The hospital building was erected in the 19th century by Dr. David Watt Torrance - a Scottish surgeon, who saw medicine and treating the sick in the Holyland as his calling.
The first hospital in Tiberius was built in January 1894 by Dr. Torrance who managed the hospital, worked in it and also travelled around the region treating its inhabitants including the residents of Safed.
In 1921, his son, Dr. Herbert Torrance, joined his father and worked at the hospital until his retirement in 1953. The mayor of Tiberius at the time awarded him a gold pin as a gesture of profound gratitude from the city. The hospital continued operating as a maternity hospital till 1959, and was later converted into a guest house.
In 1999, the Church Of Scotland decided to open a unique hotel which would serve as a center of culture and tranquility for its guests, and as a site of faith, prosperity and peace, in the hope that all those would soon arrive in our region.
Prayer and worship have been a central part of the Church of Scotland’s presence in Tiberias since 1885. There was no church building until 1930 when the present building was established in a peaceful setting close to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Worship is held every Sunday evening at 6pm, and Communion is celebrated most weeks.
Dr David Torrance’s medical mission was to serve the many health needs of all the people of the Galilee. Prayer and worship were integral to his approach to life and work. The Doctor’s house was open to all for worship on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. Sunday worship took place in the Hospital, with morning services in the waiting rooms, and an afternoon Ward service in Arabic.
In 1930 a former school building was refurbished, the ground floor being transformed into the church, and named after St Andrew, a Galilean, who is the patron saint of Scotland.
The Hospital closed in the late 1950’s and several years later the main buildings were refurbished as a Hospice for pilgrims. A group of staff and volunteers led morning and evening worship in the Hospice for residents. But a church was still needed for the small congregation of local Christians, and the growing number of pilgrim visitors to the Galilee, and the original church still serves this community.
The Church of Scotland has two churches in Israel –the other is the St. Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem. As well as the Scots Hotel here in Tiberias, the Church of Scotland operates the Tabeetha School in Jaffa and the St Andrew’s Scots Guesthouse in Jerusalem. These organisations work together towards the Church’s goals of relationship healing through education, ministry and hospitality. This holistic Christian philosophy is embedded within the church’s organisations through the adoption of a social enterprise approach.
The Hotel, for example, welcomes and values all guests, who include pilgrims visiting from the Church of Scotland and other churches, both locally and worldwide; employs staff and suppliers drawn from all parts of local society; and supports local community initiatives.
The Church of Scotland is part of the Worldwide Communion of Reformed Churches and our church is the only Reformed church in the Galilee. Worshippers visit the church from all over the world, and share with our small local congregation.
The church, which can hold 130 people, is often used by the Scots Hotel as a venue for concerts, and by groups who desire a quiet and reflective space close to the Sea of Galilee. The upper floor of the building is currently occupied by a small Messianic Jewish elementary school. A new ‘Sacred Space’ area opened in early 2010 within an ancient city wall tower which is a part of the Hotel complex.
The Minister, Rev Kate McDonald, took up her post in November 2015. Kate was trained and ordained in the Scottish Episcopal Church and served at a church in Edinburgh city centre before coming to Tiberias. Kate has a pastoral role with staff and Christian visitors at the Hotel and elsewhere. And she actively works alongside and supports local Christians and Christian groupings — in particular working with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Both of these Churches have formal partnership agreements with the Church of Scotland.
Interfaith initiatives are also very important, and we are currently working with our partners to develop a ‘Peace, Reconciliation and Interfaith Centre’ linked to the church.
For more information, contact Kate McDonald directly at
Kate’s blog can be found at www.revisedontology.com
For the church website: www.standrewsgalilee.com.