A Bishop’s Letter Written To You From The Holy Land

J. D. Rowe; Bishop Watton

Friends, as I write this, it is Wednesday March 15th, and I write to you from the town of Nazareth.

It is getting late here, and I need to rest, I am tired, but I cannot rest just yet—not until I send you my thoughts and love; I am thinking about home but I’m not not homesick. I am thinking about the whirlwind of places I have been through over the past days. 

I have been to the Wilderness where Jesus was challenged and tempted, to the church where Mary sang the Magnificat, and the church where John the Baptist was born. I have prayed on the Mount of Olives, and then I was off to a refugee camp before going to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The next stop was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Pool of Bethesda for a healing service, on to Capernaum where Jesus called the disciples on the Mount of the Beatitudes, and then to Peter’s house in Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked, “Who do You say that I am?”

This very morning, before we returned here to the guest house of the Sisters of Nazareth, we sailed on the Sea of Galilee. There, Archdeacon Terry led a prayer that we shared for you: the people of Central, Eastern, and Western Newfoundland. We were both overwhelmed by joy and love for you all, and sensed that our friends were here with us.

On Saturday at the Aida Refugee Camp, my heart was prepared for this pilgrimage because it was broken. 

Aida camp was established in 1950, and it sits between the municipalities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. It is partially surrounded by a huge wall known as the West Bank Barrier, and people there cannot move without being inspected and directed and ordered about by the Israeli military. They do not have the same rights or access to employment, healthcare, housing, and education that Israelis have. Every day is a struggle for these people to eat, live, work, and build homes. Thousands of Palestinians in different camps live this way. There is a story that needs to be told about these living stones. Many people, Jews, Christians, and Muslims (many of whom are children), are asking us to listen to their stories, and pray for peace.

Everywhere I have been you all have been in my heart. Everywhere, I hear the voice of Jesus, and see his tears in the eyes of all the living stones I have met here. I remember that Jesus and his parents were refugees in Egypt.

There is so much to say—so much to share. I feel a little released now that this is written and off to you. Let me remind you as I go of one more thought: no one needs to go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, or Galilee to find Jesus. It is powerful here as I encounter the “first land” of the Incarnate Christ, and visit the places to hear the stories where they happened, but I am very aware that Our Lord is with us in Newfoundland and Labrador, and our Land is Holy too, because he dwells here with us, as one of us.

May God bless you all, followers and friends of Jesus as our pilgrimage continues together.

Here is a hug from me, as we pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.

+John, Central Newfoundland

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