The story of King of Kings Community began in August, 1983. Wayne & Ann Hilsden, together with their two small sons, moved to Jerusalem to join fellow Canadians, Jim and Kathy Cantelon, in establishing a congregation.
It began as a Bible study/fellowship group in a living room. For several weeks they met, using a stack of books for a pulpit. Jim and Wayne sharing the teaching responsibilities. Seeing as there was no keyboard available for Ann to use, Wayne led worship with a guitar. The number of worshipers who were keen and excited about worshiping God in Jerusalem was almost equaled by the number of cats congregating outside on the garbage bins.
What was lacking in numbers was compensated for a deep sense of calling to plant a congregation in Jerusalem and bless Israel in whatever way they could.
Sensing God’s grace and anointing, more people soon began to visit the tiny group and stay. By November 1983, the fledgling congregation moved to the YMCA on King David Street and rented the small “Clark Room” each week. This room had a piano (“Old Toothless,” Ann called it). A year later the numbers had increased to about fifty people.
In the fall of 1985, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra moved from the YMCA Auditorium to the Jerusalem Theatre, leaving a Sunday evening vacancy. The hall was dark and shabby, but with the help of skilled volunteer task forces, and financial help from our friends, we were able to renovate the auditorium and secure a long-term lease. Though the congregation numbered just sixty people, a multi-year contract was signed for a place built for six hundred. God honored that step of faith and soon those empty seats began to fill up. During this chapter a major signature of the ministry became our praise and worship. The first two studio-produced albums ever released from Israel featured our worship team under the direction of Ann Hilsden. Later, two live worship celebrations at the YMCA were released by major Christian labels.
In the summer of 1988, a significant change occurred. Jim and Kathy Cantelon sensed that God was calling them back to Canada. Soon after, Malcolm and Cheryl Hedding, who served on the pastoral team along with chaplain responsibilities at the International Christian Embassy, received a call to plant a new congregation in Durban, South Africa.
Wayne Hilsden sought the Lord for a fresh vision for the future. In the succeeding weeks and months Wayne became convinced that King of Kings should be identified even more closely with the local, messianic Jewish Body in Jerusalem and Israel.
To become a local Messianic congregation a number of significant changes needed to take place. There would need to be:
- a greater emphasis on the Jewish/Old Testament roots of our faith
- a worship-style more suited to Jewish-Israeli culture
- an expression of our message of Yeshua (Jesus) in terms Israelis could relate to and understand
- a commitment to stand alongside the nation of Israel through prayer and practical support
- a deeper level of communication and cooperation with other Messianic communities in Israel and abroad
To give expression to this desire, the original name “Jerusalem Christian Assembly” was changed to “King of Kings Assembly.” There was also a concerted effort to raise up Messianic believers to join the leadership team.
The body in Israel, however, was still very young and such leaders were not easy to find. Wayne began scouting around and discovered a man named Ray Gannon, who for over 20 years had been involved in pioneering Messianic congregations, as well as teaching in a number of Bible colleges. Ray came and joined the team with the primary task of training local leaders. As a result, King of Kings College was established in 1990. The College grew significantly and has become the main leadership training center for Messianic believers in Israel.
From the beginning, Ray Gannon was committed to pass the leadership baton of the College to local Israelis. This was soon accomplished and Ilan Zamir was appointed the new president. Subsequently, a board of local leaders was put in place and more local Israeli faculty were hired to teach. In order to fulfill the vision to be a locally-led ministry, the name was changed to Israel College of the Bible.
In order to expand the messianic vision of King of Kings Assembly, Wayne Hilsden invited Chuck Cohen to join him as associate pastor. After having served as a pastor in a Messianic congregation in the United States for over ten years, Chuck joined the leadership team in 1989.
The primary goal of training Israelis was to raise up leadership for planting congregations. So far, two other congregations were given birth by King of Kings and are currently continuing to thrive with local Israeli leadership. In addition to our English-speaking services, King of Kings also includes a Hebrew-speaking fellowship.
For more than 15 years Chuck played a key role in moving us toward the vision of becoming a Messianic congregation. Through his preaching, seminars and writings, Chuck helped us explore the Jewishness of our faith. He also inspired us to increase our support of Israel through prayer. In 2006, Chuck moved on to expand his itinerant teaching ministry in various nations around the world as well give more time to Intercessors for Israel, a partner ministry whose offices are in the Jerusalem Prayer Tower.
Along the way, many other gifted believers have joined the team. One key player is a young Jewish believer named Seth Ben-Haim. As a teenage member of the congregation Seth came to Wayne and asked how he might be able to serve. Wayne started him on the overhead projector. As time went on, Wayne encouraged and mentored him into leadership. Seth would later co-lead the youth group. While serving in the congregation, Seth completed his University studies.
Seth went on to serve faithfully as our Executive Pastor for several years. His wife, Te’ena, lead our women’s ministry and our Redeemed in Zion humanitarian outreach. In the summer of 2007, King of Kings sent Seth out to pursue other endeavors in which he felt the Lord leading him and his family.
Not only did we strive to be “messianic” in our identity, but we have sought to be rooted more deeply in the soil of Israel. In our very early days, we were a very transient, international group who came and went. It was a challenge to develop deep relationships and a sense of being a local body and a spiritual family. But as the years have passed we have been able to sink our roots much deeper. A key to this development has been our emphasis on small groups. These groups meet each week all around Jerusalem. In these more intimate settings we’re learning to love and serve one another according to the first Jerusalem congregation model we find in Acts 2:42-47. Because we believe in developing true community, we later changed our name to “King of Kings Community”.
In 2001 a significant new chapter began in our history. Because real estate in Jerusalem was so expensive and the availability of property zoned for public assembly so rare, we never imagined ever owning our own worship center. Our level of faith was too limited to acquire a small building for our administrative offices, mid-week meetings and classrooms. During a personnel retreat in the Galilee, however, Wayne experienced a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. One of the results was a new level of faith for the impossible. Wayne began to believe that owning our own worship center was now a very real possibility, so we began our search. What we found was an abandoned movie theater in the heart of Jerusalem. After praying with other Messianic pastors in Jerusalem, there was a clear confirmation from God that this was the place the Lord had chosen for us.
With lots of financial and physical help from believers, both local and abroad, the old movie theater was completely renovated. The Pavilion, as it is now known, is one of the most visually attractive and modern conference halls in Jerusalem. It is constantly being used for a wide variety of events, such as weekly worship services, dramatic productions, concerts of various kinds, and even its original purpose, movie showings.
Over the years, God has allowed us, by His grace, to catch His vision and see it come to pass step by step. But of course, we are not about to just sit back and be nostalgic. We’re called to ‘press on’ (Phil 3:12). There is so much more that God wants to accomplish in and through us.
In recent years we have had amazing expansions of both property and ministry! One of these expansions is the Jerusalem Prayer Tower that was established in 2006. This tower is located in the Clal Building on the 14th floor, the highest floor of the building, strategically located so that you can see almost all the way around Jerusalem!
Another expansion that we are particularly proud of is our Kings School of Media. We began the school in 2009 to raise up believers in the land to take forward God's Word through media. This school is the first media school among the believing community in Israel. The students that we have seen come through and out of this school are extremely talented and hungry to learn! We couldn't be more proud.
A couple of years after our media school was up and running we became involved in another project to begin a Messianic school of music and arts in Jerusalem, alongside two other congregations. This school became known as Yuval. It began operating in 2010, in our facilities near the Pavilion. During the first semester, we already had over 100 students involved. Since then, another branch has opened in Tel Aviv, smaller but still just as powerful. More talks have been held about possibly opening up further branches.
So many steps are being taken in the Messianic body in Israel and we are thrilled to be able to be a part of some of them!