Today we worshipped at St. Paul’s Episcopal church, in Shef’amer, a city in the north of Israel near Haifa, where Muslims, Christians, and Druze (a staunchly independent sect of Shiite Muslims) live in peace. It was a joy to be welcomed so warmly by the rector, Rev. Faud Dagher, a big, gap-toothed, energetic bear of a guy.

He began the service as one would expect, by doing the opening acclamation in his green chasuble just in front of the altar, but then he ran over to the organ, jumped onto the bench, rearranged his chasuble, and began to bang out a spirited rendition of the opening hymn. He played with great skill and then hopped off the bench and continued the service. Apparently, he also sets the table, lights the candles, and goes to pick up some elderly parishioners before the service starts.

This one-man show is larger than life! He conducted the service in both Arabic and English. We each got an excellent sermon: if you can’t love your enemies, you can’t love God. Powerful words in this troubled land where Arab Christians are so persecuted. Several times he called for us to be reconcilers in the world.At the end of the service he surprised us by inviting all five clergy in our group, who just happened to be women, up to the chancel to say together the final blessing.

To look out into the faces of our group intermingled with the congregation of Arab Palestinian Christians whose ancestors have lived the Gospel in this place for 2,000 years, brought tears to my eyes. It was a profound and humbling honor to exercise my priesthood in this way. This man, Father Fuad, knows something about reconciliation.