Saturday , 19 October 2019
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Christ Church – The Church of the Messiah, Jerusalem

Christ Church

Christ Church was consecrated on 21 January 1849, originally named the Apostolic Anglican Church, in a small compound just inside the Jaffa Gate opposite the Tower of David. Soon after it became known as the “Jewish Protestant Church.” It is the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East and the first Jerusalem church in modern times to use bells to call worshippers. The compound was also the site of the British Consulate (the first western consulate in Jerusalem) until the outbreak of World War I. Since Ottoman law forbade building new churches, Christ Church was built under the guise of being the chapel of the British consul.

This Anglican church in the Old City has a tunnel underneath tunnel that dates back to the Second Temple Period.

 

Architecture of Christ Church

Christ Church Jeruslem
Christ Church Jeruslem

The church was built to resemble a synagogue more than a local parish church. This church has a simple neo-Gothic exterior and traditional Jewish motifs inside.

  • Christ Church faces east to the Temple Mount.
  • The communion table and stained-glass windows contain Jewish symbols and Hebrew script.
  • The wooden reredos screen on the wall behind the communion table is designed to look like of the holy ark found in synagogues. Written on it in Hebrew are the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed.
  • The Star of David appears on the communion table and in the stained-glass window at the back of the church.
  • For nearly a century Christ Church had no cross. In fact, the church was so Jewish in appearance that in 1948, when it became necessary to prove to a angry Jordanian Army that the unusual building was indeed a Christian house of worship the rector hurried to the souk (market) to buy an olive wood cross to place on the communion table.

 

Anglican Missionaries

The London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, an Anglican missionary society, (now known as the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People or CMJ) helped finance the church’s construction. The CMJ encouraged the restoration of Israel and the return of Jewish people to their homeland.

The LSPC believed that the Jewish people had to be returned to the Holy Land (then under Ottoman Turkish rule), where many would acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, before the Second Coming of Jesus could take place. Their advocacy for a Jewish homeland in Palestine prompted the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

A joint English/Prussian bishopric was established in 1841, on the initiative of King Frederick William IV of Prussia (dismantled in 1886). The first bishop was an apostate, a former Jewish rabbi, Michael Solomon Alexander. The missionaries felt that it was more than suitable that the first Protestant Bishop of Jerusalem would be a Hebrew Christian. Alexander was a lecturer of Hebrew and Rabbinic literature at Kings College London and he had translated the Book of Common Prayer and the New Testament into Hebrew. In Jerusalem he immediately began to baptise Jews and founded a School for training of Hebrew Christian missionaries – much to the dismay of the Jewish communities of Jerusalem and Tiberias. Bishop Alexander established the first modern hospital in the Holy Land. This hospital for Jews served to attract more Jews to the missionary compound.Alexander helped those Jews who had lost their livelihood after becoming followers of Jesus by founding a School of Industry for training Jewish believers in basic trades.

Christ Church was the seat of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem until the opening of St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem in 1899. The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem does not have jurisdiction over Christ Church, Jerusalem since many of the bishops did not share CMJ’s convictions or their desire to take the gospel to the Jewish community.

 

Heritage Center – Biblical Model

Conrad Schick constructed a series of models of the Muslim buildings of the Haram al-Sharif on the Temple Mount, and some somewhat outdated replicas of the Jewish Temple based on the information available in his time. Two wooden models of the Temple Mount he built were exhibited in the Turkish pavilion at the Vienna World Exposition of 1873. One of the models, measuring 4 by 3 meters, did not find a buyer after the end of the World Fair. It was housed at the Chrischona Mission near Basel, Switzerland for 138 years. It was recently purchased by Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem. This small museum in the church is dedicated to Conrad Schick’s models and images, as well as a number of 19th century architectural models and many displays and photographs.

Two additional models of the Temple Mount created by Schick are located in the basement of the Schmidt School for Girls on Nablus Road, just outside the Old City of Jerusalem near the Damascus Gate. One model shows the Temple Mount as it was in the 1870s, based on his research. The other is a somewhat fanciful model of the Jewish Temple. I just called the school today to see if it is possible to see the models and learned that the museum is temporarily closed for renovations for at least two months.

 

Guest House

The church also runs a guest house/hostel for pilgrims. These two gigantic paintings of Jerusalem are displayed in the Christ Church hostel.

Church Services

Christ Church celebrates both Jewish and Christian holidays, incorporates some Hebrew into its liturgy and preaches in a way for Hebrew speaking Jews to understand the Gospels. The facilities are shared with a Messianic Hebrew congregation (that meets on Saturday) and an Arabic fellowship. The staff of Christ Church are Messianic Jews, Arab Christians and expatriates who live, work and worship together in community.

  • Address: Omar Ibn Al Hatab St.
  • Tel.: 972-2-627-7727 or 627-7729
  • Open: 8am-8pm daily

Herodian Tunnel

This Anglican church in the Old City has a tunnel underneath tunnel that dates back to the Second Temple Period. You can climb down the narrow stairs to the Herodian Tunnel display. The tunnel was discovered when Christ Church was built in the 1840’s, but lay hidden until it’s reopening in the 1990’s.

About Israel and You

Cameling in the holy land since forever