European Youth Explore their Calling in Jerusalem

The interns and their mentors sitting on steps in Jerusalem

‘I found the peace of Galilee fantastic, but Jerusalem somehow made me feel closer to Christ, precisely because he came for reconciliation, and in Jerusalem you can see how much reconciliation is needed.’

‘We explored the multiple dimensions and many sides of stories, and we learned that nothing is as simple as it might seem. Perhaps that was partly exemplified for me by the need to go through a metal detector before one could access some of the holy sites.’

‘I will never forget listening to Julius singing the Magnificat in the Church of St Anne and Ubi Caritas in the Crusader Church of Abu Ghosh.’

‘Somehow we experienced the joys and sorrows of ecumenism. In the Holy Sepulchre we witnessed several different Christian churches living together under one roof, but certainly they were not actively working for the unity of the Christian household.’

‘I came to understand something about holy places. Sometimes a site can be rather dubious historically, but be made holy by the prayers and experiences of the pilgrims who have visited it over the centuries.’

‘I find myself looking at the Bible in new and different ways.’

‘The messiness of the incarnation has become more real for me.’

‘The words of Patriarch Theophilos – that living and working in this land requires a willingness to participate in the divine kenosis – made a deep impression upon me.’

‘Our experiences in this land have made me reflect on the importance of human rights.’

These are some of the immediate comments made by the group of six CEMES (Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme) interns from the Diocese in Europe who participated in a six day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 23-29 November 2017, based in Jerusalem.

The pilgrimage formed a key part of the year’s experience that the CEMES programme offers to young people who are actively thinking about the possibility of full time ministry in the church. Accompanied by some of the mentors on the scheme, as well as a few older friends, the young people had the opportunity to explore and reflect on several dimensions of what it may mean to call this land holy:

  • the sites – most especially the Holy Sepulchre – which commemorate fundamental events in the life of Jesus Christ;

  • the importance and difficulties of ongoing Christian presence in the land;

  • the complicated and sometimes competitive interreligious dimensions;

  • the political and social realities in Israel and Palestine today. 

View over Jerusalem at nightThe group was honoured to be received by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, as well as by Archbishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem. They participated in the Sunday Eucharist at St George’s Anglican Cathedral, Jerusalem.   They were blessed with the adaptable welcome given to them by the community at St Peter in Gallicantu, their base in Jerusalem and were also grateful for the generous Sabbath evening hospitality shown to them by members of the Kol Ha-Neshema synagogue in West Jerusalem. Undergirded by common prayer and worship the pilgrimage also provided an opportunity for community building among the group of interns, who because of the special nature of the Diocese in Europe are quite widely spread. None of those who participated will forget the special quality of the two Eucharists they celebrated as a group – held in God’s love in front of the tranquillity of Dalmanutha by the Sea of Galilee, and the painful sweetness of preparing to depart from Jerusalem.

The pilgrimage took place due to the vision and hard work of the Director of Ordinands for the Diocese in Europe, Rev Canon William Gulliford. He said,

‘I know what impact the opportunity to visit Jerusalem as a young man made to me, and how it affected the path of my own ministry. I wanted these young people to have a similar privilege. It is an important way that the church can invest in the future, and I am really grateful to the trusts and organisations who generously gave grants to make this possible’

Report submitted by Dr Clare Amos, CEMES mentor.

The Jerusalem and the Middle East Church Assocation were pleased to be able to provide a training grant towards the costs for each of the interns. The grants came from the Phillips & Cane fund, an historic fund managed by JMECA which resulted from a gift from Rev Phillips and a legacy from Miss Cane that was designated to fund training of clergy and lay leadership in the Province of the Episcopal church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. 

Find out more about *CEMES = the Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme here. This national Church of England programme encourages young people under the age of 30 to take a year working in a parish or chaplaincy to explore whether they have a vocation to ordained or other forms of Christian ministry. This is the third year that the Diocese in Europe has participated in the scheme.  Currently in the Diocese in Europe interns are based in Bruges, Brussels, La Cote (near Geneva) Leuven, Lyon, and Vienna.