An Ecumenical Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Will you come and follow me?

Welcome to our ecumenical pilgrimage of the Holy Land.

Friends from Highbury Congregational Church, St Luke's, St Gregory's, St Matthew's, St Margaret's Alstone, Trinity, Charlton Kings Baptist Church, the Congregational Federation and the Congregational Federation Training Course join together on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from 28th April to 7th May, 2009.

It may be possible to update our Blog ... but equally that may not be possible on our travels!

We travel to the Holy Land, to Tel Aviv airport and then by coach to the Star Hotel, Bethlehem, where we check in just in time for dinner.

After breakfast there will be a talk about the history of the holy places, and instructions on making the most of our pilgrimage.  We will make our first visit to Bethlehem, visiting the Church of the Nativity, the monastery of St Jerome and the Milk Grotto.  After lunch there will be an opportunity to stop at a shop which is one of the best ones for souvenir shopping.  AFter our evening meal there will be time for first reflections and prayers.  We welcome Alex and Brenda Awad of the Bethlehem Bible College and the East Jerusalem Baptist  Church as our guests for dinner.  After dinner jAlex will share his reflections on his own life story with us.

A walking tour of the old city of Jerusalem.  Visiting the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall), St Anne's Church, the siter of hte Pools of Bethsaida, the Church of Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) on the site of the house of Pilate.  We walk the route of the Stations of the Cross, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  AFter a short lunchbreak, we walk to Mt Zion, to teh Last Supper Room, and the Church of St Peter in Galli-cantu.  We take a coach back to the Star Hotel, Bethlehem.

We travel to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, visit the Church of Pater Noster, then walk down the Mount of Olives and see 'Dominus Flevit' (the Lord wept) where there is a lovely church with a wonderful view of Jerusalem.  From there we continue our walk to the Church of All Nations, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Chapel of Betrayal.  We travel by bus to Emmaus and worship there.  If time allows we will vist the Garden Tomb later in the afternoon.  We welcome Fr Michael McGarry of the Tantur Institute as our guest for dinner.

This is an oppportunity to gather breath and reflect on our experiences so far.  There will be an opportunity to visit places in and around Bethlehem, and enjoy local hospitality for lunch.  Our day will finish with dinner and a time for sharing and prayer.

We will will worship at the  East Jerusalem Baptist church and those who wish will take Mass at a local church.  We will then take the road down to Jericho, up to the Mountain of Temptation and then take to the waters in the Dead Sea.

Today we travel to the North and to the Galilee.  We visit Cana and then move on to Nazareth.  We make our way to the C Hotel in Tiberias where we will stay for a couple of nights.

We start the day with a boat ride on teh Sea of Galilee, and then have a pilgrimage communion at the place of St Peter's Primacy.  Avisit will follow to the Church of the multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, and then we go on to Capernaum.  Lunch today will be in a restaurant where they serve wonderful 'St Peter's Fish', unique to the Sea of Galilee and the ones caught by the fishermen of Galilee in Jesus's day.  Very tasty!  In the afternoon we will visit the Church of the Beatitudes.

We will visit Mt Carmel, and then go on to Haifa, exploring Elijah's territory and making connections with the story of Jesus.  On to the Church of Stella Maris, the Star of the Sea, near the beautiful gardens of teh Bahai Temple with views of Haifa Bay.  If time permits we will go to Acre, a Crusader City on teh other side of the bay.

We check out of our hotel, and visit Mt Tabor where the Transfiguration may have taken place.  We will travel to teh top of the mountain in taxis, and worship there in thanksgiving for our pilgrimage.  Then we will have an early lunch and make for the airport for the flight back to Heathrow.  We are scheduled to arrive in Heathrow at 20-20 and get back to Chetlenham around 23-00.

1 comment:

  1. Some thoughts from Roger ...

    Pilgrimage to the Holy Land


    • Israel is only 260 miles long by 70 miles wide – but it has packed in a tremendous amount of biblical and political history, with a very diverse geography – snow capped mountains, arid deserts, green vineyards and rocky hills, and I think we saw most of them.
    • The high points for our pilgrimage were Mount Tabor – where Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, and Mount Carmel – a Carmelite monastery celebrating the prophet Elijah.
    • Low point was the trip to the Dead Sea – 1300 feet below sea level, the lowest point on earth. The water is supposed to have health properties, a bit like Cheltenham- on – Sea. My abiding memory is of Mary and her two sisters doing synchronized swimming
    • Israel is only a small place but it has big complicated political problems. Its physical location at the crossroads of Africa and Asia combined with the belief of three great religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam, that Israel was their spiritual home has inspired 4000 years of struggle over the land of milk and honey.
    • We witnessed the stark difference between the haves and have nots - Palestinians living in refugee camps where they have little hope of returning to their homes, meanwhile suffering the deprivation of security checks restricting their movement and lack of regular water and other supplies, compared to the Israeli areas where land is irrigated and fertile and people are free to come and go as they please and live in their own homes
    Number of Churches
    • I think we were almost churched out by the time we finished the Pilgrimage – there were many different places to worship – but I was intrigued by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the heart of the Christian quarter, where the Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Roman catholic and Abyssinian Coptic churches all worship under the same umbrella.
    Sad places
    • I found the Via Dolorosa, retracing the 14 stations of the cross, a little sad as I wanted to witness it in quiet contemplation but so too did half of Jerusalem it seemed – however I am very glad to have done it and look forward to reading it in my birthday book “In the steps of Jesus” which my dear wife bought for me. I say dear wife because ever since our renewal of wedding vows at Cana I have used every form of endearment to address her.
    Uplifting places
    • For me this must be Galilee and particularly the Sea of Galilee. Here the pilgrimage seemed to slow down a little as we climbed aboard the good ship Noah for an amazing trip across the lake. After about 15 minutes the boat was stopped and we looked to the shore where Jesus cooked fish for the disciples after his resurrection. The whole of this part was so much easier to associate with Jesus in his time and it was wonderful to imagine him performing his miracles in Galilee, and it helped not having a church built on it.
    Surprising places
    • Joanne, our joint leader was able to squeeze in an unscheduled visit to Caesarea by the sea on the last morning. We were next to the deep turquoise blue of the Mediterranean Sea and alongside the remains of an Aqueduct from the Roman city
    No place like home
    • We had a wonderful time but it was nice to be back home – for me the real Pilgrimage begins now when I have time to reflect on the many things we saw and experienced and where the bible will come alive with every mention of everything we had seen and witnessed