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The provenance of Sister Jerusalem

Altar ready for a service
Sanctuary of St. Paul’s
By on May 1, 2021

When I was consecrated and seated as the Bishop of Ottawa on May 31 last year—the Day of Pentecost—I was presented with a pectoral cross, a gift from my extended family. Anglican bishops wear pectoral crosses, which often are large and weighty, as a symbol of office. They are worn over the heart, the place where Christ dwells: the place of love, loyalty, devotion, and compassion.

You may recall the story I wrote about the making of Brother Thanksgiving—my wooden crozier. I would now like to tell you about the provenance of my pectoral cross, named Sister Jerusalem.

In 2014, Katherine and I visited our partners in Jerusalem for a “solidarity visit” rather than a pilgrimage. I spent several days with my cathedral colleague (now Archbishop of Jerusalem Hosam Naoum), experiencing the many aspects of his ministry, and enjoying time with his family in Jerusalem and Galilee.

One Wednesday, I went to Saint Paul’s Church in West Jerusalem to celebrate the Eucharist. Saint Paul’s was the first Arab-Anglican church built in Jerusalem in 1873, but was shut down following the conflict of 1948. Archbishop Suheil had it restored and put back into service in 2011—and while there is no congregation living near it, the Eucharist is celebrated there every Wednesday. The photo below shows the sanctuary of Saint Paul’s, taken that day.

After the service, I was warmly welcomed and fed at a table outside the apartment of Rebecca and Ibrahim Sade’eh, Palestinian Anglicans who live by the church and are its custodians. After lunch, Rebecca took a brass cross off the wall in her hallway, and gave it to me, saying, “My husband made this, please have it” (Arab hospitality is generous and expansive). You can see in the photo with rulers below how the cross looked; and in the bottom right corner you can see Ibrahim in the foundry in East Jerusalem where he works (he is a big man).

In the years since then, the brass cross hung on the wall of my study, but several weeks before my consecration last year I looked at it and thought: that could be a pectoral cross if it had a brass bale and chain. 

I spoke to the amazing Myra Tulonen Smith, a silversmith and designer in Almonte (and the aunt of my daughter-in-law), and she pointed out that brass jewelry can make your skin go green and suggested making a silver frame and bale.

I had purchased a long length of silver “wheat” chain from an ancient jewelry shop in the Christian Quarter of the old City of Jerusalem on a previous trip to the land of the Holy One, and it was the perfect weight and length for this new pectoral cross, christened Sister Jerusalem,which you see in its finished state.

And that is the story of the provenance of Sister Jerusalem, who reminds me of my duty and devotion as your bishop, and of our dear friends in the land of the Holy One.

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