In 2001, Bonnie Van Overbeke, who was then our pastor, traveled to Israel/Palestine on a month-long study sabbatical. While there she met Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and director of the Diyar Consortium, the mission arm of the church. Upon her return, Bonnie and a group of interested members of Memorial church began to explore the possibility of forming a partnership with Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. That partnership was updated in June 2017 after Rev. Raheb left the church as pastor to be the director of Diyar. The partnership is now with Bright Stars of Bethlehem, the U.S. entity that supports the work of Diyar. You can read the agreement at the bottom of this page.
In 2003, the Memorial Church Council enthusiastically approved the creation of a partnership. In the fall of 2004, the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ voted to join Memorial United Church of Christ in its partnership with Christmas Lutheran Church and in its support of the work of the International Center of Bethlehem. Now the whole Wisconsin Conference of the UCC has a working group focused on Israel/Palestine.
Bonnie Van Overbeke and Nancy Baumgardner from Memorial have led trips to Israel/Palestine every other year, spending significant time with our partners in Bethlehem. You can read highlights of some of the trips on these blogs:
Here is a photo essay that describes the growth of our partnership.
Agreement as reviewed and revised in June 2017
In 2003, the Memorial United Church of Christ Council voted to form a partnership with Christmas Lutheran Church and in its support of the church’s ministry in the Bethlehem community through the International Center of Bethlehem and the Diyar Consortium of educational institutions. In June 2017 due to a change in the organizational structure of our Bethlehem Partner, the Partnership is now with Bright Stars of Bethlehem, the U.S. organization created to support the ministries of our Bethlehem Partner.
The goals of the partnership* include the following:
*a commitment to prayerfully and financially support the life and ministries of Bright Stars of Bethlehem as well as other organizations that engage in justice and peace efforts in the region. Brochures describing the various projects are available.
*a commitment to educating ourselves and our communities about human rights and political issues involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, especially as it pertains to the Bethlehem community
*a hope to build personal relationships between UCC folk in Wisconsin and people in the Bethlehem community.
*a hope that travel (in both directions) can deepen these relationships and our understanding of the situation and can provide the opportunity to share faith and skills; trips to Bethlehem will be scheduled as conditions allow and members of the Bethlehem community will be invited to visit Wisconsin.
*a hope that through this relationship the faith of our congregation will be strengthened and empowered to live out the commitments and dreams God has for us.
*Goals and expectations will be periodically reviewed by the Partnership Committee in order to keep the partnership vital and effective.