Yes, I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Israel/Palestine with a group of young pilgrims of The Episcopal Church for two weeks. There will be a total of 45 of traveling in the footsteps of Jesus, mostly by bus. . . .
But it's hot and we only have two weeks, so I am thankful for the bus and airplanes that Jesus didn't have at his disposal. Anyway, Part I is a morning flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I will be collected by my good friend and colleague, Abi. We'll have lunch with our pal Mary Cat and then head to Kanuga Camp and Conference Center, trip organizer and sponsor. There we will meet all kinds of friends and colleagues to engage our final trip preparation and orientation. We will worship together and begin Part II of the journey as we go back to Charlotte and fly to Philadelphia. Part III is a long over-night flight from Philly to Tel-Aviv. We land in Israel Monday morning - there is an eight hour time difference from my home zone of CDT.
I AM SOOOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!
As with all long trips and tours we have a plan that is subject to change. Our hopeful plan of pilgrimage includes the following locations, not necessarily in the order listed:
- Jerusalem - staying at St. George's College Guest House - tour Damascus Gate
- Mt. Scopus, Mount of Olives, City of David, King Hezekiah's Tunnel, Pool of Siloam
- Old City - Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls), Rampart
- Bethlehem - Church of the Nativity (Oldest Church of Christendom), Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Peace Center to meet with Palestinian Youth
- Western Wall, Pools of Bethesda and St. Anne's Church
- Ramallah - St. Andrew's Guest House
- Judean Desert - Old Roman Road, Monastery of the Temptation
- Jordan Valley - Jericho, Nazareth, Mary's Well, Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation and Latin Church of the Annunciation (traditional sites of Angel Gabriel visiting Mary)
- Shefa Amr - Sepphoris/Zippori
- Jordan River - Gamla, Golan Heights
- Sea of Galilee - Church of the Multiplication (Feeding of the Five Thousand), Capernum (Synagogue), Mt. Beatitutde and Mt. Eremos, Kibbutz Ginnossar
- Masada (Herod's Palace)
- Qumran (where Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered), Dead Sea
- Bethany - church overlooking Lazarus, Martha and Mary's house
- Palm Sunday Road to Garden of Gethsemane
- Stations of the Cross from Emmaus - Via Dolorosa
I expect to be completely off the grid for these next two weeks. I will attempt to post a picture and reflection for the day if I have easy access to the Internet. I will be keeping my own journal that I may attempt to share upon my return - we'll see. One of my fellow pilgrims plans to blog the trip. She is a young adult on the staff at Kanuga. I haven't met Jessica Bodford yet, but her pre-pilgrimage posts on Into The Holy Land have been entertaining and helpful. She sounds as chatty as me, so make sure you have the time when you click over to her blog :)
Many of my readers are Christian believers, but several are not. Part of my thrill in making this pilgrimage is that we will be learning about all three Abrahamic faiths and visiting Holy sites that represent several faiths and their commonalities. There is hopefulness for peace in the Middle East if more people can find ways to respectfully acknowledge cultural and religious differences. So many horrible things have happened over the course of human history in the name of various religions. I'm thankful to have this opportunity to be on a Peaceful Pilgrimage rather than a Christian Crusade.
For my non-religious readers, both family and friends, I invite you to embrace the amazing and ancient aspects of the region in terms of cultural anthropology and human history. For my Christian companions, in addition to the aforementioned, imagine the mystery. I know that all of you will send prayers and wishes for safe travel as I will hold all of you in my prayers.
I pledge to carry each of you with me on my journey; in my heart and with my prayers.
Prayers before setting out on a pilgrimage
(I Googled and pulled this from another Episcopal Pilgrim's Blog :)
God of the guiding star, the bush that blazes
Show us your way
God of the stormy seas, the bread that nourishes
Teach us your truth
God of the still, small voice, the wind that blows where it chooses
Fill us with life
God of the elements, of our inward and outward journeys
Set our feet on your road today.
May God bless us with a safe journey
May the angels and saints travel with us
May we live this day with justice and joy.