Tomorrow I lead a group of 36 pilgrims, drawn from the diocese and beyond, as we set off on a pilgrimage with a difference. As well as visiting the well-known sites associated with the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, we are also visiting the Kingdom of Jordan, sometimes called ‘the other Holy Land’. Here we will renew their baptismal vows at the actual place of Jesus’ baptism, and stand on Mount Nebo, looking out over the Promised Land, as Moses did over 3,000 years ago. We will visit the stunning remains of Petra, which at the time of Jesus, was a magnificent city of commerce.
The pilgrims are also staying in Bethlehem, which is under the governance of the Palestinian authority, and now separated from Jerusalem by a very imposing wall or security barrier. We will meet with local Christians, both Messianic and Palestinian, who are the ‘living stones’, and seek to understand what it means to live as a follower of Jesus amid the complex realities of life in Israel, Palestine and Jordan today.
This is a pilgrimage – our aim is to read and reflect on the events recorded in the Scriptures in the places where they happened, and so grow in our discipleship as followers of Jesus. We will see some amazing artefacts, such as a Galilean fishing boat from the time of Jesus, and hear about recent archaeological discoveries. This will be quite an active journey, with a walk in the desert and a clamber through Hezekiah’s tunnel.
We also plan to visit one of the very ancient Christian monasteries still in existence, and to reflect on the place of the desert in Christian spirituality. Please pray for us, that we will come back deepened in faith, having walked in the footsteps of Jesus.
I will do my best to post some reflections day by day as we travel.