Hope is at the core of Christian faith. Pilgrimages and visits to the Holy Land are at the core of our Partnership with St Andrew’s. Through Pilgrimage and visits we learn more about the life of Jesus, about our faith in him and about the Bible. We understand the Gospel better. We read what happened and we see where it happened. Visits put the Gospel in context, making it easier to imagine and understand. It may be the distances between Biblical places, the beauty of the Galilean landscape, the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, the archaeological discoveries at the Synagogues of Tiberias and Capernaum, the shape of the hills around Bethlehem – but suddenly we grasp something we’ve never really understood before. A text is illuminated, and we’re given a new understanding of Scripture. We recall Jesus’s teaching, his ministry and passion, and see them in a way we had never quite seen them before.
Just as important, we spend time with our Partner Church, St Andrew’s Ramallah, Christians who practise their faith in the place where it was born, descendants of the first followers of Jesus. Today the great majority of Christians in the Middle East live in great hardship. The Churches in Israel/Palestine share the suffering of a long conflict, and face a very uncertain future. They pin their hope on the outside world, and their leaders have appealed to us for help. By becoming their friends, praying for them, and by speaking up on their behalf we express our solidarity and our hope.
As we travel round the Holy Land, and listen to local Christians, we are moved by what we see and hear. We are forced to address difficult questions – about oppression, justice and human rights, and we are brought face to face with some fundamental Biblical issues: did God give the land to the Jews unconditionally as modern Israel claims? Was it as simple as that?
Scripture tells the story of God’s mission of love, truth, peace and justice fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus, and there lies our hope. God calls us to share in his mission, and our Partnership at Pip and Jim’s aspires to be a part of our response.