NAZARETH TO CAPERNAUM - MORE THAN JUST A JOURNEY!

Our Church secretary, Ann, tells of her personal pilgrimage : Following in the Footsteps of Jesus

After all my training for weeks up-hill and down-hill over the Galloway countryside with lost toenails, blisters and aches and pains I managed the walk from Nazareth to Capernaum on the “Jesus Trail “without any problems. An unforgettable emotional experience which I wanted to go on and on. As some of you may have realized, I was a bit apprehensive about the Trek as I had a couple of niggly on-going injuries which were bothering me and I had not been sleeping very well for the first few days after arriving in Israel and felt very weary and a bit down hearted.

So I am going to start my story the Saturday before the walk. We went up to Nahariya in the north of Israel near the Lebanese border to attend a Messianic Jewish Shabbat where we were warmly welcomed, being with a well-loved member of the congregation. There was singing first in Hebrew, then Arabic, then after the sermon we had a song in English. Not your usual hymn but a song made popular by the band West Life & Jos Groben. Some of you may remember it was sung by Hilary at Douglas’s last service and it goes like this: 

“When I am down and oh my soul so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit a while with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up, to more than I can be”

What can I say but this was everything I needed to know, and I was going to be O.K! I walked with 24 others aged from mid-20’s to early 70’s, up to 12 miles each day, up all the hills, without any pain, without blisters and with joy because I knew I was not alone and was being raised up to “more than I could be”.

After an early morning service in the hospital chapel, our first day saw us walk up from Nazareth through a hillside of wild flowers, (finding en route a small tortoise on a rock!) to Zippori National Park. We visited the archaeological ruins of the main administrative city in Galilee at the time of Jesus, which has Byzantine mosaics and an ancient cistern sytem. Following lunch, we walked through the small Arab village of Mashad to Cana the site of Jesus’s first miracle, tracing a route by paths and countryside filled with wild flowers. We stayed in the Cana Guest House an Arabic household and shared our evening meal in the family’s home along with a wee drop of Cana wine to accompany it.

Next morning time did not allow us to go into the church building in Cana, which commemorates where Jesus changed the water into wine. We were, however, taken underneath the Church to a room which had been excavated and where coins had been found dating back to the time of Jesus. We then climbed the road out of Cana to walk along a forest ridge overlooking peaceful valley views, visiting an ancient Roman road, part of the Via Maris which connects the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee. We picked and ate wild asparagus and fennel fronds as we walked through the colourful wild flowers of red, yellow and white enjoying the peace, warm sunshine and fellowship. We sometimes came across rows of the cactus prickly pear and were reminded by our guide that this was a sign that an Arab village had once been situated there as the cactus was used as fencing to keep livestock in. Walking up a hill to arrive at Kibbutz Lavi, one of the very few religious Kibbutzim in the country, we were able to enjoy the swimming pool, peaceful grounds and a wonderful kosher buffet for supper.

Next morning we headed out across agricultural fields, (avoiding a poisonous snake!), and there was pointed out to us tares amongst the wheat, which reminded us of the parable in Matthews Gospel. Next, we ascended the Horns of Hattin, a volcanic structure, once again passing through areas of the most beautiful wild flowers, where a famous Crusader battle took place in 1188 between Saladin and the Crusader States of the Levant. Here we got our first glimpse of the Sea of Galilee, and lovely valley below. We descended the rocky hill-side to visit Nebu Shu’eib, the holiest shrine of the Druze religion, and the tomb of Jethro, father in law of Moses. After lunch, we proceeded through olive groves and the ruins of Hattin village, rising out of the valley to Moshav Arbel, where we stayed for the night in wooden holiday cabins. There was a large appealing lemon tree in the garden and thankfully we had a very tall gentleman with us who was able to pick for us the best lemons from the tree (with permission of the owner, of course!)

Because of the rain and thunder throughout the night we were unable to go up to the Arbel Cliffs, which would have given us magnificent views of the Sea of Galilea and surrounding countryside, these being closed due to the slippery surfaces. Nevertheless we were given another treat as we descended with care a very rocky and slippery flower filled hillside into the most beautiful Arbel Valley, where we crossed over 11 small burns, whilst being watched some of the time from the cliffs by Rock Hydrax, (a type of badger). I occasionally looked up at the Arbel Cliffs, with its ancient cliff dwellings and caves, to wonder if I would have had the courage to climb down these using metal rings and ropes, as this was one of the optional routes down from the cliffs. After a lovely walk along the shore of the Sea of Galilee we arrived at another Kibbutz at Karei Deshe, where we spent the night.

After another good breakfast we knew this was to be our last day of walking -- only 7 miles today! After walking beside the Sea of Galilee we visited Magdal , a prosperous fishing village in the time of Jesus, to view the excavations of the ancient town, indicating the presence of an observant Jewish community where it was likely that Jesus taught the multitudes and healed the afflicted women, including a woman who made her home town famous, Mary Magdalene. The Magdal synagogue is the oldest excavated in Galilee. Coins excavated date between 5 and 63AD. A coin printed in 29AD leaves the impression of Jesus teaching in the synagogues during his public life. The Magdal stone which has been found is believed to be the holder for the Torah and Prophet scrolls. To me this was a most beautiful place, which touched me with its chapels of mosaics depicting Biblical events from the Galilee. Most striking was the women's Atrium, featuring eight pillars, seven of which represent women of the Bible who followed Jesus, while the eighth honoured all women of faith across all time.

We then headed to Ginosar and had a lovely peaceful contemplative sail on the Sea of Galilee. We were transported for lunch to Mount Precipice, above Nazareth, where tradition has it an angry mob attempted to throw Jesus off the cliff. While we were there, we stopped at a small shop to get a coffee, and when the owner asked us who we were, he gave us all a free coffee as a thank you for what we were doing for his town! This gesture was a lovely example of many kindnesses we had encountered from people throughout our walk.

After taking in the view of Mount Tabor and the Yizrael Valley, we travelled back to the hospital where we were welcomed by the hospital staff and a Scout Band of drums and bagpipes which was really special. A little bit of Scotland to greet us!
Our last morning in Nazareth was taken up with a visit to the hospital and especially the maternity unit. We met the nurses and they thanked us for our efforts to raise money for the refurbishment of the unit. We then visited the Nazareth village which is an historically accurate and truly authentic site of what Nazareth would have been like in Jesus time. Then it was time to leave, I was sad, I wanted to stay and carry on walking.

Before and after the walk I did some travelling with my friend Miriam, touring Israel from snowy capped Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights to the Red Sea and the Egyptian Border. One of my lasting memories is in Jerusalem and the peace on the Mount of Olives with its magnificent view of the city and then walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane, where we chatted to the gardener. He asked us to pray for his sick mum and then cut off a small branch from the oldest olive tree in the garden and gave it to us.

Your donations, your prayers and encouragement meant such a lot to me and now you can know that in a hospital in Nazareth on a hill so far away your help will be a lasting contribution to the maternity unit and to the new babies being born there. With God’s grace, they will grow up in peace in this beautiful country I had the privilege to walk through.

Thank You.

Shalom

Ann Morgan (Church Secretary)
 

MONDAY MORNING HOUSE GROUP

The Monday morning house group emerged as a result of the last Alpha course about 16 years ago. Mainly we met in the Manse but in recent years Kathleen Ramage has very kindly opened her home in Castle Street for us. We have had some wonderful personalities including Rev. Tom Robertson, Ian and Carolina Mitchell and Ina Davis. Over the years we have studied courses on books of the Bible, one of the most difficult being the Book of Revelation. It was good we had scholars among us at that time. At the moment we are looking at "Christian Community" which we all agree is important at this stage in our church life. We all feel it is a safe group to air our views and learn from others and most of us have had lots of support in times of need. We would welcome others to come and explore more about their faith.

Elizabeth Bennett
 

OUR NEW CHURCH WORKER

Daniel Rimmer is from London and is the new Youth Worker at Kirkcudbright Parish Church.  He is also a team member at Abernethy Barcaple. 

"I have been very fortunate to be placed in this role, as the Lord has been leading me to explore youth work and live in Christian community. I have previously worked on and off for the Salvation Army, both in the UK and abroad in the United States. My most recent job in the UK before this was at a men’s hostel near King’s Cross. I have five summers of experience at Salvation Army Summer Camps in Oregon and California, the latter three of which have been in more senior leadership positions, and I have also spent a year living in Hawaii, as part of a mission trip. Hawaii, for all the glamour and the sunshine, has an endemic homelessness
problem, and the gap between the rich and the poor is exacerbated by exceedingly high rents and living costs. I learned a lot about myself, about my faith and about leadership on my mission trip and years at camp, and I am hoping to bring this experience with me into my venture here in Kirkcudbright. The challenges I will face here will primarily be engaging an interest and increasing numbers in our Friday night youth program and our Sunday Schools. I have already made some headway into the local schools, where I will be leading lunchtime SU groups. I am hoping that by focusing on the relationship-building side of things, I’ll be able to
make progress with our youth programs at the church. I am really looking forward to the challenges of this role and am keen to get stuck in!

Daniel Rimmer
 

THE TUESDAY EVENING STUDY GROUP

We are a small group meeting in each others home. Our study for this year has been The Pilgrim Course which includes, The Beatitudes, The Lord's Prayer and the Commandments. These discussions have encouraged us to review our understanding and deeper application of Jesus's teaching more closely. We enjoy wonderful supportive fellowship, friendship, laughter and lively discussion and in recent months have had four new members join our group. We have led the 9.30a.m. Church service on a number of occasions, and while we find it challenging, we also agree that it is a growing experience leading to the health and enjoyment of our group.

If you enjoy asking the question and then discussion with others, perhaps you might like to join us. If so, speak to Irene Robertson or anyone you may know who is a member of the group. You will be made very welcome.
 

TIME FOR COFFEE

For those who like to fill their diaries in advance, here is the list of World Church Coffee Mornings till the end of the year:- 2nd March, 6th April, 4th May, 1st June and 6th July. Then a summer gap till 14th September, 5th October & 2nd November. If you haven't been before come and enjoy real, not instant coffee, tea and home made cakes and scones. You will also find a very social atmosphere. You will be supporting a range of charities, beginning in March with Mary's Meals.

Thank You.

Margaret Hughes