All Saints Damascus lies on what was an active front line for seven years. This small church of Anglican christians have old a story of hope sometimes at cost of their own life. Shelling, snipers, food shortages, extortion and the other troubles that go with violent conflict haven’t distracted them from worship, being faithful in prayer, active in service or supporting the increasingly traumatised community.
Rarely, anywhere, have I seen such committed, faithful discipleship persevering despite huge limitations and much suffering.
We want our churches, in Chilworth, Ampfield and North Baddesley to be fired with the same commitment and passion. We want to be places where there is good will to all peoples and glory to God on high.
To understand the ministry of churches like All Saints Damascus you need the Advent practice of holding time past and future together. Two times lying in the same crib fighting in the blankets: Jesus born into fragile humanity in Bethlehem up against King Jesus’ returning at the end of ages to judge all the earth.
God wants us to be alert. Alert because the transformation of the world coming to a neighbourhood nearby. It’s coming and it’s near at hand. To see it we need to be alert not, as is easy here, comfortably ignorant. That’s one reason why churches in tough places often amaze us. In the worst of times alertness isn’t a problem.
This advent morning All Saints in Damascus sent us greetings in the hands of Revd Andrew. To send and receive greetings in the church is an ancient custom. It is an outward sign of inward unity between all Christians. The gift of greetings from faithful people in extreme situations is solemn and powerful at the same time.
Jesus loves this world that he came to save not condemn it. There’s going to be a powerful transformation of everything we know. Our job is to watch to keep alert to what God is doing around us and when we do see God with his sleeves rolled up and sweat on the brow he asks us to join him. To receive power from him, and to join him.
We receive power and are asked to join in God’s work in different ways. But everyone is asked to join. All Saints Damascus has survived the last seven years without a priest. There God asked Alex a member of the congregation to be their leader. What might you be being asked to do in God’s solution for the world?
Revd Andrew Ashdown, Associate Priest in the Benefice of Ampfield, Chilworth and North Baddesley visited All Saints Damascus at the invitation of the Most Revd Suheil Dawani Bishop of Jerusalem. Revd Ashdown was in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian Orthodox Church, as leader of a delegation interested in seeing the ground truth of the situation in Syria. Andrew is is reading for a Ph.D. in Christian Muslim relations in Syria.