It is the evening of Ash Wednesday as I write and I can’t help but think about where I and the pilgrims with whom I am travelling will be this time next week. We will all just have experienced our first full day in Jerusalem and will have seen our first Holy sites. For some this will be the first that they will ever have seen, for others the sites will be familiar friends and as with all familiar friends they are well known but always capable of surprise.
The weather is predicted to be good as we travel around the Mount of Olives and then go onto visit one of my favourite places: St Peter at Gallicantu which is thought to be Pontius Pilate’s house. I am especially pleased about the weather, not simply because I would like some sun but also because of a disaster that happened to me on the first day of a pilgrimage before. It’s one of those events that I will never forget. You see my job on the previous Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimages and on this Ecumenical one is to take photographs and to look after this blog and to tweet what we are doing. On the 2016 pilgrimage the rain poured and poured and poured on the first day, and you can imagine my horror when we arrived at Dominus Flevit Chapel and I found that my poor camera was so waterlogged it had stopped working. It was the first time ever that I was not carrying a second camera and so I had to rush out and buy one at the end of the second day. You will imagine, therefore that I am really pleased that the weather is supposed to be good for much of our trip so that I don’t have to worry about drowning another camera! And the weather being good is a help too as we see so many places and travel around such a lot, that being able to do that without having to worry about being cold or needing an umbrella is a real advantage. It allows us to concentrate on the many places we are seeing and the people that we will be meeting.
Our first day will have been a busy one as we will also have visited the Dominus Flevit Chapel, the Church of All Nations, the Garden of Gethsemane and Ein Karem the birthplace of St John the Baptist, as well as Abu Gosh, one of the possible sites of Emmaus. It’s no wonder that we have to get up really early and leave our hotel most days by 8am.
During the week that the pilgrims will be away we will visit the holy sites in Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, Nablus and in Tiberius. But it is not just places that we will be seeing, we will also be meeting people too as we visit projects in Bethlehem and in Bethany. We will here about the situation in the Holy Land and how people are living today as well as reflecting upon how they lived when Jesus and his disciples were walking from place to place.
Every night we will seat together after dinner in our hotel and we can reflect together on all that we have seen and heard before heading off to the bar or to bed in preparation for another busy day.
We look forward to sharing this journey with you!