Cromer's 40acts of Kindness - a lesson in giving out not giving up
On a cold dark Sunday evening in February, three parishioners from Eaton set off for Luton on the first stage of a Diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
A week later they returned having had an amazing opportunity to bring the Bible alive, strengthen their faith and bring hope to our Christian brothers and sisters in the middle east.
We were part of a group of 50 led by Bishop Graham, ably assisted by his wife Julie and some of his senior team together with our knowledgeable Palestinian Christian guide George who joined us at Tel Aviv airport.
Our fellow pilgrims came from across the Diocese and were a mix of clergy and laity, male and female, young and old. We stayed in two centres, first at Tiberius by the Lake of Galilee and then in Bethlehem.
The first part of the pilgrimage took us around the Galilee area, visiting the site of the feeding of the 5,000, the Mount of the Beatitudes, Cana, Nazareth and Mount Tabor. We then drove down the Jordon valley, stopping to renew our baptismal vows, then on to Jericho and the mountain where Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights. We also stopped to float in the Dead Sea and daubed ourselves in mud before going to Qumran, the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The second part of the trip saw us in Bethlehem. We had a spellbinding talk from a peace activist, visited a refugee camp and then to Bethlehem Christian University which interestingly has a student population of 80% Muslims and 80% women.
Our trip then took in the Shepherds Fields, the Mount of Olives, Caiaphas’ house, the Upper Room and the Garden Tomb. Finally on Sunday, after attending Eucharist at St George’s Cathedral with a talk by the Archbishop of Jerusalem, we embarked on a full walking tour of Jerusalem along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and finally the Wailing Wall.
In the lovely and peaceful gardens we sat, prayed and contemplated the places where we celebrated Eucharist in well tended outdoor chapels and where Bishop Graham’s sermons brought together many perspectives.
However this list of places on our itinerary cannot convey the sense of place felt in many of the locations. Nor can it convey the many thought provoking moments brought about by walls, checkpoints, an armed presence or views of Israeli settlements.
I would like to be able to sum up the pilgrimage in a single sentence but the experience was too deep for that. I feel very privileged to have gone on such a wonderful journey and I can only convey my heartfelt thanks to Bishop Graham for his guidance, spirituality and well chosen words throughout an unforgettable week.
By Andrea Middleton and also on behalf of Richard Middleton and Colin Way.