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2015 Holy Land Reflections

November 1, 2015

Day 1: Meeting Jesus 
By Paul Finnegan
October 25, 2015

I tend to over-think the Gospels.  For example, in Luke, I recently heard Jesus say “I come to create division;” and I wondered whatever happened to Jesus the Prince of Peace.  Again, I have read in Matthew of the barriers to “entering the kingdom of heaven”—e.g., being rich, or the failure to be like a child. And I wondered whether the claim of being “saved” is a hoax; and how do I reconcile this with the Jesus I know as my Savior and Redeemer?  What a mind-wrenching struggle I have had.

But I have never given up praying for faith, though I frequently find myself clinging to the words of Peter, “To whom can I go? You have the words of eternal life.  Truly you are the Holy One of God.”

Enter my upcoming pilgrimage to Jerusalem. What an opportunity this is to let go of the mental gymnastics and to actually experience Jesus as the Suffering Servant, my friend and brother, and as my God of compassion, mercy, forgiveness and love.  My intention is to seize this opportunity to re-frame my relationship with Jesus, and to bring my Trinity family along with me on our collective pilgrimage of faith, hope and love. Amen.


Day 2: Pilgrimage Reflection
By Bill Rich
October 26, 2015

We all arrived safely, landing in Tel Aviv yesterday afternoon, and meeting our guide Iyad Qumri. Then we took a bus to Jerusalem - about 45 minutes south - and settled into our rooms at St. George's Guesthouse, attached to the Anglican Cathedral here. A beautiful and tranquil spot! Then a brief introduction to our pilgrimage, and a delicious dinner here at St George's. This morning we go to the Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock and to pray at the Western (Wailing) Wall, a wall that remains from the Temple Jesus visited. 

One of our pilgrims flew in a day early from Paris, and as her plane came in there was a beautiful rainbow out one window of the plane. We're taking this as a symbol, a palpable reminder that God is with us for our pilgrimage. We miss you all back in Boston, but are very excited to be here together. 

We will be praying for you. Please remember us in your prayers.

Peace, shalom, salaam,


Day 3: Pilgrimage Reflection
by Bill Rich
October 27, 2015

For me the most moving part of our day today was standing on the plaza outside the Dome of the Rock, having just climbed up to it after praying at the Western (Wailing) Wall of the Temple, the most substantial remains from the Temple that Jesus visited. Though no one can be sure exactly where the Holy of Holies of the Temple stood, many believe it stood about where the mosque known as the Dome of the Rock now stands. So all together in one place, we could experience a spot deeply holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, where Jews believe their Temple stood, where Christians could walk the very ground where Jesus of Nazareth taught and healed, and the place Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad made a miraculous night journey to heaven and back.

Such resources for inspiration, prayer, and holy living for all three of our faiths! And at the same time a place fraught with tensions between the three communities. Much to think about and pray and work for. As the psalm says, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”

Blessings on your daily pilgrimage of faith,


Pilgrimage Reflection 
by Beverly Fisher Crawford
October 28, 2015

On Tuesday, we started our pilgrimage work early and moved from one highly emotional and meaningful experience to another.  Our visit to the Wailing Wall was truly prayerful, and every moment brought new insights into life in Jerusalem.  One of the most emotional moments came at St. Anne’s church, which has miraculous acoustics.  Our group took a turn singing – “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”  We felt okay about our singing.  Then a group of Spanish speaking pilgrims moved several of us to tears with their presentation of “How great thou art.”  We Trinity folks do appreciate good singing!

We began our Wednesday in Israel early, in silence. We left Jerusalem at 5:15 and drove to the Judean Wilderness at Wadi Qelt, between Jerusalem and Jericho. Hiking silently to the highest point, with the full moon to our left and the rising sun to our right, we gazed out over the site of the Good Samaritan story. After our quiet meditation, Bill Rich led us in a stunning experience of the Eucharist. Even the Bedouin fathers and children waiting to sell us jewelry and scarves ate the holy bread.

After more adventures in Jericho and a long, scenic drive through fertile land filled with date palms and even fish farms, we settled into our rooms at the Nazareth convent and celebrated Helen Netos’s birthday.

Our group is joyfully and passionately worshipping and praying and learning and creating a community of pilgrims who are growing more deeply connected by the hour.

Thanks to everyone for sending up prayers for us.


Days 5-8: Pilgrimage Reflections
by B. F. Crawford, Helen Netos, Colin Diver, and B. Rich
October 29-November 1, 2015

Thursday, October 29
From Beverly Crawford: 

In a very quiet spot along the River Jordan, we started our day with Bill Rich’s leadership of another emotional experience.

Friday, October 30
From Helen Netos: 

Tonight is the last of our three nights in Nazareth, our base for visiting sites that were important in Jesus's ministry in Galilee. Today we renewed our baptismal vows at the Jordan River, visited ancient Capernaum, celebrated Eucharist on the Mount of Beatitudes and experienced the Sea of Galilee – by boat! Time seems expandable on this pilgrimage – or perhaps suspended altogether. Perhaps it is "kairos," not "chronos," we are experiencing.

View from the roof deck at the Sisters of Nazareth, where we are staying, taken this evening at sunset.

Saturday, October 31
From Colin Diver

Here is Bill Rich, reflecting with us pilgrims on the transfiguration story from Matthew this morning. The site was an ancient shelter on the top of Mt. Tabor, widely celebrated as the site of the transfiguration of Jesus.

From the Rev. Bill Rich, who adds: The photo was taken by Colin Diver in the ruins of a Benedictine church on the Mount of Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor. The light is dappling through bamboo thatch, rather like the booths that St. Peter suggested he might build to mark the mystery of what was happening. A glorious experience for us to be there.

Yesterday (October 30) was truly amazing. We spent most of our time in and around Capernaum, where Jesus' ministry was centered. We saw what may have been Peter's house there, over which a beautiful modern church has been built, looking over the Sea of Galilee. We also walked on the Mount of Beatitudes, reading aloud those profound words of blessing and guidance from Jesus, and then celebrating Eucharist on that Mount, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. In the evening we returned to Nazareth and saw a first century cave/house that may have been the house where Jesus was raised. Finally, we saw a first century tomb, with a round stone, much like the tomb in which Jesus would have been laid to rest in Jerusalem. All in all, a truly amazing day, with sites, prayers, and reflections that will resonate for a lifetime, I expect.

Sea of Galilee, photo by Lisa Wylie.

Church of the Transfiguration by Richie Worthen


Day 9: Pilgrim Reflection – A Prayer
By Doug Kriner
November 2, 2015

Dear Heavenly Father,

During a day that took our group of pilgrims to sites inspiring us to think of the Nativity of our Lord, paradoxically I found myself most moved by two remembrances of Christ’s Passion.

In the Israel Museum, along the same wall, are two inscriptions hewn in stone. The first, in crisp Latin script records the name of the Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate. The second, somewhat crudely scratched in Hebrew on an ossuary carries the name of Caiaphas, quite likely the High Priest who handed Jesus over to the Romans asking that he be crucified.

Beginning tomorrow with our Palm Sunday walk, we will all feel affinity with Pilate and Caiaphas – our sins, and the sins of the world in which we live have nailed Jesus to the cross as surely as the hands of a first century legionary. 

Yet, as our journey concludes Wednesday morning at Golgotha, we will be reminded of Christ’s words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” 

Even from the cross, Christ forgives, loves, and has compassion for all. His one and only command to us is to do the same. 

Dear Lord, bless this bread that we break tonight. Nurture us as we strive to live according to Christ’s commandment. And remind us that no matter how many times we fail, nothing can break the bonds of your love for us.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


Day 10: Pilgrimage Reflection
By Bill Rich
November 3, 2015

Yesterday we went to Bethlehem,  and the Church of the Nativity. The cave where Jesus was born also held what was undoubtedly a stone manger. So my pictures of a wooden barn and wooden manger are being replaced by images of stone. Today we went to the Mount of Olives and and the church built over the stone of agony where Jesus prayed on Maundy Thursday to have the cup pass. So I have been thinking and praying with stone images. May your pilgrimage road not be too rocky, but filled with holy and life giving stones.