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Monday, 18 July 2022

Scripture, Stones, Spirituality and human encounter: the MES study-pilgrimage to the Holy Land

The MES (Ministry Experience Scheme) is a programme largely funded by the National Church which places young persons, 18-30, who may be exploring ordination into parochial settings to get a sense of life in parish ministry. The MES programme of this diocese is one of the most successful across the Church of England. It is headed by Dr Clare Amos, our Director of Discipleship, with support from Fr William Gulliford our Director of Ordinands.

Dr Amos at the Dome of the Rock

One part of our diocesan MES programme which has not been able to be realised for the past two and a half years due to COVID has been a study-pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Finally this year we were able to restore this trip and so 10 interns spent from 7 to 15 July, visiting the Biblical lands, accompanied by Dr Amos, Fr Gulliford, the Revd Carolyn Cooke from the chaplaincy of La Côte, and myself. We were further very pleased that an intern from a similar programme of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in Europe, who is serving in Emmanuel Church, Geneva, was able to join us.

Birthplace of Christ

The days of pilgrimage, prayer and study began followed to a degree the earthly life of our Lord,  beginning with Bethlehem, journeying through various points in Galilee and ending up in Jerusalem, where the events of the passion, death and resurrection occurred. There were conversations with Palestinian Christians, including the Anglican priest in Nazareth, Fr Nael Rahmoun and Dr Elias Deis, of the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, as well as with Debbie Weissmann, an Orthodox Jewish leader and member of the International Council of Christians and Jews. Our visit co-incided with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, so we also were able to witness the devotion and the joy of the Muslim community as they prayed and celebrated this feast.

Dr Elias Daer at the Holy Land Trust

Fr Nael at Christ Church, Nazareth

Eid Prayers in Bethlehem

The Philip Usher Memorial Fund which focusses on the relations between Anglicans and the Orthodox East helped to finance the study-pilgrimage, so we took every opportunity to encounter the great Churches of the Christian East, Greek Orthodox, Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian and Greek Catholic. We were received most warmly by His Most Holy Beatitude Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Greek Catholic (Melkite) Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Jules Zerey

With the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem

We joined in the joyful Sabbath worship at Kehillat Yedidya Synagogue. We gathered to celebrate the Eucharist on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and in the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. Finally on the morning of our departure, we met at Abu Ghosh, one of the possible sites of “Emmaus”, where we celebrated a mass with confirmations for three of the interns, when we felt once again the presence of the Risen Lord encouraging and equipping his disciples.

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee

St Peter in Gallicantu

Confirmations at Abu Ghosh

The whole visit was designed to enable archaeology, biblical history, the biblical texts themselves, the sweep of Christian Tradition and the present context to come together to build a rich, multi-faceted impression of the Holy Land which will surely stay with the interns for years to come.

Thanks to all the interns for their excellent and stimulating company and to Clare, Caroline and William for their wonderful care and leadership. 

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