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Anglican Church in Jaffa abandoned in 1948 being restored by vicar from Bournemouth

by Donna Birrell

A church in the Holy Land which has been derelict for 70 years is being restored by a vicar from Bournemouth. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called the plans for St Peter’s Anglican Church in Jaffa a “story of hope” and “a symbol of renewal and life’”. 

After being called by the Holy Spirit, Reverend Kevin Cable and his wife Jen moved to Jaffa earlier this year to begin restoring the Church which was abandoned in 1948. He’s been speaking to Premier about the plans : 

“Being a Messianic Jew, l had a strong connection with Israel and I’d been to the Holy Land a number of times over the years leading pilgrimages. Then in 2018, we led a pilgrimage and I distinctly remember I was sat with my wife by the Sea of Galilee and I said ‘I think actually, the Lord is calling us here for ministry. So we need to explore that.’”

After contacting the Diocese of Jerusalem, Reverend Kevin was invited to meet the then Archbishop of Jerusalem Suheil Dawani who suggested that he could move to Jaffa to set about reopening St Peter’s Anglican Church.  After praying about it, he underwent training with the Church Mission Society and arrived in Jaffa in May this year. 

St Peter’s Anglican Church had been abandoned in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although it was hoped many would return fairly quickly, that didn’t happen and the church fell into disrepair for the next 73 years. 

Reverend Kevin says, not surprisingly there is a lot of work to do :

“The biggest problem is pigeons. It doesn't sound like that's a big problem perhaps in the UK, but  here they are real problem. They will get into any building where access is allowed. We need repairs to the windows of the church, which are all broken, whether by vandalism or by the pigeons themselves - they've been nesting in there for about 70 years. Of course there is horrendous damage inside and out.“

The money needed is raised mainly through fund-raising and from churches across the world :

“We’re supported here by the Church Mission Society and our funding comes from parishes, people, churches, who want to partner with us in this mission. It’s from people who feel inspired by the Holy Spirit to donate to the project. 

“There’s a staged approach as we raise money for each section.  Initially we've cleared the grounds because there was 70 years’ worth of debris there. The next stage will be to replace all the windows to seal a small hole in the roof and remove the pigeons that are in there, so that we can then begin the next stage which will be starting repairs to the interior, replacing all the electrics, plumbing, that sort of thing.”

Reverend Kevin, who also ministers to nearby Ashdod as part of the Mission to Seafarers, says there are about 2000 Christians in Jaffa with a strong Christian presence in the vicinity of the church :

“Here in Jaffa, we have a small congregation that was started in a local Christian guesthouse while the church is not able to be used. About 15 people come to that each week on a Saturday evening from a whole variety of backgrounds.

“We are grateful to the current Archbishop of Jerusalem Hosam Naoum for his support and local embassies have volunteered to help out with things as well as working parties from the church who help with the work. Support is growing in the community and everyone is very much looking forward to the church being re-opened.  

 “The church is very much in the hearts of the local Christian community. Because of all the issues out here over the years, the fact that the church closed and is now being reopened is very much a sign of resurrection that the Christian presence in this area will be strengthened. We've been delighted that local denominations across the board have all expressed their solidarity and support for the Christian community here, it's very much a big thing for them. They’ve just been wonderful in the support they've offered.

“Please pray for us. When we arrived in Israel, we had six suitcases to our name. We stored a small amount in the UK, but we pretty much sold everything we had to come here. So I felt the Lord was in some senses helping me to have a deeper understanding of where Jesus and the Gospel says, ‘Go and sell all you have and come and follow me.’ What we've discovered quite quickly is everything here depends on prayer.”

Reverend Kevin hopes St Peter’s Anglican Church in Jaffa will re-open late next year.

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