Galilee Branch facility dedicated
Overlooking Sea of Galilee, villa in Tiberias is renovated
O Galilee, sweet Galilee,
Where Jesus loved so much to be,
O Galilee, blue Galilee,
Come sing thy song again to me.
"Each Cooing Dove," hymn by Robert Morris, 1874
TIBERIAS, The Holy Land — For the first time since the Savior Himself traveled through the region — and perhaps for the first time ever — the members of His Church have a meetinghouse of their own overlooking the beautiful Sea of Galilee.
On March 17, 2007, some 45 branch members, district leaders, and Church officials met in a small but beautifully renovated villa in Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, which will now serve as the meetinghouse for the Galilee Branch of the Church. It will serve the saints living in Tiberias, Nazareth, and Haifa, the northern half of the Israel District.
As part of the special district conference convened there, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to the group of the Savior's Galilean ministry, of this place He "loved so much to be," and then dedicated the newly purchased facility to the Lord.
"I am sure the Savior loves every chapel, stake center, and meetinghouse in the Church but, surely, there must be a special place in His heart right now for this little jewel nestled on the hillside overlooking this scene He knew and cherished all of His life."
The meetinghouse in Tiberias is the second facility the Church has developed in Israel, the first being the Brigham Young University Center for Near Eastern Studies on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. This latter facility is an extension of the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, and was completed 20 years ago this month. It also doubles as a meetinghouse for the saints living in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, including the BYU students who have newly returned to study in the Holy Land. President Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy and president of Brigham Young University and his wife, Sharon, accompanied Elder Holland and his wife, Patricia, on this assignment to Israel to re-establish the students and dedicate the new facility.
"It is wonderful to have this beautiful new little facility in the Galilee," said Israel District President Gary Browning. "Worshipping in that branch is like worshipping at the United Nations. All of our services are conducted in and/or translated into English, Hebrew, Spanish and Russian. Even the hymns are posted on separate boards designated for each of those languages."
No proselyting of any kind is undertaken in Israel, and no baptisms are performed in the country. However, over the years many who have joined the Church elsewhere have come to the Holy Land as immigrants or are among those seeking employment. There is, for example, a very large contingent of Filipino members who attend both the Jerusalem and Galilee meetings.
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