In 2004 a small group of concerned individuals at Grace Presbyterian Church established a working group focused on Middle East issues, particularly those in Israel and the occupied territories. The group decided to pursue forming a partnership with a church in the West Bank, in the belief that forming a friendship with a Palestinian church would be a useful way to support people living there.
With the help of our denomination and its representative in Jerusalem, we connected with a congregation in Nablus. This partnership is now fifteen years old. It has been very valuable for Grace and the Nablus church. After a brief overview of the mutual blessings that have come out of the partnership, tools used to develop the partnership are provided in hopes that they might support other churches interested in forming partnerships with Palestinian congregations or other peacemaking institutions.
The Gifts of a Partnership
The partnership has been valuable to our own congregation in many ways. It has introduced our members to Palestinians as ordinary people and not the terrorists they are portrayed as in the media. Many in our congregation have come to see that there is a legitimate Palestinian side to the issue. Many have also realized that there are indigenous Christians in Palestine, something that often comes as a surprise to American Christians.
Our members have made numerous trips to the region and have enjoyed the incredible hospitality of our Palestinian hosts. These trips have helped cement our friendship and have opened the eyes of many to what is happening on the ground.
For our Palestinian friends, the partnership is a connection to the outside world. It is easy for Palestinians to feel isolated and alone, so knowing that there are people around the world who are thinking about them and supporting them helps sustain them as they cope with the occupation. Led by our Ministry for Middle East Peace and Justice, Grace regularly sends video greetings to our partner congregation at Christmas and Easter. It is a way for us to reflect on their circumstances and to remind them that we are thinking about them. We also keep them in our weekly prayers in worship. They can watch our services on Facebook and know that we are praying for them and for all Palestinians.
Grace has also helped make it possible for multiple groups to visit here from Nablus, including several groups of teens who have participated in mission work here in Virginia. These teens who have never known freedom, get a chance to find out what normal life can be like, and a chance to be part of a Christian community that is not a tiny minority in society. It gives them a different view of themselves, one in which being Christian is ordinary, and in which they see themselves as givers to others.
Our Palestinian Christian friends enjoy tremendous support and concern for their well-being among the members of our congregation. Members are generous in making donations when the need arises, and some are willing occasionally to support Palestinians by signing petitions or contacting government officials.
Tools for Building a Partnership
If your church is interested in exploring a partnership with a church or peacemaking institution in Palestine, you may find the materials provided below helpful.
- An outline of the steps we followed to form our partnership can be found here.
- A copy of our partnership agreement can be found here.
- A timeline of visits here and in Palestine can be found here.
Read more about Grace’s Ministry for Middle East Peace and Justice (MMEPJ) here.