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The Israel / Palestine Mission Network of the PC(USA) is pleased to share this reflection.  We hope that it may be valuable to you as you prepare your hearts, minds and souls for our work in Portland.


BETTY'S STORY

A Coming Out Journey


by Rev. Laurie A. McNeill


“My parents are from Ramallah.”  Betty spoke these words softly as we stood in the narthex after worship.  No one else was able to hear the revelation that Betty was 100% Palestinian.  She was not ready to be open with others about her identity. 
 
I couldn’t believe it — I had a closeted Palestinian in my congregation!
Betty quietly came out to me because my sermon that morning included reflections of my recent trip to Israel/Palestine.  Betty wanted me to know that I was talking about her.  I had seen the town where her family was from; I had walked its ancient streets.  Betty had been there when she was a child, before the Six Day War, and she had very fond memories of its beauty.  Her father was educated at the Quaker Friends School in Ramallah. Her parents told her, “If anyone asks, tell them we are Syrian.”  They were not Syrian, but they were Christian.  
 
I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I was hearing — I had a parishioner who was afraid to reveal her real identity.  She was closeted not because she was gay (she isn’t); she was closeted because of the open hostility directed against Palestinians.  Even in the church, people who are Palestinian are dehumanized, yet Betty’s family had been Christians forever!  Since the earliest days of Christianity, her family had been followers of Christ in the land of Christ.
 
Betty kept her identity secret until that moment when she could no longer keep silent: “My parents are from Ramallah.”  A few months later, she began to share her truth with members of the congregation.
 
Betty is Palestinian.  Christian.  Presbyterian.
 
Laurie A. McNeill is a member of Hudson River Presbytery and she serves as a Teaching Elder in Highland and Marlboro, New York. 

General Assembly is less than two months away! We are excited to join with our fellow Presbyterians as we seek to let the Holy Spirit work through us in shaping the church.
 
In addition to the overtures that we will be advocating for, we are particularly excited about two General Assembly events taking place that week in Portland, for which we recommend purchasing tickets.  Instructions for purchasing tickets, as well as General Assembly registration, can be found here.
 
On Monday, June 20, at 11:30 Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb will be giving a lecture entitled, “Faith in the Face of Empire,” at the IPMN luncheon at the Doubletree Hotel. Rev. Dr. Raheb is pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, Palestine; president of the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; and the winner of the 2015 Olof Palme Prize. He is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes.
 
The following evening, Tuesday, June 21st, at 6:00 p.m. Dr. Sa’ed Adel Atshan will give a lecture entitled “Loving Justice: Reflections from a Gay Palestinian Quaker” at the Middle East Caucus dinner at the Westminster Presbyterian Church. Dr. Atshan is Visiting Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College. He holds a Ph.D. and an MA in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. The Middle East Caucus dinner will also feature the Fahed Abu Akel Award.
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