St Andrew's Tiberias

In this month's Our Church we hear from the Rev Kate McDonald, associate minister of the Church of Scotland congregation in Tiberias, Israel and chaplain of the nearby Scots Hotel.

Rev Kate McDonald greets people at the re-dedication of St Andrew's earlier this year
Rev Kate McDonald greets people at the re-dedication of St Andrew's by the Moderator earlier this year

St Andrew's Tiberias sits on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in the north of Israel, and we are part of a united congregation with St Andrew's Memorial Church in Jerusalem. Last year our building underwent a major renovation, and on 24 January, on his visit to Israel and Palestine, the Moderator rededicated the church. It was a joy to celebrate with friends, colleagues, clergy and representatives of many of our partner organisations throughout the north of Israel.

The church in Tiberias has a small local congregation, and most Sundays we are joined by visitors, tourists, and pilgrims from all over the world, whom we invite to participate in worship in various ways, sometimes by playing the piano, or reading a passage from scripture in their own language. And at the Lord's Prayer, all are invited to pray in their own language and tradition. Some Sundays we can have a dozen languages echoing through the church, a moving reminder of the diversity of the Body of Christ.

St Andrew's Church of Scotland, Tiberias
St Andrew's Church of Scotland, Tiberias

But the Church of Scotland's ministry in Israel and Palestine extends well beyond the walls of the building. In addition to the two churches, we also have St Andrew's Guesthouse in Jerusalem, Tabeetha School in Jaffa, and the Scots Hotel, where I serve as chaplain to its 100 staff who are from all the different faith communities present in the local Galilee area: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze.

The Church of Scotland also works alongside over thirty different organisations across Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, all of whom are seeking a just peace in the land. In the north, for example, we support the work of The House of Grace, a residential rehabilitation centre for ex-offenders and the only halfway house for Arabs in Israel. We currently have an exhibition in the church of photos taken by some of the men in the programme so our visitors can learn more about the House's ministry.

An exhibition created for the church by ex-offenders as part of the House of Grace project
An exhibition created for the church by ex-offenders as part of the House of Grace project

We are also partnered with Sindyanna in Cana, a women-led fair trade producer of olive oil which promotes women's empowerment and Jewish-Arab co-existence. The Church of Scotland supports an olive grove with Sindyanna and the Scots Hotel uses and sells Sindyanna's oil in its kitchen and restaurant.

Other partners of the Church are the YWCA of Palestine, Rabbis for Human Rights, Bethlehem Bible College, and the YMCA Gaza. In this land of the Holy One, so often troubled by injustice and conflict, I am continually inspired by these and others who refuse to give up hope that peace may one day come to this place.

St Andrew's is also partnered with Sindyanna in Cana, a women-led fair trade producer of olive oil which promotes women’s empowerment and Jewish-Arab co-existence
St Andrew's is also partnered with Sindyanna in Cana, a women-led fair trade producer of olive oil which promotes women’s empowerment and Jewish-Arab co-existence

Find out more about St Andrew's Tiberias and St Andrew's Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem.

Follow Rev Kate McDonald's blog