LWF President Munib Younan Dedicates Church at Baptismal Site in Interreligious Celebration
(LWI) – More than 200 clergy, royalty and guests joined The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan on 6 January in dedicating the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan. The church, which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) is located at the spot where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.
“Dedicating a new church is something that should not be taken for granted, especially in the Middle East,” Younan, who is ELCJHL bishop said in his dedication sermon. “All too often, we see on television that churches are destroyed and atrocities are committed against houses of worship.” Receiving support and patronage from the Royal Family of Jordan was a “gracious act of hospitality, emblematic of the freedom of religion that we enjoy in Jordan.”
Pilgrim Site for Churches Worldwide
The ELCJHL was given land at the Baptismal Site by His Majesty King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2008, making it one of seven churches to receive land with the hopes that Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan would become a site for pilgrimage and baptism to Christians worldwide.
"We are going to develop worship surrounding both baptism and baptismal renewal,” said Rev. Rolf Pearson who together with his wife Deacon Kerstin Pearson has been seconded by Church of Sweden to be caregiver of the site. “We are hoping that pilgrims will find a place where they can be renewed spiritually, a place to understand the religious, social and political context of the place where they are, and to see the church presence in the Middle East."
Generous Support from LWF Member Churches
LWF Vice-President for Africa Bishop Dr Alex G. Malasusa, representing the LWF, blessed the font reading a verse from Romans 6: 3-5: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
ELCJHL also received generous support from various LWF member churches and international partners. "There is no church that can live on its own,” Younan said. “We are all interdependent and that was seen through this project.”
Younan said he wishes to encourage churches around the world to include the Baptismal Site in Jordan as part of their pilgrimage: "For me, pilgrimage is reviving your faith when you visit and reviving the faith of others. We want every pilgrim to use this place for choirs, concerts, worship, baptisms, weddings. This church is a church for all people, for the glory of God."