A Pilgrim's Notebook - Chapter 1

Pilgrim notes #1 - Introduction and
"Why pilgrimage, why Jerusalem?"
Saturday: 03/04/2000

I was glad when they said to me,
	"Let us go to the house of the Lord."
Now our feet are standing
	within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Psalm 122:1-2 from the Psalter, Book of Common Prayer 1979

St. George's Cathedral When I learned late in December that Bishop Thompson had selected me to be his Communications Director, I was also told that the staff was being taken on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in March. I was then given a collection of three books to read in preparation for the experience along with a reading list of more books and some other preparatory material.

St. George's Cathedral, East Jerusalem

So, now, here we are at St. George's College, situated in the Eastern (West Bank) side of Jerusalem, very near the old city. There are 41 of us, most of the diocesan staff, along with some paying spouses and guests, and 10 from the diocese of the Central Gulf Coast (Fla. panhandle and lower Alabama). We were not big enough to fill a class by ourselves.

We are to be "in school" every day we are here except for the first day for the early arrival group (my group) and the last day for the late arrival group, as we came on two separate flights. We are physically in Jerusalem for most of the course except for some day trips and a two-night/three-day pilgrimage to Galilee that begins on Tuesday.

When the Spirit moves me to do it, I plan to share my experiences in messages back to the Diocese now that it looks like I can access my AOL account from here. I hope those are meaningful to some of you. Electrons are cheap.

The big question is, why pilgrimage, and why Jerusalem? This pilgrimage provides the opportunity to study scripture in the context in which scripture was written. Pilgrimage has been called the 5th Gospel, where the land and the people speak to the pilgrim the truth of Jesus. Pilgrimage has also been called the 8th sacrament, that of sacred time and space in which to develop calling and commitment.

Any employer has some responsibility for the continuing development of the employees. More specifically, our Bishop has some responsibility for our continuing Christian formation, especially where that might contribute to our better service to the Diocese in the work to which we have all been called.

Pilgrimage, as we have been taught, is an experience in formation, not an act of gathering information, which one can do from a book. Paulinus of Nola wrote, "Make pilgrimage abroad to increase the charity in you." It creates space in which history (His story) becomes mystery (My story), as we open ourselves to a sense of Jesus' experience by being here, in the uncomfortable context of this non-Christian environment.

As we spent much of the day in lecture, we learned there are differences between pilgrims, tourists, and students, though some aspects are common. We are pilgrims as we continue our long search for a deeper understanding of our Lord.

It is a journey with an imprecise destination, possibly a different destination for each pilgrim. Jan and I had to change our seating on the first leg of the trip so we could sit together and ended up in the last row of the Boeing 767, which we promptly dubbed "Pilgrim Class." I think that was the first step of our pilgrim experience.

As I go through this experience, you are all in my constant prayers.

Your fellow servant in Christ
From St. George's College, Jerusalem,
Andy Figueroa


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