[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s annual Good Friday Offering appeal, which gathers and distributes funds in support of ministries throughout the Anglican Communion’s Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, is celebrating its most generous collection in 10 years.
Funds collected from the 2014 Good Friday Offering and available for distribution this year totaled $377,663.51, more than $110,000 on the previous year and the largest offering since 2005, said the Rev. Canon Robert D. Edmunds, Middle East partnership officer for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.
Edmunds said the offering is “a tangible expression of solidarity with our sister and brother Christians” throughout the province.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori writes annually to all Episcopal Church congregations asking them to consider assistance for Jerusalem and the Middle East through the collections they receive during Good Friday services.
“The offering we collect on Good Friday carries on the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, through support for the many ministries of healing, feeding, and teaching among the dioceses of the province,” Jefferts Schori wrote in her January 2015 letter.
The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East includes the four dioceses of Cyprus and the Gulf, Egypt, Iran, and Jerusalem. The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem includes more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories.
“Refugees are cared for, the sick and injured are healed, the dead are buried, children educated, women empowered by these ministries – and all are welcomed with open arms, like Abraham and Sarah’s guests,” Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter. “Jesus cared for all in need, without regard for nationality or creed, and these ministries do the same. It is the work of shalom and salaam, building peace in the hearts of suffering individuals and communities…. May our offering … strengthen the bonds among all God’s people, and bless each one with concrete and eternal signs of more abundant life.”
The Rev. Bill Schwartz, treasurer and provincial secretary for the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, told ENS that the province is “richly blessed each year” by the generosity expressed through the Good Friday Offering.
“Part of the Good Friday Offering helps keep our provincial administration strong,” said Schwartz, an Episcopal Church missionary, “but the majority of the funds are used to extend the outreach of the church among those beyond our membership, giving the church an opportunity to give practical witness of Christ’s love among all people groups in the Middle East.”
The Good Friday Offering dates back to 1922, when the U.S.-based Episcopal Church sought to create new relationships with and among Christians throughout the Middle East. From these initial efforts, which focused on a combination of relief work and the improvement of ecumenical and Anglican relations, the Good Friday Offering was created.
“Through the years many Episcopalians have found the Good Friday Offering to be an effective way to express their support for the ministries of the four dioceses of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East,” according to information on The Episcopal Church website. “Pastoral care, education and health care continue to be primary ministries through which the reconciling spirit of the Christian faith serves all in need. Participation in this ministry is welcome. The generous donations of Episcopalians help the Christian presence in the Land of the Holy One to be a vital and effective force for peace and understanding among all of God’s children.”
— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.