As you may remember from the blog on the first full day of the pilgrimage we started our visit at the Pater Noster Church. Just as we were leaving the coach and heading for the Church sadly one of our Pilgrims, Leslie, had a fall. None of us were quite sure what happened but a number of the Pilgrims went to try to help.   Eventually an ambulance was called and Leslie was taken to hospital.  He was travelling with his wife Helena and sister-in-law, Patricia. Although he was allowed to return to the hotel he became unwell again and was taken back to hospital.

We are delighted to be able to tell you that Leslie was well enough to leave hospital on Thursday and to travel with us to Tiberius on Friday. He was even able to be with us as we journeyed around Nazareth and the Mount of Transfiguration today. We have all given thanks to God for answering our prayers. But, you will imagine that our joy is nothing compared to Leslie, Helena and Patricia’s.

Helena and Leslie have asked me to post this on the blog and I am delighted to be able to do so and to share with you a picture of Leslie and Helena at the Mount of the Transfiguration.

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Helena writes:

‘Leslie and I were very touched by the prayers and support show by all of you (the Pilgrims) and Leslie’s quick recovery is testament to their effectiveness.

We want you to know that Bishop Christopher came to the hospital the evening of the accident.  Patricia and I were so touched and delighted by his presence and reassurance.  Bishop Karowei too was wonderful at Leslie’s side when there was some relapse. Being a doctor he understood the situation and knew how to comfort me.

Thank you to Dean Andrew and Mark and Fr Patrick who were supportive with prayers and practical matters.

It was lovely to see Rosemary (Nutt – from McCabe’s who joined us at the Ron Beach Hotel) when we arrived at the hotel.  We were touched also by the kindness from the people at the hospital both Palestinian and Jewish people.

We will always remember your kindness and we will keep you in our prayers.’

You may remember too that earlier in the blog we had a piece from Janet and Jill and we said that Jill joined us from Rochester Diocese?  Well, we also had Cynthia and Audrey Balderstone with us from rather farther afield (they come originally from Australia although Audrey now lives in Hong Kong) and they write about their experience of joining the Pilgrimage:

‘Cynthia (Mother) and Audrey (daughter) started out on the Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage with some trepidation as we are not members of the Southwark diocese (and are not Brits!). Audrey’s friend Amuda (of Southwark Cathedral’s congregation) suggested that we might be interested in joining the Pilgrimage based on her previous experience. Australians being a fairly intrepid lot, we decided to come along. We were a little nervous initially, joining a group of complete strangers from halfway around the world. However, the warmth of the welcome we received was greatly appreciated and we felt quite at home from the word go. We have been quite overwhelmed by our welcome into the group and the amount of help which has been offered so freely to enable us to see everything we can. Also, hearing and singing the same hymns and readings (although in different accents 🙂 ) reminds us that although we are from far flung places, we share more similarities than differences.

This Pilgrimage has been a whirlwind of experiences. From the visit to the Mount of Olives, with those amazing views over the Valley of Kidron, visiting the Pater Noster Church and descending to the Garden of Gethsemane, following the footsteps of Jesus has been wonderfully uplifting. Intertwined with the physical experiences and visits to Holy Places has been the spiritual aspect, morning and evening prayers and other worship experiences. A third perspective has been introduced with our visit to Al Shurooq in Bethlehem where such worthwhile, practical work is being done with physically and educationally handicapped children, and then to Neve Shalom to see Palestinians and Jews working so hard for a peaceful future. An extra “bonus” if you like, is the narrative from our wonderful Guide, Bassam, whose insights into the troubles of this small piece of our planet have been thought provoking in the extreme. We will go home with a much clearer idea of the problems besetting our Holy Land – and lifelong connection to Southwark Diocese and our fellow pilgrims.’

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And finally, you may also remember that some of the Pilgrims went with Dean Andrew to the Milk Grotto and Bala and Indrani Balachandran were a part of that group.   They write:

‘Dean Andrew took a small group of us to visit the Milk Grotto as the queues to the Grotto in the Basilica of the Holy Nativity (which we had visited on a previous pilgrimage) were at least 40 minutes long.  This is a small chapel built over the cave, where Joseph and Mary are believed to have stayed on their way to Egypt.  The story goes that a drop of milk fell on the rock as Mary fed Jesus and the rock turned milky white.

The chapel was beautiful and very peaceful.  The perfect place to sit quietly and gather your thoughts.   Andrew then took us to a very modern chapel behind the Grotto which was surrounded by striking stained glass windows castings a rainbow of colours into the chapel.  A nun prays over a very large holy sacrament 24 hours a day.  Just as we were settling down to pray we were privileged to see seven more nuns join the nun already in the chapel to offer prayers and hymns which were sung so beautifully.  We spent sometime in the gardens of the chapel before returning to the Basilica to join the others.   We were so pleased we took up Dean Andrew’s invitation to visit this lesser known Grotto.’

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