From May 1–12, 2023, I embarked on a sacred journey to the Holy Land alongside 24 fellow pilgrims from the Anglican Church of Canada. Our leaders possessed extensive knowledge and experience, and they crafted an itinerary that allowed us to explore the Holy Land from various angles: cultural, spiritual, political, emotional, physical, and more. A remarkable aspect of this pilgrimage was the opportunity to have the primate, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, accompany us. It was truly inspiring to listen to her sermon on Jesus calming the storm while we sat on a boat in the sea of Galilee.
Like other pilgrims, we visited the customary holy sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity, however, it was in walking the streets of Nazareth and Jerusalem, taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, and partaking in the Eucharist at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem that I predominantly felt the presence of Jesus. These moments were particularly profound and filled with spiritual significance.
This experience greatly strengthened my faith as I witnessed the incredible work carried out by the Anglican and Lutheran Churches. One example is the Princess Basma Centre in Jerusalem, where children with disabilities from the West Bank and Gaza receive free assessments and treatments. I was also moved by the Episcopal Technological and Vocational Training Centre, which equips high school students with skills in various programs such as hospitality, culinary, and technology, coupled with invaluable career counselling upon graduation. The scripture passage, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18), resonated deeply with me during this journey. It reminded me that as Christians, our commitment to the Lord is expressed through serving His people.
Therefore, engaging in conversations with the locals, learning about their lives in the Holy Land, and sharing their stories with my parish became a meaningful way for me to live out my faith and serve God.
From our interactions with the Christians residing in the Holy Land, they refer to themselves as “living stones.” This term stems from the fact that their ancestors were present in the land when the Holy Spirit descended during Pentecost, and they were the first to honour the sacred places—the very stones—where Jesus walked and endured His suffering until His crucifixion. Now that I am back in Canada and reflecting on these words, I have come to realize the importance of sharing their stories with the rest of the world, particularly considering their relatively small population in the Holy Land and the challenges they face as Palestinians.
During our time in Jerusalem, particularly in the evenings, we engaged in conversations, dances, and songs with Arab Christian young adults. Through these interactions, we discovered numerous similarities despite the common assumptions held by many. The moments we shared while singing Christian songs in both English and Arabic will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Lastly, I am deeply grateful for this experience, and I recognize that it would not have been possible for me to embark on this pilgrimage without the support of the Lois Freeman Wilson grant and the Diocese of Niagara. I will continue to share my journey with others, particularly the young members of my parish and I hope that in the coming years, they too may have the chance to enrich their faith and experience personal growth, both in their professional pursuits and personal lives.