When we talk about history, we mean listing facts about a thing, person or event that existed or took place at a specific time in the past until a specific time or is still present till this day. An important element of history is stating the truth as it occurred in isolation from subjective opinions, views of informal parties, emotions and bias in the narrative of those facts. Here comes the importance of history, from the originality and style of the author.
And because we cannot rely on the memory of anyone we tried to look at our church’s book or at least what remained of it, as in 1977, the church was burned, robbed and damaged during the recent Lebanese war. Pews were burned; doors and windows destroyed and the church was robbed of all its contents. During the attack, were also burned the old library and the church files, the only things left were those miraculously saved by the custodians who were sincerely looking after the progress, ministry and testimony of the church.
As per the church records, the primary date when a national church was organized was 1866, and members were registered in the records in order to help in counting the number of active members in the church and to be a reference to the record of the Synod and the state. The organization at the time had not yet reached the degree of precision of today, but the church records kept seven important aspects:
1 – Pastor.
2 – Elders.
3 – Members.
4 – Baptisms.
5 – Marriages.
6 – Deaths.
7 – Annual reports.
Nevertheless, the final records and logbooks weren’t developed and printed until about seventy years ago when the Synod started getting organized and the members of the Protestant denomination were being counted; then, all the sections and chapters were customized to give accurate information about each church. Therefore, though we don’t have accurate history but we audited as much as we could what was in our hands to reach information as precisely as possible.
So who were those who documented our church records?
In the past, the pastor was responsible of registering the church members, the children after their baptism, those who attend the confirmation class after publicly joining the church, the couple after their marriage, the deceased after their death, migrants after their migration, etc. . In case of the non-existence of a permanent full-time pastor in the church the elders were responsible of writing and recording all of these things as they are received and in the order of occurrence. The first records show us that the first persons registered in our church logs were not of Evangelical parents but came from other churches. This is why the local historian first recorded the date of their entry into our church as already baptized members of their mother churches, and then they joined by faith and membership the Evangelical church. It is worth mentioning that the first meeting places were houses at least until the year 1873 when the establishment of the school took place and the church activities began with the missionaries. And then these activities continued until the establishment of the church in 1948 in its current location in the Rahibat Street – Nouri region and with its current form (though some neighbors say that it was formerly a small chapel then extended to its current form in 1948).
The Pastors of the Church
Record books of the church hold these important notes: The Americans missionaries are responsible of the pastoral service establishment, among these are: Dr. Samuel Gesb, Rev. William Martin, Rev. Paul Erdman, Dr. William Nelson, Rev. James Nickel, and Rev. Robert Augdek. These worked successively at the service of the Church since the year 1866 and until the first national pastor was ordained, the Reverend Habib Subhia. After that, the following teachers were dedicated to a full-time church service: Elias Saade, Khalil Yazigi, Elias Mallouk, GergesEl Makdissi, Yowakim Sawwah, Shekri Fakhouri, and Youssef Attia.
– Born in Blat Marjayoun, ordained in August 1902, Rev. Habib Subhia, received the ministry of the Church of Tripoli in September 14, 1908, after he was transferred from Aleppo.
– He was followed by Rev. Abdullah Sawwah, who was born in Hama – Syria, ordained in November 17, 1907 and received the pastoring of the church on September 15, 1928 until 1939, where he was transferred to the Church of Mina.
– Then, Rev. Rashid Antonios, who was also born in Hama was ordained in October 10,1933 and took care of the church on the first of September 1939 and remained in the service of the church until 1950, the year of his death.
– And then followed in the service of the Church Rev. George Khoury, who was born in Sidon, 1901, ordained on the First of August, then took over care of the church on September 11, 1921 and he served until 1973, when reached the retirement age.
– After him came Rev. Jean Sabbagh, who was born in Aamora in 1929, ordained on August 1st, 1970 and received the ministry of the church in November 1st, 1973 and continued to serve it until the year 1989.
– Followed him Rev. George Bitar, who was born in Aleppo in June 2nd, 1958 – Ordained on September 2nd, 1990 and received the care of the church in Dec 21st, 1988 in addition to pastoring the Church of Meniara. He left the Synod in 2007 to the United States.
– Then was appointed the daughter of the church, Rola Sleiman born in 1975, as pastor of the Church since 2009 and until today. This is considered a historical step, as the Church of Tripoli is the first church in the Middle East being pastored by a national female preacher.
The Elders of the church
As per the records, the senate of the church officially started in 1890 as an organized entity that ordained elders according to the Presbyterian regulations, but the unofficial work that was previously done, often consisted of volunteering work and personal contributions.
The first ordained Elder was Elias Saade who was elected and ordained on the same day in August 13, 1980. Then was elected Sheikh Anthony Hadid in November 1891, then, Gerges Elias Khoury, on the third of January 1893, after him Elias Khoury in 1895, and Sheikh Yousuf Fares and Sheikh Shukri Fakhoury in November 6,1908 and their service continued for one year or two, when the teacher Yowakim Massouh came. The succession of elders continued with Sheikh Gabriel Khoury Youssef Fares, Bahij Fakhoury, Nader Ghossen, Elias Melhem, Abdallah Elias Najjar, then Elias Abu Rustom, then Abdallah Hosni, then Wadih Youssef Fares, then Habib Moqaddem, then Shaker Khalil Nassar, then Nazir El Hajj, Qiaar Hajj, then Riad George Nahoul, then Anis Bourashi, and then Anis Abu Daher then Dr. Naseeb Sammam, then Youssef Sioufi, then Naji Khoury, then Ghaleb Hadid, Milad Hosni, Elias Sartan, Najla Khoury.
Then the elders Jad Katbeh, Asaad Al Rassi, Hagop Kahkajian, Ghassan Adel, and Emile Nader.who are still to this day in the service of the Church and the management of its affairs.
The Active Members of the Church:
Church records show that the church’s membership in the years 1866 to 1900 did not exceed forty people, and they were mostly Greek Orthodox. Then the church was organized and its first pastor took over, and membership began to join in an orderly fashion. Then after several pastors succeeded on the church service, it witnessed an increase in the number of members and a diversity in its activities, thus began the Sunday school, youth meetings and the charital association of Evangelical ladies began as an official association in 1930, when Lebanon was still under the French mandate.
Today the church membership includes about 70 official members, and a hundred and ten residents between Tripoli, Koura and Beirut. Its current pastor is Rola Sleiman and its elders are Sheikh Asaad Al Rassi, Sheikh Jack (Hagop) Kahkajian, Sheikh Jad Katbeh, Sheikh Ghassan Adel, and Sheikh Emile Nader. The church building located in Rahibat Street facing the old Saraya has been renovated in 1998, and the church is pursuing its mission entrusted by God’s will.
Province: Northern Lebanon
Address: Rahibat Street
Phone: 06/ 446 895
Fax: 06 / 446 895