Although we are now all safely back from our Pilgrimage some of my Pilgrim friends are reflecting for the blog on what they experienced whilst away.  I think that for all of us it will take time to re-adjust to being back in our ‘ordinary’ lives.

One of them, Rose Marie Best, send me her reflections on the day that we were in ‘Jesus’ Parish’ by the Lakeside:

Saturday 24 February – The Lakeside Ministry

One of the most moving moments and highlights of our pilgrimage for me was this morning when we visited the mount of the Beatitudes.

While waiting for the gate to open, our guide told us about the handful of nuns who run the site, working industriously in the coffee shop, gift shop, church, grounds, hotel and guest house. He also spoke of how 3 of their number were tragically killed a few years ago in a fatal car accident on their way to Bethlehem to Christmas Eve mass.

To see those well kept grounds and church and welcoming hospitality, made me wonder at their devotion and selfless life.

After a brief time spent in the church we were directed back towards the Sea of Galilee and there set in a simple unadorned amphitheatre with an altar we gathered to celebrate the Eucharist together.

Bishop Christopher gave the sermon and as he spoke, with the Sea of Galilee as his backdrop, the morning sun and the sound of the birds, the whole meaning, reason and the purpose of our pilgrimage was there before us.

To witness the locations and actions of our Lord as he would have done over two thousand years ago with words powerfully and movingly spoken evoking for us a moment in time never to be forgotten.

Another, Janet Martin, sent me a wonderful sunrise

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And this reflection on her pilgrimage:

For me there we’re so many mountain top moments on the Pilgrimage.  My Dad passed away in December and I found the pilgrimage a very emotional and spiritual experience. I was crying for my Dad and at the same time crying for the demise Jesus as we walked the Stations of the Cross. Two different types of grief yet the same and 2000+ years apart! The peace and tranquillity singing ‘Be still’ on the Sea of Galilee. Singing Christmas carols during Lent, very strange but apt in the setting of the Shepherds Fields. The wonderful cacophony of Arabic and English language as we celebrated the Eucharist at Christ Church Nazareth together with the locals and other pilgrims. It reminded me we are all ‘one voice’.

Thank you so much for all you and the team did arranging such a fantastic Pilgrimage.  I look forward to meeting everyone again at the reunion.

A number of people on the pilgrimage had a photograph which I really wish I had been there to take.  Two Bishops deep in conversation and smiling outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday 21 February, just four days before it closed to the public.

 

 

As many of you will know whilst we were there there was an announcement that there would be an important announcement – as it were – about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the Sunday of our pilgrimage: 25 February.   That announcement was that the Church would close indefinitely.

Here are the announcements that were made: one some weeks before and then the announcement from Sunday.

Statement on the closure of the Holy Sepulchre, 25.02.2018

Statement on the reopening of the Holy Sepulchre, 27.02.2018

As we travelled as Pilgrims back towards the airport, just before we got to the aqueduct at Caesarea Maritima Bishop Christopher gave an interview to Christian Today about the situation.

You can find the interview here:  https://www.christiantoday.com/article/holy-sepulchre-closed-because-israels-christians-believe-they-are-under-threat-says-bishop-of-southwark/126432.htm

Since then it was announced that the Holy Sepulchre was re-opening on Wednesday 28 February. This is brilliant news and Bishop Christopher says:

‘We were very powerfully struck by the importance of access to the Holy Places and long term structures of support between government and church. The Holy Sepulchre closed because it was under threat but thankfully, because of a peace making gesture from the government has reopened.

Throughout history access to holy places has been a key determinant to the wider Christian work from Crusader time until today.   Access to holy places is a prime consideration of utmost importance and we are glad that the situation appears to be resolving itself satisfactorily.’

As we return and settle back into our lives here in the Diocese of Southwark and wider afield we are grateful to God that the pilgrims who follow us will be bale, once again, to visit that most holy of places.