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Mothers' Union Holy Land Visit
Cindy Kent describes her recent trip, and shares details of the Mothers’ Union tour she will be leading in partnership with Worldwide Christian Travel
I recently travelled to the Holy Land – Israel – as part of my post ordination training. I went with a group of fellow Anglican priests and deacons under the guidance of the Bishop of Edmonton, Peter Wheatley. We began in Jerusalem – where else? It is such an amazing city. This was my fourth visit to Israel, but I still felt that thrill at walking through places I’d known about since my childhood. Our hotel in Jerusalem was right opposite the old walls of the city, which provided me with a spectacular view each morning and evening. When the sun was setting it was easy to see why it’s called ‘The Golden City’.
Let me just tell you about a few of the highlights. We walked the steps of the Via Dolorasa, the road Jesus took when he was carrying his cross; we visited the Mount of Olives where he sweated blood the night before he died and we explored the Dome of the Rock – the site where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac and where there’s now the Golden Domed Mosque; the first sight you see when you approach Jerusalem.
Next visit was to Bethlehem – Palestinian territory – and we celebrated Mass in the Fields of the Shepherds. This wonderful place was spoiled, for me, by the sight of the many illegal settlements built by Jews on Palestinian territory. In Bethlehem, The Church of the Nativity is a must – you enter through a very low door, which means everyone must ‘bow’ before Jesus. There’s a beautiful silver and mother of pearl star on the floor of the crypt, marking the place where Jesus was born.
A visit to the Shrine of the Book museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls is always worthwhile. They were found ‘by accident’ in a clay pot in a cave. It’s incredible to see the earliest portions of the book of Isaiah, which are still readable today. On the Friday evening – the start of the Jewish Sabbath – a few of us went down to the Western (‘Wailing’) wall to watch as young and old made their way to the wall to pray and occasionally burst into spontaneous dance!
I’d never visited Abu Guosh before. This Benedictine monastery is one of the sites that could mark the place where Jesus appeared to the two men after the walk on the road to Emmaus. We celebrated Mass there in the exquisite silence and the most peaceful atmosphere I’ve ever experienced.
Sunday saw us at the service in St George’s Anglican Cathedral – a small, light, whitewashed church surrounded by a beautiful courtyard. It’s just a few blocks from the Damascus Gate of the Old City. We then experienced a cable-car ride up to the Mount of Temptation with a wonderful view across the country. Next, we travelled to Tiberius for our stay at a fabulous hotel right by the Sea of Galilee. We celebrated Mass on the shores of the lake beside the Church of the Loaves and Fishes followed by lunch at the Convent of the Beatitudes. The highlight of the day was a boat trip on the Sea of Galilee; stopping midway across for short service. On the way back to the airport we stopped at Caesarea Maritima – the old port from where Paul, under arrest, was sent by ship to Rome. It has a spectacular auditorium and a beautiful beach.
The Holy Land is an amazing place to visit if you keep an open mind. There’s a star marking the spot where Jesus was born; a church marking the Cana miracle; a church cave showing where Jesus was kept prisoner the night before his death and a well, reckoned to be the exact spot where Gabriel told Mary she would ‘be with child’! Whether they are the actual places where these things happened they did happen. The fact that Christians venerate those sites gives each place a special spirituality.
Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem and also for the ‘living stones’ – the Christians who live in that troubled land.
I am delighted to be asked by the Mothers’ Union to lead this next trip to the Holy Land. All the biblical stories come to life as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. I do hope you can join me on this wonderful journey. Find out more here
Cindy Kent worked in broadcasting before being ordained. Today she is semi-retired, living in Minster on Sea, on the Isle of Sheppey. She still works occasionally as a freelance broadcaster with Premier Christian Radio and as a priest conducting weddings and funerals and leading worship in churches and the local hospital. Cindy became a Mothers’ Union member in 2017.
Written by Cindy Kent and first published in Mothers' Union's Families First magazine Spring Edition 2019 (p 42-43)