Holy Land Pilgrimage Service
Holy Land Pilgrimage Service

On Tuesday evening 18th May, members of the three pilgrimages which have gone from the Diocese of Clogher successively in 2008, 2009 and 2010 gathered for a Service of Holy Communion in St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen. The bishop was celebrant and preacher. He was assisted by the Reverend Glenn West and the Reverend David Skuce, with whom he shared and led all three pilgrimages. Mr Glenn Moore was organist.

In his sermon, Bishop Jackson retraced the steps of pilgrimage with almost one hundred people who had gathered in the Cathedral outlining how on each occasion the pilgrims had explored the Galilee region, visited Jericho and gone up to Jerusalem like the Biblical pilgrim and psalmist and there followed the Way of the Cross to the place of Jesus’s crucifixion. He spoke also of personal memories of the pilgrimages which had a lasting impact on him.

During the Service, a chalice and paten for each cathedral church in the diocese, Clogher and Enniskillen, were dedicated by use. These are gifts from the pilgrims to the diocesan cathedrals and will serve as a reminder of the journeys in faith taken by members of Clogher to the Holy Land. Afterwards during a time of hospitality the bishop brought pilgrims up to date on the substantial progress already made in reaching the target of $100,000US for St Luke’s Hospital, Nablus.

It is expected that further pilgrimages will be organized in the near future as interest is keen both within and beyond the diocese to participate in the Clogher Pilgrimages.

Chalice and Paten from the Holy Land dedicated for each cathedral church in the diocese, Clogher and Enniskillen

2010 Clogher Pilgrimage Group pictured in Jerusalem

Sermon Text.

Service of Holy Communion for members of three Clogher Diocesan Pilgrimages
St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen May 19th, 2010
Sermon preached by the Bishop of Clogher

I wonder if you have ever thought about the difference between invention and disclosure. To my own simple way of thinking, invention is the making of something which did not quite exist and was not known before; while disclosure is the unfolding of something which was already there but was never really noticed before. For me, as a simple Christian believer, I cannot contemplate the invention of God but I am eager always for the disclosure of God – in people, in the relationships which they have and hold dear, in the ways and world of nature, in the Holy Scriptures and in the services of the church.

A wonderful disclosure of which you who are here this evening have been part is the disclosure which centres on the Holy Land. And for this reason our pilgrimages together have been journeys of disclosure. The broad sweep has been the same and to my mind the order of events has been right. First, we go to Galilee and experience hands-on the terrain associated with the earthly walk of Jesus with the people of the land, those who counted for very little in the social hierarchy of their day. These people formed a new bedrock of faithful response to a God who had always been part of that landscape but who now invites a response that is entirely new through a fresh disclosure in the incarnate God. They are invited to centre on his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ who, to use the language of the departed Tony Blair ‘walks the walk and talks the talk’ – the walk of mission and the talk of believing. Then we go to Jericho, that complicated place in olden and in more modern times alike. Jericho brings us close to the Samaritan territory of old and to the Arab territory of today. Entering Jericho is not a romantic experience. One gets a real sense of social suffocation, of human beings en-wired and en-closed – and there is that visual sense that somehow things are not quite so sophisticated as they are in other parts of Israel-Palestine. I ask you: How could they be? It is impossible for the inhabitants even to receive things from abroad without having to pay extra for them. It is impossible for them to sell to their neighbours in surrounding countries. And we all know that the biggest put-down we can offer anyone is to say that they are dirty. What fascinates me is the amount of life and colour there is among the Arab people, living as they do in a social and political volcano. Thirdly we go up, like the psalmist, to Jerusalem. It does not surprize me that Jerusalem has earned and still holds the name of being the eternal city. And there we walk the way of sorrows with Jesus Christ to Calvary and beyond.

This is the broad sweep of our pilgrimage. But we also seek to does so justice to the two other World Faiths which inhabit the Holy Land – Judaism and Islam. We visit a synagogue or go to the Western Wall; we visit as mosque or go up on to the Temple Mount. And we go to Yad Vashem, surely one of the most gutting and searing human experiences of the whole pilgrimage. Our instinct is to recoil in horror. Our instinct is to say: This can never happen again. But our eyes tell us that it has happened again in Rwanda, in Serbia, in Northern Nigeria, in so many other places and peoples and will continue to happen again. I can never set aside the experience of coming out into the bright light at the end of that visit, looking towards Jerusalem, and wondering why I am entitled to be alive under God when six million people died – and, mercifully, thankfully, painfully are never to be forgotten.

Disclosure gives shape and life to what is already there in us, and what God has already given to us. And travel, adventure, pilgrimage contribute significantly to this, if we are fortunate enough to be given that opportunity. I in no way wish to diminish the loving and living faith of those who have found Jesus Christ disclosed to them nearer home – in the pages of a family Bible, in the worship of the parish church and in private prayer and the love of friends and family members. There is not something superior about pilgrimage but there is something special: it lets us individually and together be shaped by a number of new and changing experiences in Holy Places. The first is being together – many of us did not know one another before we left home but now there are firm friendships established and cemented. The second is being beyond our smaller selves in being truly parts of God’s self – the power of place and presence and people sweeps us forward into a new understanding of ourselves through being with others and being with God. And pivotal to this are the people of the land today – the living stones whom we have met in various circumstances on every pilgrimage – and we marvel at their hope and trust. We embrace them in the work which we seek to do with them to enhance the facilities of St Luke’s Hospital, Nablus in ways which will meet face to face the generosity and professionalism which they offer to the total community of that city. And we also hold them close in prayer.

Each of you will have a favourite place, I suspect, which you remember and to which you return in your imagination. Only you will know what and why that particular place is the place for you. For me, I have to say there are three which I have shared with all of you together and there are, of course, others which I have shared with each pilgrimage separately. One is the Sea of Galilee – I never tire of its shimmering surface, its different moods and the opportunity to draw together the life of Jesus and the church of today by celebrating Holy Communion there, on the water if at all possible; the insecurity of being off the land adds something special to the whole appreciation of depending on – hanging from - God. The second is the Road to Jericho seen from Wadi Qelt – the snaking of the road as it eventually disappears into the Judean Desert is eerie and unforgettable. The traveller who takes a chance, the representatives of institutional religion who ‘cannot get involved,’ the unclean Samaritan who does the clean thing – and more and more and more – these all flood back to my mind. The third may surprize you and it is the Stone of Anointing which is the first thing which you see as you enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It has eight lamps hanging over it - because there are eight Christian traditions who lay claim to the church itself. But what impresses me most is that the first thing which you see is this image of careful preparation of the body of Christ for burial by the women. It is a moment of intense religious tenderness which cuts right through all of the politics and factionalism of that complicated site. And all day long people touch it, stroke it, kiss it – let their emotions run with their faith in an unending stream of thankfulness.

Galilee, Jericho and Jerusalem – these remain with me as I try to do the work which lies before me. I hope that for each one of you the spirit of the Holy Land has enriched your faith and has also enfleshed your understanding of the Bible. You have each made this possible for all of us. You have each given as much as you have received – and more. You can tell the good news of the people and the places which mean so much to you because you have ‘walked the walk’. It is God’s gift to you that you can also ‘talk the talk’ of God and of God’s salvation to all whom you meet.

St Luke 24:13, 14, 15: That same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, talking together about all that had happened. As they talked and argued, Jesus himself came up and walked with them …