A Holy Land Journal

In the last fortnight, from 24th – 29th Nov, this year’s CEMES (Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme) interns for the Diocese in Europe were on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

The pilgrimage was a result of the vision and hard work of the Director of Ordinands for the Diocese in Europe, Revd 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.’

Coming out of their pilgrimage, a photographic journal of their time has been produced, which is offered below. A short report on the pilgrimage from Dr Clare Amos, a CEMES mentor, is available on the diocesan website HERE.



Tour of the West Bank, Visit to Bethlehem, Visit to Synagogue and Jewish Families for Shabbat Evening Meal

The view over the Temple Mount towards to Mt of Olives from St Peter in Gallicantu, where we stayed with the Assumptionist Fathers in their Pilgrim Guest House.

On the first morning we had a tour of the different communities straddling the 1967 Green line with a former Israeli soldier who now leads study tours of the occupied territories. The view above is of a Palestinian refugee camp just next to the Mt of Olives, rubbish is strewn down the mountainside as the City of Jerusalem provides no normal street services in the Camp.

The Security Wall, just at the bottom of the Mount of Olives.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem with examples of newly found mosaics dating from Crusader times in the Byzantine style.

The Christmas Tree in Manger Square.
The Grotto of the Nativity, in the Church of the Nativity.
The home of Rabbi Dr Michael Marmur and his wife Dr Sarah Bernstein with their three children and Rabbi Marmur’s father Rabbi Dove Marmur. Our group had just attended the Shabbat evening service at their Synagaogue – The Kol HaNeshama Synagogue, in the Reform Tradition. Rabbi Michael is Provost of Hebrew Union College – Institute of Religion Jerusalem.


The Wilderness, Masada, the Dead Sea, Qumran, En Gedi, Jericho

The Judean Wilderness.
Early morning at Masada.
The view of the Dead Sea from Masada.
The ritual bathe in the Dead Sea.
The oasis of En Gedi, where David hid as a fugitive from King Saul.
The view of Cave 4 from Qumran.
Dr Clare Amos giving a road-side lecture overlooking ancient Jericho, the most ancient and lowest city on earth.


The Holy Sepulchre, the Greek Patriarchate, St George’s Anglican Cathedral, the Russian Orthodox Monastery of St Mary Magdalene, the Mt of Olives

Early on the first day of the week the women went to the tomb, so our party of 15 rose at 6 am and were at the Sepulchre at 7 am having had a lecture on its history. The group spent over an hour experiencing the simultaneous worship in the Latin Church in Calvary, the Greek Church in the Nave and the Copts all the while were chanting behind the Tomb. The Greek Patriarch, Theophilos presided from his throne.

The Greek chapel of Calvary.
Newly restored Byzantine frescos near Calvary (but in the Ottoman style).
The Edicule, which was restored in 2016.
A deacon before the iconstasis in the Catholicon the Greek area of the church. His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos presides from the throne, the candles burn at the omphalos.
His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem who graciously granted us an substantial audience in the Patriarchate after the Liturgy in the Holy Sepulchre.
Canon David Longe reads the Gospel at St George’s Anglican Cathedral on the Feast of Christ the King, three of the five servers who encircle him with the cross and candles are his children, the smallest carrying a processional Jerusalem cross.
Our party accompanied by his Grace the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem outside St George’s Cathedral.
The Russian Monastery of St Mary Magdalene, which is the last resting place of St Elizabeth of Russia and her niece, Princess Alice of Battenburg, also known as Princess Andrew of Greece, mother of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.


The Dome of the Rock, the Tunnel along the Western Wall, Yad Vashem and an evening visit to the Student Year programme at the Abbey of the Dormition

Detail of the inscriptions on each of the flanks of the Dome, which were explained by our guide, Calen Gayle, who had researched this site for his presentation.
The sites and smells of the souk.
Three faiths in one photo, a group doing the stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa, a Mosque minaret and beyond a Menora.
The German Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition which runs a student programme for Theology Graduates, we met with them for an evening and enjoyed sharing our experiences of studying Theology and making sense of our respective understandings of call. We were received very hospitably.


The River Jordan, Lake Galilee, to include St Peter’s Primacy, Capernaum the Mt of Beatitudes, Tabgha and Safed

The Jordan near where it leaves Galilee.
The 4th cent. Synagogue of Capernaum, which may have been on the site of the 1st cent. predecessor which Jesus would have known and in which he healed.


Lake Galilee.
The early Byzantine mosaic at Tabgha, the site of the feeding of the Five Thousand.
The lake-shore chapel at Tabgha, carefully tended by the Benedictines of the Dormition.


Abu Gosh – Emmaus, the Crusader Church run by French Benedictines

A land of contradictions. Our guide took us for a coffee on our way home to an Elvis café. It was the beginning of coming home with a bump.
The CEMES Interns Julius Anozie (Lyon), Annie Bolger (Leuven), Guy Crumpler (Ostend-Bruge) Lloyd Brown (Brussels), Philip Milton (Vienna), Calen Gayle (La Cote).
The interns with their mentors, Mary Talbot, Janet Sayers, Clare Amos and the DDO.

These are beautiful pictures from a pilgrimage which clearly had a deep impact on those who went, an impact they are only just beginning to realize. You need only read their comments on the website article.

But this reflection from one intern is perhaps something to dwell on in Advent:

‘The patriarch [of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilus] put a provocative question to our group: he asked us to consider what we had come to Jerusalem to see. In my mind I ran through a list of sites that I had come to see: Gethsemane, the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall. After a moment of silence he quietly commented, “I hope that you have not come to Jerusalem to see places. I hope you have come to see people. Israel is not the Holy Land, it is the Land of the Holy One. I pray that you see God’s light.”

I felt that some light had broken through. Too many pilgrims like myself visit Jerusalem for the places, for the Land. In so doing, we miss the people. We miss the face of Christ, who is so often best seen in our neighbors.

Before we left His Beatitude Theophilus, we asked how we could pray for him. “Pray for enlightenment,” he said.

This is what Advent is about: Christ came for our enlightenment. He came that the people who walked in darkness would see a great light, he came to shine light on those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2).

If there is one thought I can offer from my pilgrimage, it is this thought from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” Advent reminds us – in our troubles, imperfections, and sorrows – to expect God. It teaches us to expect God, whom we so often experience as absent… it teaches us to expect God to be revealed. Jesus came as Immanuel, God with us. This was nothing new. Immanuel reveals what has always been true about God: that God has always been coming to us and has always been among us and truly does remain with us always.’


Even so come, Lord Jesus.


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