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Rev Stewart Gillan returns to St Andrew's Jerusalem. He shares his opening observations.

Not all doors are closed in the Old City, as I found on a walkabout this afternoon. At Vic’s Art Studio in the Armenian Quarter I found his son Peter working on a new bowl, in the company of one of his cousins. His wife Lilian is Manager of the St Andrew’s Guesthouse. We spoke of our families, and of the need to take care of ourselves. Good to see them again.

The door to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was wide open, with several people kneeling in prayer over the stone slab just inside the door on which the body of Jesus, taken down from the cross, is believed to have been washed. This by the three Marys as tradition has it: Mary Magdalene, Mary his mother, and Mary of Jerusalem. There was no queue at the Tomb of Christ and I was able enter its open door. In the first room, the Chapel of the Angel, a candle burns over a piece of the stone that was rolled away from the tomb. Passing on the left, I then ducked down and entered the tomb itself, finding two people already in prayer. Two candles burned in a vase set at one end, commemorating the place where Jesus’ head was laid. ‘The Lord bless you and keep you,’ was the prayer that came, before the priest on duty told us our time was up.

When I reemerged I was surprised to hear my name called, by Salim Munayer as it happened, founder of Musalaha. He was present with his wife Kay, and two of their four sons, John and Samuel. Our talk was suitably grim - ‘It has never been this bad’ - amid news of their sons’ degree work abroad and an upcoming graduation. There was news as well of a grandchild on the way, with an attendant call to be in prayer. A blessing and a briefing all in one.

By the time I got to the Austrian Cafe’s open door, I was reminding myself of the words to a hymn by John Bell and Graham Maule, ‘The love of God comes close where stands an open door.’ A wonderful affirmation of a saving grace.

I was happy to return through Jaffa Gate to the open door of St Andrew’s Guesthouse, a tribute to Lilian and those staff members who are still able to come to work, living not on the West Bank but in East Jerusalem and surrounds.


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