Episcopal Church pairs online concert with annual Good Friday Offering, supporting Middle East ministries

By David Paulsen
Posted Mar 28, 2024
Concert for Good Friday

A Good Friday concert will be offered online by The Episcopal Church on March 29 hosted by Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Norfolk, Virginia. Photo: Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] Each year, Episcopalians are encouraged during Holy Week to donate to The Episcopal Church’s Good Friday Offering in support of Anglican ministries in the Middle East. This year, they also are invited to spend part of their Good Friday viewing a concert offered by the church to help center themselves spiritually for the holy day that marks Jesus’ death on the cross.

The concert of sacred music, hosted by Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Norfolk, in the Diocese of Southern Virginia, will be available to view at 3 p.m. Eastern March 29 on The Episcopal Church’s online platforms. Online donations can be made now, and Episcopal congregations churchwide will collect the Good Friday Offering at in-person Good Friday services.

“Every human child of God – Palestinian, Israeli, Iraqi, Cypriot, Lebanese, everyone – deserves safety and security,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in his Lenten message, in which he encouraged Episcopalians to give to the Good Friday Offering. “As we mark our Lord’s passion and death on Good Friday, we remember those whom he loves facing injustice and oppression today, and remember the urgency of love – true, sacrificial love.”

The Good Friday Offering was created in the aftermath of World War I to foster relationships with Christians in the Middle East by supporting relief work and ecumenical partnerships. Today, the church continues to give the money that is raised each year through the offering to the Anglican Province in the region, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, to support what it identifies as the most pressing needs in its dioceses.

The urgency is even greater this year amid ongoing violence and suffering in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israeli communities, which killed an estimated 1,200. Hamas militants kidnapped more than 250 people and took them back to Gaza as hostages. Israel responded by declaring war, bombarding Gaza with rockets and sending ground forces into the densely populated territory. Gaza officials estimate more than 30,000 Palestinians have died in the hostilities, raising global alarm and prompting widespread calls for a ceasefire.

Some of the Anglican ministries supported by the Good Friday Offering also have been caught in the crossfire of the Israel-Hamas war. Despite the struggle, Al Ahli Arab Hospital in northern Gaza has remained open to treat those injured in the conflict as the territory descended into a severe humanitarian crisis marked by death, displacement, food and water shortages, power outages, and countless buildings destroyed by airstrikes. Famine is “imminent” in northern Gaza, according to a recent report.

A unit of the Anglican hospital itself was partly damaged early in the conflict by rocket fire, thought to have been fired by the Israeli military, and another deadly explosion in the hospital’s courtyard drew international condemnation, though Israel and the United States said that blast appeared to have been caused by Palestinian militants.

In addition to Al Ahli Hospital, the Diocese of Jerusalem operates a second charitable hospital, St. Luke’s in the West Bank city of Nablus, as well as the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Jordan and the Princess Basma Centre for Disabled Children in East Jerusalem. In the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, The Episcopal Church has partnered in the past with Iraqis on local ministries, such as an economic development program aimed at supporting chicken farmers. The Anglican province also includes the Diocese of Iran.

“This is my last Good Friday letter to you as your presiding bishop,” said Curry, whose successor will be elected in June and take office Nov. 1. “I want to both express my gratitude for your gifts in years past and encourage you to give again to support God’s beloved in this area of the world. This is what love asks of us.”

Christ and St. Luke's

Video of the Good Friday concert, recorded at Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Norfolk, Virginia, will be streamed at 3 p.m. March 29 on The Episcopal Church’s online platforms. Photo: Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church’s Good Friday concert will feature a selection of hymns commonly associated with the somber Christian holy day. “Every piece of music is centered on the Passion story,” the Rev. Paul Feheley, the church’s Middle East partnership officer, told Episcopal News Service. “This is meant to add to people’s ways of reflecting, ways of worshiping, ways of feeling a sense of the meaning of Good Friday.”

The musical performances are led by Kevin Kwan, organist of Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in coordination with Curry’s churchwide staff. The concert will last about an hour.

The concert also will feature a recorded message of thanks from Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum, leader of the Jerusalem-based province. Last year, the Good Friday Offering collected $253,000 for the province, according to the church’s unaudited estimates. The region’s needs this year are even greater, Feheley said.

“We’ve seen the death and destruction that the war has created,” he said. The Episcopal Church has responded with solemn prayers for peace while also rallying significant financial support for aid efforts in the region. “Thousands of Episcopalians coast to coast and beyond have been generous in remembering their brothers and sisters in the Middle East.”

In addition to contributing to the Good Friday Offering while attending services March 29 in an Episcopal church, donations can be made now by visiting iam.ec/goodfridayoffering.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.