Holy Land tour offers learning, renewal

2/27/2009

Ordinands of the last quadrennium were the focus group for the Feb. 10-19 Journey of Biblical Discovery. The group expanded to 46 pilgrims, including 18 ordinands, embodying the connection of 26 local United Methodist churches. Many of these congregations supported clergy financially in this significant time of learning and renewal.

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward was the worship leader and Willis Britt and Bob Rambo were the teachers at a myriad of Biblical places. From a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, the group viewed the landscape where Jesus spent 85 percent of his ministry. Visits in Galilee to Capernaum, Bethsaida, Kursi, Magdala, Chorazim, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Quiet Place, Peter’s Primacy, Cana, Nazareth and Zippori enlivened spirits as the “fifth gospel” of the land opened the Biblical texts in fresh ways. Visits to Megiddo, Caesarea, Jericho, Qumran expanded understanding of Biblical culture and history.

In Jerusalem, visits to Bethlehem, Bethany, Bethphage, the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Mt. Zion, Upper Room, King David’s Tomb, Jerusalem Archaeological Park, the Western Wall, the Pool of Bethesda, the Via Dolorosa and Church of the Holy Sepulchre and finally the Garden Tomb were times of learning and worship.

In the center of the journey was a day of mission engagement, learning more about the complex and deeply troubled relationship between the state of Israel and the people of Palestine. At Yad Vashem, the expansive and deeply moving Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, the group went forth to individually ponder the great tragedy and to pray for peace. Moving through the massive gate in the fence built between Israel and the Palestinian Territory, the group felt deep grief for continued division. At Hope Secondary School and Bethlehem Bible College, both Advance projects of The United Methodist Church, the group had opportunity to engage with joyful Palestinian children and their teachers and with leaders in theological education and seminarians.