‘I found the peace of Galilee fantastic, but Jerusalem somehow made me feel closer to Christ, precisely because he came for reconciliation, and in Jerusalem you can see how much reconciliation is needed.’

‘Somehow we experienced the joys and sorrows of ecumenism. In the Holy Sepulchre we witnessed several different Christian churches living together under one roof, but certainly they were not actively working for the unity of the Christian household.’

 ‘I find myself looking at the Bible in new and different ways.’

‘The messiness of the incarnation has become more real for me.’

These are some of the immediate comments made by the group of six CEMES* interns from the Diocese in Europe after their six-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 23-29 November 2017. The pilgrimage formed a key part of the year’s experience that the CEMES programme offers to young people who are actively thinking about the possibility of full time ministry in the church. They had the opportunity to explore and reflect on several dimensions of what it may mean to call this land holy: the sites – most especially the Holy Sepulchre – which commemorate fundamental events in the life of Jesus Christ; the importance and difficulties of ongoing Christian presence in the land; the complicated and sometimes competitive interreligious dimensions; the political and social realities in Israel and Palestine today. 

The group was honoured to be received by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, as well as by Archbishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem. They participated in the Sunday Eucharist at St George’s Anglican Cathedral, Jerusalem.   They were blessed with the adaptable welcome given to them by the community at St Peter in Gallicantu, their base in Jerusalem and were also grateful for the generous Sabbath evening hospitality shown to them by members of the Kol Ha-Neshema synagogue in West Jerusalem. Undergirded by common prayer and worship the pilgrimage also provided an opportunity for community building among the group of interns, who because of the special nature of the Diocese in Europe are quite widely spread.

The pilgrimage was a result of the vision and hard work of the Director of Ordinands for the Diocese in Europe, Rev Canon William Gulliford, who says ‘I know what impact the opportunity to visit Jerusalem as a young man made to me, and how it affected the path of my own ministry. I wanted these young people to have a similar privilege. It is an important way that the church can invest in the future, and I am really grateful to the trusts and organisations who generously gave grants to make this possible ’.

Report by Dr Clare Amos, CEMES mentor.  Pictures: Edoardo Fanfani