| House of Prayer for All People
By: Kathie Uhler, OSF
The following is taken from an article about the House of Prayer for All People written by Sr. Kathie for the Franciscan Federation's newsletter, Musings, in November. A more recent update from Kathie will be featured in the upcoming edition of Allegany Connections to be released this week.
It is the beginning of my seventh week at the House of Prayer for All People, in Jericho. What a privilege to be here, in the Holy Land, engaging in a ministry of prayer for peace and reconciliation: all-inclusive under one roof of every religion, race, ethnicity, and spirituality.
Is this what Francis would do? Let's think for a minute: In Francis' day, Christendom was one and the Muslims were strong. The pope had called for all Christians to participate as they could in the Fifth Crusade to convert or kill the Muslims. Francis thought out of this box. Never once rousing his followers to the pope's call or even using the word "Crusade" in his writings (cf. Kathy Warren: 2003), he was obedient to Pope Innocent III, however, at least half-way. Francis set out to convert the Muslims or to have himself killed in the trying.
Fast forward to 2014: Is a House of Prayer in Jericho what Francis would do?
I dreamed of the House of Prayer about ten years ago, during my years serving in Hebron with Christian Peacemaker Teams. The notion of integrating the three religions of the Book under one roof was not original with me. I had seen such a room at a monastery in Israel. Sharing the idea with CPT teammates of various denominations and with Muslim friends in Hebron was very gratifying - everyone loved the idea. One Muslim said, "Of course! Religion must be brought into the (peacemaking) equation."
As time went on and I started the House of Prayer project in earnest in 2013 with my congregation's blessing, universal inclusivity became the thing. This became evident to me as I spent two months in the West Bank this past winter scouting for a location for the HoP. I met with numerous persons of all faiths, movers and shakers, and ordinary folk. To a person, they told me, "Drop religions; they are too divisive here." I was relieved, in a sense, because universal inclusivity is Francis' way; it is what he would "do".
Thus the name for the House of Prayer has been taken from Isaiah 56:7 - "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people."
So far this meditation has dwelt on the mission of the HoP. But let me conclude by saying that the first six weeks here have been just short of tumultuous. The house in Jericho is the magnificent gift of a friend but, having said that, I must add that the ministry thus far has been one of rehabilitating a three-story building that has been vacant for two years. It was filled with sand and furnishings, and hundreds of books of no use to the HoP. These weeks have been the "physical" stage of life at the start of the House of Prayer in Jericho. As one religious leader in Jerusalem remarked prophetically in his letter: "Your project is a creative and important initiative, and it will require a lot of collaboration."
In her Presidential Address at the AFC 2014,* Edna Michel invited us to think and act out of the box. Please join me and Annerose Schulz, a Core member from Germany now serving at the HoP, in any of the many ways to participate in the House of Prayer project. Email: email@example.com; and visit us at: http://www.wnyreligion.net/HoP/
*AFC: Annual Franciscan Conference.
Kathie returned home to the United States earlier then she had planned and is currently home in New York City. To read the rest of this update, please see the upcoming edition of Allegany Connections, scheduled to be released this week!