Holy Land Pilgrimage Day Seven – 12th November – by Anne Williamson
Ecce Homo Chapel, Abu Ghosh, Emmaus Nicopolis, Elvis Diner and Gas Station
The final day of our pilgrimage and another early start, which has not been difficult as I had been half awake since the 4:20am call to prayer at the neighboring mosque. The cacophony of crowing cockerels (who seem not to know that crowing should not be before dawn), barking dogs, and car horns at all hours of the day and night caused me to sleep somewhat fitfully in Jerusalem.
As our final day of pilgrimage began, I was grateful for our prayer time together in the chapel at Ecce Homo and to have the opportunity to thank everyone from Christ Church East Greenwich for their hospitality, love and care for me and to one another as we journeyed together. On this final day, I am reflecting on all the past week has held. There were hard moments for different folks at different times (the church at Cana for me, and the reality that the ministry of women is not particularly welcome in this land, even by our Anglican brothers and sisters). There were some amazing experiences, as we joined hands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and shared the joy of Sam’s baptism at the River Jordan. Concelebrating the Eucharist at Tagba with Margaret and John was another one of the highlights for me. There were overwhelming moments, especially as we walked the Via Dolorosa on Saturday evening, with the crush of the crowd as Shabbat ended. There were also many lovely times of joy and laughter throughout. It has been such a privilege to share this pilgrimage with a lovely, diverse, warmhearted group of people.
Emmaus figures large on our final day. The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is one of the resurrection stories and a favorite of mine. It is a story that reminds us how hearts and minds are changed when we encounter Jesus, and are open to hearing his word. I have been pondering, from the Eucharist at Abu Ghosh, the words of John Francis, particularly that we are now preparing to return to the place we belong. Another reminder that mountain top experiences are not the resting place, but the preparation to go back into the world as disciples.
At Emmaus Nicopolis, we received the hospitality of a Benedictine order who gave us a lovely lunch in the museum of the convent, which had a fascinating history of this ancient site in Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions.
In addition to the two Emmaus sites, Abu Ghosh, and Emmaus Nicopolis, on the last day together, there was of course the Elvis Diner and Gas Station, not to be missed! Then we were on our way to the airport in Tel Aviv, at a moment of high tension in that complex land. I know it will take some time to process all this pilgrimage has been for me, how I have changed, been transformed by this journey. Part of that work of processing will include the commission that Bassem gave us as we left Emmaus and drove to the airport:
‘I promise the Lord whenever his people come to this land it is my job to make them pilgrims, but you are already pilgrims. So I ask you to go back as disciples. There is a piece of this land in you, here are your roots. Not for Palestinians, not for Israelis but for all people. Build bridges of peace. If there is no peace in Jerusalem, there will be no peace in the world.’ Bassem 12.11.19
At the airport, we experienced first hand the security measures, including those directed at Bassem. There is an atmosphere, of tension, of fear, that is palpable in this land. Fear is such a natural human instinct it is no wonder that our Scriptures repeat again and again, in a variety of different ways, ‘Do not be afraid’. Earlier in the week Bassem took us to the area of Jerusalem where the upper room was likely to have been situated. In the upper room, on the night before he died, Jesus said to his friends ‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.’ John 14:27
Our peace is in Christ, and as his disciples we are called to be peacemakers: ‘blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God’
I do not yet know exactly how my peacemaking will look. I have a former colleague who works for the organization Kids for Peace founded by Archbishop Suheil Dawani, so that is a good starting place. I do believe that Bassem is correct in his view that until there is peace (and less fear) in the land of the Holy One, there will not be peace in the world. So there is good, sweet, hard work to do. ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.’
Blessings to all on the return to the place(s) you belong.