A Journey of Pilgrimage and Discovery for Young Adults

 on June 9, 2023

Young adults aged 20-26 have been invited from across the Anglican Church of Canada to journey on a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land from May 1 – 12, including three from our diocese. Anna Tavakoli (St. Cuthbert’s, Oakville), Mackenzie Colbourne-Tennant (University of Guelph Chaplaincy), and Adam MacNeil (Church of the Resurrection, Hamilton) will attend, along with 20 other young adult participants. We asked each to share a brief reflection as they prepare for their pilgrimage.

Anna Tavakoli

“Growing up, I was not very familiar with Christianity and what it meant to be a Christian. As I got older, I became interested in learning more about the Bible and who Jesus was. I began reading the Bible for kids when I was twelve years old. Prior to immigrating to Canada, I had the opportunity to visit different churches when I travelled to Europe. The first time I went inside a church, it felt strangely familiar, and I was more drawn to Christianity. Since moving to Canada, I have been attending St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church in Oakville regularly, and have taken many roles in my parish as well as our diocese. Currently, I am the youth leader and Sunday School teacher at St. Cuthbert’s. I am confident that joining this pilgrimage will help me build a stronger relationship with God, and seeing the places where Jesus walked and performed miracles in person will be an invaluable experience. Lastly, as a child and youth minister, gaining this experience will be very beneficial to my teachings and my knowledge of Christianity.

Besides tasting the amazing Middle Eastern food, I am most looking forward to visiting other Christian Palestinian young adults and learning about their faith journey and experience living in Israel as a Christian. I am hoping that I could amplify their voice once I return to Canada and advocate for their rights.

I am most excited to see the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized, and I am hoping to renew my baptismal vows with my fellow pilgrims. My baptism at St. Cuthbert’s was a major milestone in my faith journey and what better way to relive the biblical experience!”

Mackenzie Colbourne-Tennant

“Over the past few years, I have been working through prayer and action to grow my faith in such a way that I can better understand God in not only my life but as He works in others as well. This includes how our understanding of God and His wonders shapes and is shaped by the cultural teachings around us. It is this understanding that encouraged me to pursue my study of Anthropology at university in the first place. Having learned in school all about how the places where we grow up and choose to make our lives can have a profound impact on how we navigate the world, the ability to explore the Christian faith in the landscape where Christ Himself and the apostles would have known and grown is an immeasurable privilege to partake in. So often our faith and understanding of Christ is shaped by the cultural and physical landscapes around us; it is in glimpsing the cultures that may have encouraged many tenets of our faith to blossom that we will be able to better return to our own communities with fuller, more open hearts. I look forward to joining this pilgrimage as a way to bring first-hand experience of this understanding back to my community.

With such an amazing itinerary planned it is difficult to choose any one thing that I am most looking forward to, but I can say that I am especially excited to visit Magdala and Jerusalem. Not only do both of these places have such beautiful Biblical attachment and were places of faith, loyalty and miracles, but also have a deep and rich on-going story that I long to learn more about.

I think one of the things that brings me great comfort in my faith is the knowledge that Christ’s love calls to such a diverse and dynamic flock of believers. One of part of Jesus’ story that I am most excited to see and walk amidst in this pilgrimage is how this love, and His open-armed acceptance of any who wished to know His grace is still reflected in so many different ways across so many different cultures today.  I look forward to seeing how culture and proximity to such sacred places shapes the lives of Christians in the Holy Land, and what about their lives I might learn from.”

Adam MacNeil

“Last year I was told by a few friends in our diocese that I should consider applying for the young adult pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I was amazed that the Anglican Church of Canada had drafted this incredible itinerary and assembled a significant amount of funds to support such an excursion for more than a handful of young Anglicans. When this opportunity was brought to my attention, travel was the last activity on my mind. Uncertainty around emerging health measures and pandemic waves was still hovering. And yet, I found myself imagining what this pilgrimage could do and could mean, not just for myself and my spiritual journey, but also for the places and contexts in which I serve. After more than two years of ministry in likely one of the darkest times of the past several decades, it seemed like the opportune time to draw closer to the biblical lands in order to re-engage with the story of our faith and the story of the Church. I found myself reflecting: how might this pilgrimage cultivate a renewed commitment to the Gospel and provide new focus, energy, and vision in my ministry going forward? And so, I applied. I was so thrilled to accept the invitation to join a fabulous group of young Anglicans from across Canada on this incredible pilgrimage to the Holy Land!

There are so many things about this trip to look forward to; however, I am most excited about building relationships. I am excited to meet other young Anglicans from various parts of our Church and getting to know them, their journey of faith, and their roles in the Church. I am looking forward to sharing this experience with them, as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and talk about life, theology, and the challenges our world and our demographic faces. Furthermore, I am looking forward to establishing relationships with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem: getting to know Christians in the area, and seeking ways to partner with them in God’s mission in the world. Lastly, I am excited to learn more from our Jewish and Muslim siblings, and hope to discuss the possibility of more interfaith work and ministry going forward.

I love the story of the road to Emmaus. It encapsulates so much of what I think we are called to as Christians: to walk together, share in a meal, to reflect with one another, and to have our hearts burning with love for the God who meets us right where we are. On our last day of the pilgrimage, we will fittingly be on the road to Emmaus. I am excited to recall this story in that sacred place, and pray that we would have the eyes to see and ears to hear the presence of Christ around and within us.”

Upon their return, each participant will write a reflection piece that will provide a glimpse into their experiences. Please keep an eye out for those in an upcoming issue! If you would like to financially support future faith formation opportunities such as this, please be in touch with Sarah Bird ([email protected]) to learn how.

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