PC(USA) ministry of presence important in Israel-Palestine
by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Mission co-worker Douglas Dicks is going home. Not to his boyhood home in Virginia but to his spiritual home in Israel/Palestine.
In November, Dicks will begin serving as an associate for ecumenical partnerships at the invitation of St. Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem, working with churches in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Holy Land. However, neither the job nor the region is new to him. He was commissioned by his home church, Buckton Presbyterian, to go to Jerusalem in September 1995 for two years. He stayed 18 years and finished his term in 2013 to return to Virginia to care for his aging mother.
“Not many people get the opportunity to do something they really love once in their lifetime, but how many get the opportunity to do it twice,” he said. “And the call to serve in the Middle East is still very much in my system.”
In his new role as facilitator for education for justice and peacemaking, he will connect congregations and councils with indigenous Christians in Israel/Palestine. His extensive experience as a regional liaison for Israel, Palestine and Jordan gives him the unique ability to educate Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) constituencies on the contextual realities of the church’s witness in the region.
Dicks said one of the ways we encounter people and recognize God at work in their daily lives and struggles is to live with and among them, a call he has always felt strongly. “Matthew 25: 34-36, says that Christ will call us to account for how we behaved toward others,” he said. “I believe that the church’s mission in today’s world is what it has always been and what God calls us to do — feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the prisoner.”
“I believe that people hunger and thirst for justice every bit as much as they hunger for food,” he continued. “I believe that we can clothe people with dignity and recognition and respect, as much as physical clothing. I believe that people can be in prison or under siege, both physically and psychologically and that we are called upon to lift them up by meeting them where they are in their context. Accompanying people where they are, sharing with them our gifts, talents, skills, compassion and labor can help them to see the face of God at work in the world. Witness through service is a key component of how I see mission being carried out in today’s world.”
His passion for the Holy Land goes well beyond the 18 years he’s lived there. In the early 1990s, he had conversations with his ministers at Buckton, a husband and wife co-pastor team that had served in mission in Costa Rica. They were key in his discernment process.
Dicks is looking forward to seeing old friends in his previous home but also using his voice and his presence to promote solidarity and encouragement. “I hope that our ministry of presence in the region, particularly at this volatile and historic time, demonstrates the commitment on behalf of our church to accompany people there, in good times or in bad,” he said.
When asked what his prayer requests were at a service at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Dicks offered this prayer from Christian Aid.
Pray not for Arab or Jew,
For Palestinian or Israeli,
But pray rather for ourselves,
That we might not divide them in our prayers
But keep them both together
In our hearts.
When races fight,
Peace be amongst us.
When neighbors argue,
Peace be amongst us.
When nations disagree,
Peace be among us.
Where people struggle for justice,
Let justice prevail.
Where Christ’s disciples follow, let peace be our way.
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