On June 10, 13 of us from Holy Nativity Episcopal Church ventured on a 10 day pilgrimage that we will remember forever. After a long journey by plane, and an extended nap in the Paris Airport Hotel, we arrived at St. George’s College in Jerusalem. The college, led by the dean - the Very Rev. Canon Richard Sewell, is a wonderful Anglican oasis in the middle of the Muslim section of Jerusalem. The course, The Footsteps of Jesus, lived up to its name. Our course leader was the Rev. Canon Mary June Nestler. Nestler led us spiritually as a priest, and academically having been an archaeologist for many years. We were escorted through a path of history that was unforgettable. She also explained some of the contemporary issues in Israel and Palestine.
Holy Nativity’s pilgrims were joined together in the course with a larger group from the Diocese of Delaware. Our two groups started out as strangers, and became lifelong friends. Our course chaplain was the Rev. Jim Bimbi from Delaware. Bimbi and Nestler combined contextual biblical study with theological and spiritual reflection as we explored.
There is so much so share from the trip, but here are a few treasured highlights:
Traveled to Ein Kerem to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, then through the Wall of Separation of the West Bank on to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.
Traveled to Galilee via the Jordan Valley (two nights away from the college in Nazareth). Boat ride on the Sea of Galilee (by the way, a big vacation place).
Worshipped on Sunday at Christ Church in Nazareth-a most amazing experience. Their rector spoke Arabic and English. He invited three clergy from our group, along with a priest from the Japanese group attending, to serve. The clergy took turns speaking in their native language, while the congregation simultaneously worshipped in different languages. The Holy Spirit was definitely present!
Honored the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor.
Walked along first century excavations where Jesus probably walked. It was moving to visit and pray at the Western Wall and walk around Haram Al Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary).
Roamed through the Israel Museum and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Hiked through the Judean Wilderness, renewed our Baptismal Vows at the Jordan River, and stayed afloat with ease on the Dead Sea.
Experienced a “Palm Sunday” walk and looked in on the Garden of Gethsemane.
Walked the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa and ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where pilgrims can touch were Jesus died and was buried.
Every location we visited was enhanced by a beautiful church associated with it. We saw the difference between the Russian Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches. We prayed and remembered Jesus in every place. I also remember the sounds, the smells, the hot dry air, the Muslim call to worship from the Minaret loud speakers, the Jewish call for Sabbath on Friday night, the smell of the spices in the small shops. I remember so many different religions and nationalities in one city of Jerusalem; all living in peace. Of course there was time for riding a camel, shopping and socializing.
Please go to St. George’s website, www.saintgeorgescollegejerusalem.com to find out more about all their courses and what they have to offer. Every time the scripture is read now, I have knowledge of where everything happened and I feel a personal connection that I didn’t have before.
Pictured top: The Holy Nativity Group. Photo courtesy: Madge Smith
Pictured bottom: Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo courtesy: Madge Smith