The first week of March is worthy remembering in our congregational life because we were fortunate to host Rev. George Bitar from the Evangelical Synod of Presbyterian Churches of Lebanon and Syria. We were one of five hosting collegiate churches, and the experience has even fostered our ties to our sister churches.
Here is a run down of events that happened during our week:
On Monday, Rev. Bitar had dinner with Stef and Erie Beemsterboer and their children Daphne and Theo.
On Tuesday, neighboring pastor Seth Kaper-Dale and Susan and I took George to our national office at 475 Riverside Drive in Manhattan and had lunch with Duncan Hanson, Supervisor of RCA Mission in Europe and the Middle East. There we sat around a table filled with maps, reminiscing on past middle-eastern travel, discussing ecumenical relationships, etc. In the end, the office gave each of us a gift of various books for our church libraries. That night, George accepted a dinner invitation from Ellen and Bruce Hamilton.
On Wednesday night, we had a great potluck with many folks from the collegiate churches joining. George gave a presentation on the humanitarian situation in Lebanon, showed transparencies of the destructions of 2006 and talked about his church, how it was burned down and rebuilt in seven months. Wednesday night, he spent at our house and gave us a great introduction to his calligraphy and explained it as a spiritual praxis.
Thursday, the three of us went to Princeton, visited the Seminary, the Theological Book Agency and the university campus.
Friday, George had dinner at the home of Janet and David Waanders, joined by John and Margaret Coakley and Susanne Clark. Saturday, Liz and Jim Hance took him out to a restaurant in Newark.
On Sunday, he preached at our church a Lenten sermon. This was followed by fellowship, a lunch and a round of Arabic hymn singing. Those present admired our organist, Viktoriya Raufova, and how quickly she learned to accompany hymns from the Arabic Presbyterian hymnal where text and music are written from right to left, and the verses are written in Arabic only. Good thing that George had provided us singers with hand-written English transcriptions!
The following Monday, George participated in Session III of our Muslim-Christian Dialog with the members of the Raritan Turkish-American Foundation in Piscataway. The theme was â€œJesus and Mary in Islamâ€.
We have so many to thank for the success of this week, and especially our great kitchen crew who organized the two meals in Fellowship Hall that week. I hope that the accompanying pictures portray their message well.
Why was the visit of Rev. Bitar so important to us? Because we Christians are sensitive to voices from the troubled areas of this world, especially if it is a voice from a sister church. But we were also grateful for Rev. Bitarâ€™s visit, because it pulled usout of our struggle for self-preservation and opened us up to the world of the church universal. Through George we were reminded that being Reformed has a global dimension, too. We wish him Godâ€™s rich blessing as he returns home.