Happenings, News

Pilgrimages to our spiritual and historical roots

MORE THAN A HUNDRED Methodists in Singapore have gone on pilgrimages to the Holy Land and countries steeped in early Church history over the last seven years from 2005 to early this year. Many have been on more than one. The pilgrimages were planned and led by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, who travelled with us as spiritual leader, teacher and fellow-pilgrim.

Methodist Message will feature a three-part article, with rare pictures, on the seven pilgrimages, beginning with an “Overview” in this issue. Parts 2 and 3 will appear next month and in November. The pilgrimages centred on themes which form the acronym PRAISE:

Paul’s journeys (“In the Steps of St Paul”) – November-December 2006, Reformation (“Pathway to Reformation”) – November-December 2007,

Ancient Church (“Egypt & Early Church History”) – November-December 2010,

ISrael (“Where it all began”) – December 2005, December 2008, November-December 2009, England (“Our Wesleyan Heritage”) – March 2012.

THETHEMEAND DESTINATIONS of each of the seven pilgrimages are carefully chosen and planned. They provide the historical context of our Faith and help us to “experience” the biblical events. The hallmark of these pilgrimages is the daily morning and evening devotions with Scripture reading, a short Sermon and Singing of hymns.

Bishop Dr Robert Solomon’s “constant companion” was his brief case; it held his Bible and a book or two.

The brief case was like his “travelling pulpit”. At every major site we visited, he would take out his Bible to read us a scriptural text and deliver a brief homily related to the place. It is his hope that we will be prayerfully inspired and our pilgrimage will make a difference in our inner lives and in our relationship with God.

Israel, where it all began The pilgrimages began with the first in 2005 to the Holy Land, “Israel, where it all began”. This pilgrimage was repeated in 2008 and 2009.

The tone for these pilgrimages was set by Bishop Dr Solomon: “The key to understanding this land is to see its connection to our Lord Jesus. It is the land of Jesus – the land where He lived, taught, ministered, died on the cross for us, was resurrected and is coming again. The most exciting fact about our pilgrimage to the Holy Land is that we are going to walk where Jesus walked. We go not as tourists, but as pilgrims … We must not only trace the Lord’s footprints on the sands and rocks of Israel, but also in our hearts … ”

Our itinerary was a long list of places that mark: the birth of our Lord Jesus, His ministries, and finally His death on the cross for us.

We visited Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity, which was built over a cave that is traditionally believed to be the cave where Jesus was born. We saw Nazareth, the site of the Annunciation and the town in which our Lord grew up. There was a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee which reminded us of Jesus being woken up by his terrified disciples to calm the storm.

Around the Sea of Galilee where He did much of His ministries, we were at Tabgha where He fed the 5,000 with seven loaves of bread and two small fish, and at Mount Beatitudes where the Sermon on the Mount was preached.

Story by Peter Chen Pictures by the Pilgrims