2019 Pilgrimage to the Holy Land


Part 1

Our first stop in Amman was at a mosque. They require all women and any man wearing shorts to cover.

Next we visited the Baptismal site. This photo is looking from the Jordan side to the Israel side. Archaeologists believe that the true site is on the Jordan side.

While there, we renewed our baptismal vows. Here Susan McDermott reads scripture.

And our chaplain, Rev. Nancy, prayed for us.

Next we visited Mt Nebo, where there is a new museum that contains remnants of at least five Byzantine churches from the area. From the mountain, we looked at the Promised Land as Moses did.  Nearby are the ruins of Herod’s Machaerus Fortress, where it’s believed that John the Baptist was beheaded.

Next we visited Mt Nebo, where there is a new museum that contains remnants of at least five Byzantine churches from the area. From the mountain, we looked at the Promised Land as Moses did.

Nearby are the ruins of Herod’s Machaerus Fortress, where it’s believed that John the Baptist was beheaded.

Then we had some fun at the Amazing Petra

Then we had some fun at the Amazing Petra

Kay Reddell & Chris McKinnon enjoyed a mule ride, while some of us chose another traditional mode of transportation.


Part 2

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Our Jordanian guide Rami teaches about the Jordan River Valley us on our bus as we head to the Israel border.

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Our first evening in Nazareth, a Christian university student tells about his life & the benefits he receives from the Holy Land Christian Student Fund as Fr. Kamal looks on. Part of our pilgrimage funds go toward helping Christian students receive education & stay in the Holy Land, which is now only about 1.5% of the population.

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We attended a Sunday morning service at the Anglican Christ Church in Nazareth. The Arabic writing on the altar piece is taken from Isaiah 61 and quoted by Jesus in Luke 4, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...” when He taught at the synagogue in Nazareth. Here, Lisa Rodgers-Potter greets a local church member.

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Nearby is the Church of the Annunciation, where we remember the angel’s visit to Mary.

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On Monday we traveled to Caesarea Maritima, what I call the Las Vegas for 1st Century Roman soldiers. There are ruins here from many periods in history, including a stone with the name Pontius Pilatus on it.



Part 3

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We stopped at Mt Carmel, where Elijah slayed the prophets of baal

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Then saw the remains of a first century town, including these tombs, under our guesthouse in Nazareth.

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Fr. Kamal teaches us here at the beautiful Greek Orthodox Church over Mary’s Well, where it’s believed she would draw water.

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We entered Biblical times at Nazareth Village, where I worked in 2015 (see earlier blog post). Our smart guide was Jane Shurrush, who is also part of the SERVE Nazareth team.


Part 4

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We stopped by the Jesus Trail, a pilgrimage route that connects Nazareth with Capernaum, including the beautiful Mt Arbel area.

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I think one of the most beautiful places on earth is the Orthodox church at Capernaum with its resident peacocks.

Another stop by The sea of Galilee was at Magdala, a newly discovered 1st century town where it is believed that Mary Magdalene lived. Under the chapel is a stunning mural where Carol Anderson of Acts of Renewal performed her monologue of the Woman that Bled from Mt 9, Mk 5 & Lk 8, which the mural portrays.

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We spent a couple of nights at the Mt of Beatitudes guest house, then some of us hiked down through what is now banana fields to the Sea of Galilee.

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Part 5

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German Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes with some original byzantine floor

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Dr. Henry Carse joined Fr. Kamal & me at St Peter’s Primacy. Henry’s vast Holy Land knowledge and experience was a bonus for our group the few days he was with us.

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Ancient Roman city at Capernaum with the Catholic Church built over St. Peter’s house

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We enjoyed a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee

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Then back to the Mt of Beatitudes Guesthouse by the Sea


Part 6

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There was a Temple here for the Greek god Pan in the time of Christ, among other idol worshipping spots. One can still see niches in the stone where statutes were.

Today we are in the Golan Heights at Caesarea Philippi/Banias, a source of the Jordan River, where Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” in Mt 16 & Mk 8.

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We visited ruins of the Byzantine monastery at Kursi where Jesus cast the demons into the swine. This is near the archaeological dig I worked on in 2016. Please see my earlier blog post.


Part 7

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We had a brief stop in Bethany where Carol performed Martha & Mary from Lk 10, then we explored an ancient tomb probably similar to where Lazarus would have been buried.

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We went underground to see some of the caves where the shepherd’s & their sheep would’ve stayed. We learned that the shepherds slept in the doorway to protect their flock—as Jesus protects us.

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Reverend Nancy Wynen celebrated Eucharist with us, assisted by Caroline Furlong.

Next stop, 5 nights in Bethlehem that began w/Fr. Kamal teaching about the geography of the Holy Land with our maps.

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The next morning, we visited the Shepherds’ Fields. Carol Anderson and Jim Shores of Acts of Renewal performed a wonderful piece as 2 shepherds in that field the night that Jesus was born.

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Then we stopped in the sweet chapel there and had a special time singing.


Part 8

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The Herodion is visible from the whole area, as it would have been In the time of Christ. It’s a short walk from the parking lot to see interesting ruins and where Herod the Great wanted to be buried.

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Recent restorations in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem are revealing beautiful mosaics.

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The view from my hotel room of Bethlehem today

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One of the main Christian industries in the Bethlehem area is olive wood craftsmanship. It’s always a treat to stop by the workshop of Ashraf Jarayseh & his brother Elias.


Part 9

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I think it is important that all pilgrimage groups visit some charities in the Holy Land. One plans and anticipates a trip like this and experiences such amazing things, yet what about after the trip? Being acquainted with some charities gives one the ability to stay in touch, pray for them, donate to them and do good.

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The Sister with the child and the man with the baby are at La Crèche Orphanage in Bethlehem. The director, Alex, shared powerful stories with us. We brought medicines and other donations and were deeply touched.

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We were blessed to have two icon writers among our pilgrim group. Caroline & Fons led us for a visit to the Bethlehem Icon Centre.

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L’Arche, in a beautiful old Palestinian home, in Bethlehem produces wool-felt objects by people with disabilities and sells them. Our St Pauls holiday faire includes some of these products.

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Did you know that there are still some Samaritans alive today? We visited them on Mt. Gerizim and saw where they still sacrifice sheep and goats during Passover.

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Fr. Justin is the custodian of Jacob’s Well and the surrounding church in Nablus. He paints icons and is the life force at this religious, archaeological and historic place.

Photo by Zachary Shores

Photo by Zachary Shores


Part 10

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There’s an area called Solomon’s Pools where water has been stored for centuries. They say that Solomon called the area Paradise and it was where he wrote Song of Solomon in the Bible. Strange that it’s near a Palestinian refugee camp. Jim Shores of Acts of Renewal performed a nice monologue of King David talking with his son Solomon about how he likes to build things (the coming Temple).

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The Church of the Visitation in Ein Kerem commemorates where Mary visited Elizabeth in the Judean hills. Under one of the side alters is this lovely icon to an elderly mother.

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The birthplace of John the Baptist, also in Ein Kerem. Only a few spots can use the Latin word HIC, meaning here. In English is says, Here was born the precursor of the Lord.”

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A wonderful place to have lunch and an afternoon respite (& spend the night) is the Convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Sion, also in Ein Kerem. Here is their beautiful cemetery with a view of the Judean hills & the golden domes of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Visitation. Nearby is the Hadassah Medical Center that contains Chagall’s stained glass windows of the 12 tribes of Israel.



Part 11

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The Garden of Gethsemane is mostly olive trees, some being hundreds of years old.

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Rev. Nancy celebrated Eucharist assisted by Linda at the Ecce Homo Basilica on the Via Dolorosa, another convent guesthouse owned by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion. We had a great lunch there then toured the well-preserved ruins underneath. (See my 2018 blog entry for more info.)

The nearby Church of All Nations/Basilica of the Agony is dark, gorgeous & built over a rock that some say is where Jesus prayed before his arrest.

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The area of the Pool of Bethesda, St Anne’s Church, is a nice spot to talk about healing.

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We got up early to walk & meditate on the Stations of the Cross. Here we will enter the Old city of Jerusalem through Herod’s gate, decorated with Ramadan lights this time of year.


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Here we are at the first station of the cross with Rev. Nancy leading us.


Part 12

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There are many crosses carved into the lower church walls, done by Crusaders. This was taken during part of my “secret nooks and crannies of Old City Jerusalem” tour.

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Steps leading to Calvary


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After a visit to the Israel Museum & Shrine of the Book, we spent time on Mount Zion. This beautiful door is on the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu (meaning cock’s crow), which remembers when Peter denied Christ.

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Our music director took a moment to contemplate steps Jesus could have walked upon. It is believed that the palace of the high priest Caiaphas was here.

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A major highlight of our pilgrimage is visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Calvary & Christ’s Tomb are. This photo shows a section of the church where Fr. Kamal was teaching us that he believes was part of the garden near the Tomb.

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One of the Armenian sections of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. These icons are brand new in 2019.


Part 13

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Because the political, geographical, religious & many aspects of the Holy Land are complicated, I want our pilgrims to hear from different sides so they can form their own opinions. We try to always visit a Jewish Settlement & a Palestinian Refugee Camp. Here a young man and one of the camps tells us about his life.

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The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

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Our Farewell Dinner, a feast with lamb & many delicious foods!

I think this was a trip of a lifetime. It was a great group that took care of each other, with open hearts and minds to learn and grow. It was a delight and privilege for me to share many of the treasures I have found in my 7 years of visits. Now that we are back, I am receiving many dividends when I hear our pilgrims talk about what they’ve learned and now better understand. Thanks be to God!