January 4, 2009
Confirmation dayWith fighting in the Gaza Strip hovering ominously in the background, a small group of bishops from the ELCA turned to the more pleasant church business Sunday evening of witnessing the confirmation of five youths at a Lutheran church in Amman, Jordan.
The six bishops and spouses helped fill Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on the edge of city's downtown, easily spotted by with its lighted cross atop the church belltower.
The reception that followed in the church basement was as celebratory as they come: dance music and a lighted, spinning disco ball greeted the youth as they entered in line and were followed by a sheet cake featuring two lit roman candles. The smoke released for added atmosphere probably wasn't need since nearly every parishioners smoked cigarettes.
During the worship service, Bishop Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land thanked the bishops for coming to the Middle East "not only in times of joy" but also during periods of sorrow, and in the current situation, fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson pledged the denomination's support for the ELCJHL and said he hoped the change of presidential administrations in the United States would help bring "the conflicting sides to a lasting, two-state solution" of peace.
Hanson and the other bishops were to be joined by Presiding Bishop Susan C. Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada for a two-plus day visit to Jordan before hooking up with a majority of the bishops from both nations in Jerusalem and the West Bank Jan. 6-13. The bishops hope the trip will stress accompaniment with the ELCJHL, raise awareness of regional issues and boost advocacy for peace.
The day wasn't all serious. Using a sunny day to overcome jet lag following Saturday's flight, the bishops took in Petra, the ancient Roman ruin in southern Jordan. The sight of the delegation atop trotting donkeys lugging them up and out of the valley for more than a mile wasn't captured on film as the media travelling with the bishops struggled to stay upright on their own beasts of burden.