Friday, May 24, 2013

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

When Ruth Everhart was invited to participate in a ten-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she thought about it for awhile. As Presbyterian minister of a church in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, busy with both family and church, she realized that even after college, seminary, and 20 years of ministry, she still had some spiritual questions of her own.
 
The plan was for a group of seven clergy to be part of a documentary, called "Pilgrimage Project." The group was somewhat ecumenical, consisting of one Episcopalian, one Lutheran, two Presbyterians, one Southern Baptist, one from a nondenominational church, and one who had never been to seminary but was involved in prison ministry.
 
Film maker Brian Ide wanted the clergy to each take a turn leading one of their worship services during the trip, as "a way of sharing faith traditions," and he encouraged their discussing differences as well. In Jerusalem, they would join a group of 30 people, also on pilgrimage, sharing with them the facilities at St. George’s College. Stephen Need, dean of the college, would serve as their host and provide lectures and information for both groups. They would follow Jesus' life from Bethlehem to Galilee, then back to Jerusalem for the final days of his story.
 
It sounded good. So one morning in September 2005, Brian, two cameramen and the seven clergy met at St. Bart’s Episcopal Church in New York City and began their pilgrimage. One of the results is Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land by Ruth Everhart, one of the two Presbyterian clergy members in the group. It is published by Eerdmans, click on www.eerdmans.com for more.
 
Ruth discovered that the pilgrimage was demanding but rewarding. She wrote that "she came to follow the Spirit, to encounter Jesus in his land, amid his stories." She kept two records: one, a journal of talks by Dean Need, and also, her notebook of personal prayers as she saw with her own eyes where Jesus walked and talked.
 
There was a lot to cover in those ten days and sometimes Ruth felt that "everything was too hurried, with no time to just stop and think about it." She said "the pilgrim’s journey is hard to process, let alone share, we all need space to think." She concludes her book with sections on Themes for Pilgrims, and on Questions for Pilgrims—both of which may help readers think through all they have learned as Ruth shared her pilgrimage with us. Note: the documentary was never completed but some footage is in the book trailer. Click on Eerdmans’ web page
 
—Lois Sibley