I’m Going to Israel
I’m going to Israel for two weeks on a Pastoral Renewal trip organized by the United Theological Seminary (UTS), through a generous grant from the Cousins Foundation. Cousins is doing something not only remarkably generous for us, but quite thoughtful and intentional. They sponsor trips of 20 mid-career pastors who have never been to the Holy Land with a view to making this an experience of Sabbath and Renewal. We will spend 14 days in Israel, not cramming every minute with one more thing to see and place to be, but at such a pace as will permit times for reflection, prayer, worship, reading, and even rest. To that end we have been given several resources; first a book called Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller – one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Perhaps because I needed it (need it). The second is The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life by Tony Jones, an excellent modern approach to the ancient practices of Christian spirituality. We were also given (thoughtfully) a beautiful coat-pocket sized leather-covered empty journaling book.
The Foundation has enlisted the services of Dr. J. Maxwell Miller, archeologist and professor emeritus at Candler School of Theology, who prepared for us an extensive, detailed 66 page guide to the background and significance of each site we will visit.
Our journey, or rather pilgrimage is being organized and led by Coordinator, Jacqueline Nowak, Director of the Institute for Applied Theology at UTS, in-country trip coordinator, Jim Eller, Fully Affiliated Instructor in Digital Culture Ministries at UTS, and his wife Pat Eller, UCC minister, hospice chaplin, and spiritual director for our trip. They have already led us in a two day pre-trip retreat held at the Bergamo retreat center near Dayton, OH where we met each other and right away started bonding as a group of pilgrims.
I am wondering what I will experience in the land that Jesus walked? Right now, from a distance, the day that has my curiosity piqued most is the one we will spend crossing the sea of Galilee. It seems to me that it may well be one of the most authentic analogues to the life of Jesus available today. There is no cathedral or even a shine that you can build over that sea, as you can over a tomb or a well, or on a mount where he preached. It’s the sea; and probably it’s substantially the same sea that Jesus got wet in, ate fish from, rode across in boats, in storms, and in exhaustion.
But now it’s the time of preparation, packing, and anticipation. I’m the guitar player in the group so I have to get some tunes together for our worship too. If (Lord willing – Please!) we have access to a piano, Larry Karow, pastor from Ft. Thomas, KY will accompany too.
Other seminaries on pilgrimage to the Holy Land sponsored by the Cousins Foundation this year include:
Columbia Theological Seminary
Princeton Theological Seminary
Emmanuel School of Religion
The Interdenominational Theological Center
McAfee School of Theology
Candler School of Theology
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Wake Forest University Divinity School
University of the South (Sewanee) Theological Seminary
Erskine Theological Seminary