Wednesday, 17 July 2013


SATURDAY:  What can I say?   These three days were the most amazing trip, carefully planned, accurately timed, filled by our lovely Guide, Gila, with huge amounts of information.   Gila not only knew everything about the sites - including the blessed shady spots! - but filled her talks not only with Bible references but so much extra from Talmud, midrash, the sages - we could not have had a more professional or better informed Guide.

On the first part of our coach journey which started at 8 a.m., Celia, a Sister of Sion,  led us in worship, giving us a selection of scriptures on which to reflect and then to share our thoughts with an havruta partner. This was accompanied by some singing, and as this was the start of another stage of our journey together I gave everyone a copy of 'For the Traveller' a poetic blessing:
For the Traveller

Every time you leave home,
another road takes you
into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
new places that have never seen you
will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
will pretend nothing
changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
alone in a different way,
more attentive now
to the self you bring along,
your more subtle eye watching
you abroad; and how what meets you
touches that part of the heart
that lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
to the timbre in some voice,
opening in conversation
you want to take in
to where your longing
has pressed hard enough
inward, on some unsaid dark,
to create a crystal of insight
you could not have known
you needed
to illuminate
your way.

When you travel,
a new silence
goes with you,
and if you listen,
you will hear
what your heart would
love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
make sure, before you go,
to take the time
to bless your going forth,
to free your heart of ballast
so that the compass of your soul
might direct you toward
the territories of spirit
where you will discover
more of your hidden life,
and the urgencies
that deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
gathered wisely into your inner ground;
that you may not waste the invitations
which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
and live your time away to its fullest;
return home more enriched, and free
to balance the gift of days which call you.

John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space between Us) 

I was given this by Heather, my Prayer Guide, for the Week of Guided Prayer at St Peter's just the day before I left for Israel so it was good to be able to share it as we moved on that day.

For the final part of our day's journey, we travelled by boat across the Sea of Galilee.   It was late in the afternoon when the sea regularly gets a bit rough.  What a joy when the boat stopped mid-journey for Mark to lead us in worship.  The song we sang was appropriately 'Galilee Song'.  I didn't know it before but what a song for that time.  St Peter's will definitely be learning it very soon. 

Deep within my heart, I feel voices whispering to me.
Words that I can’t understand; Meanings I can’t clearly hear!
Calling me to follow close, lest I leave myself behind!
Calling me to walking into evening shadows one more time!

So I leave my boats behind!
Leave them on familiar shores!
Set my heart upon the deep!
Follow you again, my Lord!

In my memories, I know how you send familiar rains
falling gently on my days, dancing patterns on my pain!
And I need to learn once more in the fortress of my mind,
to believe in falling rain as I travel deserts dry!

So I leave my boats behind!
Leave them on familiar shores!
Set my heart upon the deep!
Follow you again, my Lord!

As I gaze into the night down the future of my years,
I’m not sure I want to walk past horizons that I know!
But I feel my spirit called like a stirring deep within,
restless, ’til I live again beyond the fears that close me in!

So I leave my boats behind!
Leave them on familiar shores!
Set my heart upon the deep!
Follow you again, my Lord!

You can stop to say a big 'Wow' at this point if you like!

We arrived at the Ein Karem Holiday Village just in time for supper.  The location was superb, as close to the Sea of Galilee as it was possible to be with the Golan Heights immediately behind.   We can definitely recommend the local wine from the Golan Heights, it had a superb pepperiness very similar to a good Australian or Chilean.

SUNDAY started  with a Eucharist at 6.30 a.m. outside overlooking the sea.  This was led by  Videlson, a Roman Catholic Priest from Brazil and Vladimir, a Russian Orthodox Priest,  from Moscow.  I only add the denominations to indicate what an ecumenical group we are, and how we are finding ways to worship together.  I was the only non-Catholic in the gathering, but had  with me  the Reserve Sacrament which I consecrated when I celebrated for our Patronal Festival (the 10th Anniversary of my first celebration) so I adminsitered to myself, and would have shared with the few others had any attended.

A quick breakfast and we were off again for the day, but this time we returned to Ein Karem by 5.30 p.m. in time to get ready for our next ecumenical worship before supper.   This service was planned by Kristen, a Methodist pastor from Kansas and myself and it was a Service for the Renewal of Baptismal Vows.    The first part of the service took place on the grass outside our rooms, overlooking the sea.  When we reached the Renewal of Vows, we walked in silence to a small cove so that we could actually be in the sea, and there we made our promises again and made new a new commitment to our calling.   The service ended with the Our Father sung in Hebrew before I gave the blessing.  Everyone in the group attended and I think many were touched by the moment.  It was a privilege to be able to plan this with Kristen, and to share such a beautiful time which will remain a most amazing treasure to me.   Following supper some of us went to the beach with some of the excellent Golan Heights wine; Curtis and Mark played guitar an sang for us, and then the final three remaining (Ann, Curtis and me) saw the moon set before we turned in for the night ...... a moon setting over Galilee - I may never see that again, or perhaps I will, God knows.

MONDAY another early start - at 6.30 a.m. we had Morning Prayer outside, again led by Videlson and Vladimir - and then after breakfast we were on the coach again  with  so many sites to visit.   During the whole time there were only two walks which I didn't manage and that was an hour and a half on Sunday and an hour on Monday.   Each time I found a lovely shady spot and enjoyed the peace of the place.  On Sunday  I spent  time reflecting on the miracle of God's presence, cherishing that moment above all others, not looking back on the blessings which  have been, nor thinking ahead to blessings yet to come, but welcoming this I-Thou moment which will never be again and thanking Yah for it.   During Monday,  I was also able to draw up a plan for the ChA+ Retreat which I am leading in August. 

When we arrived back at St Charles we all felt we were back 'home' again - tired but filled with the most amazing memories.    To share these, the itinerary and photos will be added shortly.

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