This is the day we had to pack up and leave blessed Galilee. It was also Sunday morning which meant worship, and this year we tried a new spot, the Church of Scotland Church in Tiberias, where the Rev. Kate McDonald, Church of Scotland pastor and social justice worker in the area welcomed us to use the beautiful space along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is also a place where a woman is allowed to preside, and so the Rev. Canon Jennifer Daughtery, of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle did just that.
From there we headed south, down the Jordan Valley, into the West Bank and then on to the baptismal site on the Jordan. There we renewed our baptismal vows and took in the wonderful sight of people from all denominations doing the same.
After that we went to lunch in Jericho, after viewing the Mt. Temptation, and the purported (but surely not!) Sycamore Tree that Zaccheaus climbed and Jesus called him out of.
After lunch we stopped at the Hebron Glass shop for some “retail therapy” and then onward to Bethlehem. Before that we made a brief stop at Bethany. We arrived in Bethlehem after dark, staying right at the Church of the Nativity. We had dinner at the hotel, and then I walked the short distance to see my good friend, Adnan and his sons, who run a nearby coffee shop, and gift shop. I have known him now for 5 years and always see him on this trip. About 10 of us sat outside his shop, around a fire, drinking coffee and hearing about this past year. It is not an easy life in Bethlehem, but he makes the most of it. Adnan told me that Conan O’Brien recently interviewed him for his series on Netflix. I cannot way to see it!
After a good nights rest we awoke early and, staying in Bethlehem, visited first the Shepherd’s Field, and then to the Crèche, which is an orphanage run by French sisters that we never miss. Anyone who has been there knows how moving a visit this is, seeing the great care they give to the abandoned children of Bethlehem. Sister Ludi has been there every time I have gone and she is, as I tell her every time, one of the living saints in my life.
We celebrated Eucharist at the Chapel of the Crèche, and then walked down the street meet some of the students at Bethlehem University, a most amazing place of hope and inspiration in a region that so definitely needs it. Over 3000 students, Muslim and Christian attend here. The students never fail to inspire us and today was no different. We left there and traveled back to our hotel, and then toured the. Church of the Nativity, and the birthplace of Jesus. it was a fabulous day. I have once again taken a few videos of our singing over these past two days.
This evening we had a presentation by the Parent’s Circle, by a Palestinian and a Jew who have each lost children in the struggle. There is no way I could ever share the power of their presentation and their plea to end the senseless division. After a nice dinner out, we are turning in for the night as we turn our faces toward Jerusalem tomorrow.
Blessings to all of you and we give thanks for your prayers for us.