“The church isn’t the building, it’s the people,” despite having the considerable virtue of being true, is among my least favorite axioms. The family is the people, not the house. But I advise you not to say so in a pastoral conversation with a family whose house has just burned down. We are entitled to love the places we love, laugh, feast, heal, read, pray, listen to music, feel safe, and gather strength for the journey. Home and church home both.
With the whole church all these centuries, Holy Land pilgrims are emotionally attached to places as well, especially in Bethlehem, in Nazareth, and here in Jerusalem. One example is the Western Wall, a relic of King Herod, which is under the authority of ultra-conservative rabbis who don’t let men and women pray together.
But all are theoretically welcome. It is a holy, historic, sanctified place. Many Christians come here to pray alongside Jews. Politics aside, that Muslims do not is chiefly a function of their particular daily practice. Our faith is that God hears all our prayers, from all God’s people, the instant they occur to us, wherever we are. Yet offering them here just can’t help but make us feel we have God’s undivided attention.
If you leave your prayer names (first names only, please, and without the reason for the prayer; God knows), or send them to me by Facebook Messenger, I’ll ask my fellow Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles pilgrims to pray over them. I’ll wash them in the fragrant oil in which the stone of anointing in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher has been drenched for over a century. And on Thursday afternoon, I’ll wedge them into the wall. The rabbis collect them periodically and bury them on the Mount of Olives, so the outward and physically manifestation of your heart of love will be here forever.
If you’ve sent me your names in response to a prior post, I have them, I promise.
Lord, hear the prayers of thy people; and what we have asked faithfully, grant that we may obtain effectually, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.