Last week I returned from an 8 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land which my diocese organises for the Curates sometime during their curacy. Forty two of us set off on a dark cold January morning from Derby cathedral to travel to Heathrow and onward to Tel Aviv. As you can imagine I've come back with many photos ( 386 to be precise) and with many observations and special moments. However I've chosen to blog about just 4 of them.
The first was the first morning when we walked down from the Mount of Olives via the Garden of Gethsemane and into the Old City. Part way down we stopped at Domine Flevit Church- the place where Jesus is said to have stood and looked over Jerusalem and wept. As I stood looking at this view I felt the sorrow that Christ must still feel today as He looks down on the broken and divided and yet still so beautiful city. As we took communion looking over to the walls of the city with its magnificent golden Dome of the Rock marking the sacred site for Muslim, Jew and Christian so I wept for all that has happened through this lovely area, especially in the last 100 years. We spent the next 3 days visiting Bethlehem, Masada and the Dead Sea and the place thought to be Emmaus.
Then on the Sunday we travelled to the River Jordan and renewed our baptismal vows along with hundreds of Orthodox for whom it was Epiphany. To see the riverbank so filled with people, to see men and women in the water to hear Christians from either side of the border which is the river Jordan calling greetings to each other, were all moving moments. But what brought me to tears was as we said our vows, the water of the river was splashed over us and once again I committed myself to follow Him who was himself baptised in this river.
From there we travelled to Jericho and then onwards to the Sea of Galilee where we spent our last 3 nights. Here we visited the mount of Transfiguration, Nazareth and most memorably Capernaum. There I sat in the church over St Peters house and felt myself filled once again with the Holy Spirit, bathed in light and commissioned to continue the work to which He has called me. There was something very special about the whole area. Singing Dear Lord and Father of Mankind while sat on a boat on the lake, then arriving in this beautiful church and singing Be Still For the Presence of the Lord was an immense privilege. I wasn't the only one, and three of us met up as the time in the church came to an end and prayed for one another, feeling a special anointing of God's spirit as we prayed for one another.
The final picture is of the Sunrise over the sea of Galilee taken from our hotel on the last morning. I'm sure as the days and months pass I shall remember and understand much more of what I experienced in those 8 days but this photo reminds me of the beauty and despite its many problems, the peace of this place and the light of God which continues to shine