She woke from a dream:
â€œGo to St. Stephenâ€™s church.â€ She had little connection to the site, and did not understand the dream. But she went. When she arrived the doors were closed. It was the saint day for Stephen. Her curiosity was deepened to know the church and the dream. This was the recent experience of a member of our Jerusalem community.
On a different day, when the doors were opened, she visited the church again. It stands behind a rock wall in East Jerusalem, just down the hill from Prophets Street. You would not know it was there if you were not looking for it. Tradition respects this as the site where Stephen became the first martyr of the church. Outside are flying buttresses and modest gardens. Inside is the agreement of stained glass and cathedral acoustics.
Finally, this past Friday morning, the rest of our community made it to St. Stephenâ€™s church. We assembled near the front and sat in the wooden pews. A short history lesson was given, our voices sent worship into the echoes, and the story of St. Stephen was read.
Stephenâ€™s ministry begins in Acts 6. At that time, church history was beginning in the way it has proceeded ever since: A disagreement had risen, over the neglecting of certain widows. Stephan was elected to care for them and to be a peace maker.
Our community found identification with this calling. We too have a first call to quietly serve our neglected neighbor, to work for unity and peace, and for the promise of Shevet Achim. We too feel a connection to Jerusalem, and wish to be of practical service to this city and people.
Stephenâ€™s story continues. His vocation of service gives him standing and boldness to work miracles and confute scholars. He is seized and taken before the religious leadership on false charges of blasphemy. In their court, he delivers the longest proclamation of orthodoxy recorded in the New Testament. Enraged, the mob drags him outside the city to the plot where the cathedral stands today, and there stones him to death.
Standing in the stillness of the cathedral, we asked ourselves: What does it mean for us to minister in the shadow of this man? No ready answers offered themselves.
So here in the Prophets Street Blog, the next best answer is to ask more focused questions: