, Que.
St. George’s will be honouring the new date in the liturgical calendar with special prayers and the singing of the hymn “Jerusalem the Golden,” as well as a special monetary offering, which Camara and a dozen parishioners will personally deliver to Bishop Suheil Dawani in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem on a pilgrimage in late June. The parish hall will host a photographic, educational and video display.
In the parish of Pasadena/Cormack, diocese of Western Newfoundland and Labrador, the Sunday bulletin will feature a special insert explaining the origin and intent of Jerusalem Sunday and including special prayers written for the occasion by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Dean Peter Wall of the diocese of Niagara. “Although there hasn’t been much lead-in, our rector, worship committee and vestry have been very receptive about marking Jerusalem Sunday,” said Cynthia Haines-Turner, a licensed lay minister and the national church’s deputy prolocutor. “We will also encourage donations to the Penman clinic.” (Run by the Jerusalem diocese, the Zababdeh-based health-care facility serves thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.)
At the opposite end of the country, St. George’s Anglican Church in Cadboro Bay, B.C., on Vancouver Island, is gearing up to mark the new observance. “We’ll follow the liturgical recommendations issued by General Synod and shape our observance around the eucharist,” said the Rev. Austin Spry, curate, who will lead the celebration in the absence of the church’s pastor, Canon Dr. Richard LeSueur. Chair of the Canadian Companions of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, LeSueur’s currently leading a pilgrimage in Ireland.
The customary homily will cede the pulpit to a presentation on Jerusalem by Deborah Neal, keeper of the Companions’ database and former administrative assistant to Bishop Dawani in Jerusalem.
On the mainland, in North Vancouver, parishioner Janet Morris will speak about Jerusalem Sunday and her three-time personal experience of the city at the 8 a.m. service of St. Catherine’s, Capilano, and again later at the Church of the Epiphany in Surrey.
In central Canada, St. Paul’s on-the-Hill, Pickering, Ont., has been educating parishioners about Jerusalem over the past several months. “We’ve been building awareness around the importance of praying for peace and reconciliation in the entire area of Syria, Lebanon and Israel, and for those in the refugee camps of Jordan and Turkey,” said Canon Kim Beard, senior pastor and priest, who has just returned from a 17-member pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
This year, St. Paul’s will limit its special observance to prayers since Jerusalem Sunday coincides with 20 confirmations and three baptisms, planned for more than a year. “For obvious reasons, we’ll focus on these, but we’ll include prayers for peace and for the church in the Middle East,” Beard said. Nor will this year’s service include a special collection. “That’s not because we don’t support Jerusalem but because this comes at a time when we are already heavily committed to an orphanage in Kenya, a water purification project in Ethiopia, a children’s ministry in Tanzania and other partnerships with churches around the world,” he said. “But next year we may be able to do something more concrete.”
The emerging consensus seems to be that despite promotion by the national church and a general receptiveness at the parish level, it will take a few years to get the new observance up and running. “Honestly, I would suspect that when we speak about this on Sunday, it will be the first time some people have heard about it,” conceded Haines-Turner. [General Synod’s 2013 resolution set aside the seventh Sunday of Easter, commonly known as the Sunday after the Ascension, as a day to learn about the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the challenges faced by Christians in the Holy Land. A special collection is requested for that diocese’s ministries in education, reconciliation, health care and hospitality.]
Camara agreed, noting that in some parishes, he’s heard people ask just what Jerusalem Sunday is. “Because this is the first time, I expect it will serve as a primer for what will come in the future,” he said. “But as it becomes an established Sunday, parishes with other commitments to funding and support will be able to plan for it.”
Getting back to his sermon for Sunday, Camara said he plans to intertwine the themes of Lent, Easter, Ascension and Jerusalem. “It’s going to be a wonderful day.”