MERCER ISLAND, WA (October 6, 2010) – Greg Asimakoupoulos, pastor of Mercer Island Covenant Church, drew on inspiration from a large local Jewish population as well as religious practices in Jerusalem when he recently asked his congregation to write on a wall in the building.
Roughly 4,000 of the 22,000 people who live on this island in the middle of Seattle’s Lake Washington are Jewish. Observances and holidays are noticeable in a community that boasts a Reformed and Orthodox synagogue as well as Washington State’s only Jewish high school.
“I am in the process of preaching a series of messages titled “The Church You’ve Always Longed For,” Asimakoupoulos said. “In looking for a creative way to punctuate the first sermon, I thought of the Wailing Wall (lower photo), an image familiar to many of our neighbors, work colleagues and friends.
Asimakoupoulos, who has studied in Israel and led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, says he has always been impressed by the immense wall of stone that is the only remaining portion of ancient Temple.
“If you’ve been to Jerusalem you no doubt have seen the wall where observant Jews pray by pressing pieces of paper with written supplications into the cracks of the massive stones,” he notes. “I wanted to provide our people a similar opportunity.”
About the time the sermon series was to begin, water damage to a stairwell in the church required workmen to tear out the wallboard, which revealed the cement foundations. The wall would eventually be re-covered, but that wouldn’t take place for several weeks. It was then Asimakoupoulos had the “Wailing Wall” idea.
“Why not give the congregation a chance to write prayers directly on the exposed cement wall,” I wondered. “That way the written prayers and petitions could be read by the members of the church until construction began and would actually remain on the walls (top photo) of the stairwell after they were tiled over.”
At the conclusion of the sermon, Asimakoupoulos invited those in attendance to leave the sanctuary and walk to the stairwell. There they were handed large permanent markers and asked to write a one-sentence prayer describing what they wanted God to bring about in their church.