The last few weeks have been a hive of activity for me – and it has had nothing to do with either the football or the tennis!!
Three weeks ago I set off to the Holy Land, with 24 other Pilgrims from around the UK. Arriving at our Hotel in Jerusalem, feeling very hot and extremely tired, we were greeted by the staff and showed to the Restaurant for a two course meal – at 1 o’clock in the morning!
After an all too brief a sleep, we were on the coach again by 8 o’ clock to begin what would be an exhausting, but eye-opening 5 days. You could say we began at the end – by visiting the Mount of Olives and the site where it is said that Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
It seemed that wherever we went – if it was a historical/Biblical site, there would be a church built on top of it – and I have to say that very quickly they began to merge into one another. It wasn’t that they weren’t significant or beautiful or wonderfully preserved – and it wasn’t that they failed to move me – it was just so far removed from life in Jesus’ day that in some ways I wondered if we would ever get a real feel for the land as it might have been.
What those few days did do was make me realise just how close together everything is – and how mountainous the region is. But, in the shimmering heat, it those last few days of Jesus’ life suddenly began to make more sense – and the significance of walking the Via Dolorosa struck home in a way I never thought possible.
We did take time to leave Jerusalem and travel down to the Dead Sea – a fascinating and ear popping experience – ranging from a visit to the Qumran National Park, to the top of Masada, to a float in the salty water (a weird experience, but not to be missed!)
However, I think that it was only when we travelled to the Galilee, to the places of Jesus’ early life and ministry that many of the Bible stories we read suddenly came into focus. Finally it all made sense – and the trip I had waited my whole life for, made everything come alive.
From the site where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount – or the Plain (depending on which gospel you read – but actually it can be both!), to the beach where Jesus cooked breakfast for the disciples after the resurrection, to Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee – these are the places I will not forget and where a part of me will long to return to.
No sooner had I returned and unpacked, it was time to repack and make my way to Ampleforth Abbey (near Thirsk) for Minister’s Summer School, and some quality time studying the Rule of St. Benedict and joining with the Brothers in their daily offices. The sound of their plainsong at Compline will stay with me for a long, long time.
In a way, those few days at Ampleforth helped to clarify many things for me – but all too soon it was time to return to Preston and ease myself back into the life of the Pastorate – and the many, many emails and items of post needing my attention.
They say that all good things come to an end – but the memories of all that I have experienced since the beginning of June will shape me more and more as I continue in my ministry.
Yours in Christ,