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Following in His footsteps

by Michael Ford last modified 17 Jan, 2019 05:07 PM

The Revd Andy Muckle, Assistant Curate Gillingham and Milton-on-Stour, talks about his recent trip to the Holy Land as part of the Diocesan Pilgrimage led by Bishop Nicholas.

Following in His footsteps

The group by the Sea of Galilee

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The whole experience of visiting the Holy Land was a true gift, not least in terms of entering into a spiritual journey alongside an amazing group of people, led and held so graciously by Bishop Nicholas and his Chaplain Tony Monds.

There was a real sense that we made this pilgrimage together and our time was enriched by the diversity within the group comprising the Bishop, his Chaplain, curates, spouses and Becci and Trudy (Revd Neil Robinson’s BSL interpreters).

The whole journey was held within the context of worship and prayer and I think that was such an important element of our time together, we prayed daily not only for our pilgrimage but for those we had left behind, the peace of such a troubled region and the wider world. In that way there was such an interconnectedness between our journey through this complex and beautiful Holy Land and the wider context of our lives.

At many of the places we visited the Bishop explored the Biblical story and placed it within the narrative of our modern world and those connections and observations are something that will stay with me for a long time.

One moment of the trip does particularly stand out for me, and that was taking a boat across the Sea of Galilee. To be in the place where Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm was a deeply spiritual experience, made even more special when we as a group sang ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’. It was one of Becky (my wife who accompanied me on the trip) and I’s wedding hymns – and so to sing it, in its proper context of the Sea of Galilee was profoundly moving and a moment I was glad I was wearing sunglasses and had some tissues!

My impressions of the region were somewhat bittersweet in that whilst this was the Holy Land in every sense, a deeply spiritual, beautifully diverse (and at this time of year) green land full of colourful geraniums!

Yet the narrative that exists for the region is so politically and spiritually tense and complex and as we travelled between Israeli and Palestinian Occupied territories the contrast in terms of prosperity and resources was at times quite painful to see and experience.

Reflecting on the journey back I began to realise that however much we might read about a region until one actually drives and walks those streets and experiences the reality of daily life laid bare in front of you, one can never hope to begin to gain an insight into the complexities of living in such a fragile and complex place. So I feel so thankful for the opportunity to realise and to hold before God what it really means to ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’.

The impact the pilgrimage has had on me (and my wife, Becky) has been immense, and I think it will take time for the full implications of the journey to sink in. No doubt as I reflect on the many emotions and experiences, there will be new insights and memories that will emerge and will surface in sermons! The lectionary reading for this coming Sunday (Epiphany 3) is the wedding at Cana – and I believe I can say I have been there now!

As we re-integrate back into life in North Dorset, I am so thankful to God for this opportunity, the Bishop and Tony for their caring leadership and my fellow pilgrimages for their company on this journey of a lifetime.

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