Opening Eucharist was in the Cathedral yesterday. The Very Rev. Graham Smith, Dean of the College, preached. Two things in particular stayed with me. One is that pilgrimage, which is what we are doing, means unlearning what we thought we knew but really didn’t. Of course pilgrimage is about learning things also, but there is an aspect of letting go of some things.
The other thing the Dean said is that we must remember that being here for a couple of weeks doesn’t make any of us an expert on the conflict in this land and of its peoples. There is a joke that after being in Jerusalem two weeks, people think they can go home and write a book. After six weeks here, they go home and write an article. And after a year here, they don’t write anything because they realize they don’t know enough – they don’t know any more than they did when they arrived. Wise words, I thought.
Another thing that made an impression on me was a line from the Eucharistic prayer. There is a part that goes, “You sent Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, and here in Jerusalem he died on a cross.” Here in Jerusalem. I found myself very moved, just knowing that I am here, in Jerusalem, as Jesus was.
So the last of our group arrived yesterday, 12 people from St. James Episcopal Church in Richmond. We are now at our total of 31 students. As expected, it is a mix of lay people and clergy. We had our introductory group gathering, most notable for the New Zealanders standing up at the end and singing a blessing in Maori.
Today is a lot of class time, followed by a trip to the Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre. That is the church built on the spot Jesus’ body was laid after it was taken down from the cross. I look forward to sharing my impressions.