We arrive in Ein Karem and walk to the Covent of the Sisters of Zion.  It is quite a long walk and the sun is hot as the Pilgrims make their way to the beautiful gardens in which the convent is situated.  After lunch we have some time to spend sitting in the garden if we want to and exploring the little church attached to the convent.  The views from the convent out over the valley are spectacular and it is good to have the time to sit and relax and reflect on them.  We set off down the road to the Church of John the Baptist.  Sadly for the Pilgrims the church is being renovated inside and so it was hard to see much of it.  It is, when properly open a really beautiful church.  It was, however, possible to see the altar over the place of John the Baptist’s birth and many of the Pilgrims knelt to touch the spot.

Outside the church the walls are covered with the Benedictus in many different languages and the Pilgrims took time to find their own language before getting back onto the coaches and heading for Abu Ghosh. Here there is a Crusader church at one of the possible sites of Emmaus.  Truthfully it was a bit odd having the Emmaus Road reading during Lent but it was wonderful to hear the gospel lines about ‘our hearts burning within us’.  I think that for many of us our hearts were burning with all that we had seen and done in our first full day in the Holy Land.  We had seen so many places where Jesus had been and heard so much about all that Jesus did for us all.

This was our first Eucharistic service together and we celebrated it using the rite according to the Roman Catholic Church.  The Anglicans were invited to receive a blessing and it was really moving to be able to share this service together.  The acoustic was brilliant and so it was great to be able to praise God and give thanks for the day in such a wonderful place.

Many of us slept on the coaches on the way back to the hotel where there was time for a rest and a freshen up before dinner and our evening meeting.  These meetings are a really good place for people to share their experiences, ask questions and hear about what we are going to do the next day.  Everyone seemed to have had a really first good day and to be looking forward to the Way of the Cross tomorrow.

We close our day together with Compline led by Fr Phil and most go to bed although a few hardy pilgrims stay in the lounge to share experiences and stories.

A really good first day.