An Ecumenical Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Saturday - visiting friends and joining Scouts

A day with a difference today!

After a tour round Bethlehem we joined Joanne's Bethlehem friends for a rooftop Palestinian lunch that was superb.

There were stories to share with the family and the warmest of welcomes.

The afternoon was shorter than usual, and we made our way back to the hotel to be met by a friend who was going to act as interpreter as we met up with a recently founded Scout and Guide Group.

He took us through the busy streets of Bethlehem, buzzing with Saturday afternoon shopping. Vegetables spread out on trays on the pavement, small dusty and enticing shops.

We made our way to a school where we were ushered into a reception room to meet the head and one of the teachers who had recently started a Scout and Guide group.

Johnny, the teacher, spoke of the way the Scout and Guide Group had recently been formed. Soon Michael, the Head joined us. He told us about the school, the reasons for forming a Scout group and shared with us some of the problems they face as a school, not least the difficulty of organising trips out of Bethlehem.

We then went to join the Scouts. They were busy in the school yard, and quickly gave us a Scouting welcome. They were doing knots and Felicity, Christine and Elaine joined in.

Felicity is the Group Scout leader at the first (Highbury) Cheltenham scout group back at home. She also is responsible for international links for Gloucestershire's Scouts. Recently a UK Arab link had been made by Scouting in the UK and Felicity was planning to make links with Palestinian Scouts. Christine leads Holy Trinity Brownies that also have links with Highbury, and Elaine is a Guider near Bedford. We were also joined by Jonathan, who had worked his way right through Scouts over in Ireland.

Having tied enough knots, Johnny asked our three leaders to lead a game. They introduced 20 Scouts and Guides to Cat and Mouse and all had a lot of fun. It's hard enough trying to explain games in English let alone having to translate into Arabic.

The games over, the Scout and Guide meeting came to an end with a closing ceremony and we all moved into the Scout hut, and the Scout leader's office.

It was great seeing a film about scouting in Bethlehem, and then moving on to exchange gifts.  Felicity shared gifts from Highbury and Christine from Holy Trinity's Brownies and from Guiding.

We heard their new band playing some newly learned pieces. Then we filmed a wonderful Christmas greeting to go with the Peace Light ceremony. Make a note - the Wednesday before Chrsitmas, 6-30 at Highbury.

Four of us accepted an invitation to a money raising party and dance at a hotel at the bottom of the street - it promises to be fun and explains my early blog!

We're off to the East Jerusalem Baptist church in the morning where I have been invited to preach. And then it's off to the Dead Sea!

We are all thinking of you in our prayers as we remember all the churches represented on our pilgrimage.

If you pick this up before your service tomorow, then here are some thoughts for prayer.

Please pray for the people of Bethlehem and particularly the Christian communities as they seek to work for peace and justice.

Please pray for the people we have been meeting and the difficulties they face.

Pray for Alex Awaad and the work of the Bethlehem Bible College and the Shepherds' Society as they seek to provide development and humanitarian aid not only here in Bethlehem but also in Gaza.

Pray for Fr Michael McGarry and the Tantur Ecumenical Institute as they not only provide a place of study, but also a space where Israeli and Palestinian can meet and listen to and learn from each other.

Pray for us as our pilgrimage continues and for me as I preach tomorrow.

And above all pray for the peace of Jerusalem and peace for the people of this place.

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