Church leaders launch online pilgrimage for Lent

Church leaders launch online pilgrimage for Lent

Church leaders of all denominations laced up their hiking boots, hoisted their rucksacks and gathered their laptops today (9 Feb 2009) to publicise a unique virtual journey around the Holy Land, organised by the charity Christian Aid.

Church of England bishops met leaders of the Methodist, United Reformed Church and Congregational Federation, outside Westminster Abbey under a sign pointing the way to Jerusalem and giving the website address www.christianaid.org.uk/pilgrimage, the gateway to this online adventure.

The church leaders highlighted a virtual ‘Journey to Jerusalem’, which transports travellers from their inbox to the lands made familiar through scriptures and contemporary headlines.

The online pilgrimage gives people the chance to watch short videos, photo galleries, read stories and pray in the places where Jesus preached. They also meet local Christians, Jews and Muslims living there today, hear their personal stories and hear how the conflict touches the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, and learn how hard many people are working for peace.

The church leaders included the Rt Rev Peter Price, the Bishop of Bath & Wells; Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester; and the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford; Christine Elliot, the Methodist Secretary for External Affairs; the Rev Richard Mortimer, the United Reformed Church General Secretary; Alan Argent, Congregational Federation and Baptist and Christian Aid Intercommunity initiative manager Nigel Varndell.

Rt Rev Peter Price, the Bishop of Bath & Wells said: “If you can’t go to the Holy Land in reality then the next best thing is this virtual journey. It’s important for us to have a picture of the Holy Land today to understand better what Jesus was saying to us in the Gospel. His challenge to create a world of compassion, justice and truth remains a responsibility of all Christian people and all people of good will.”

Christine Elliot, the Methodist Secretary for External Affairs said: “A virtual pilgrimage is a contradiction of terms but the opportunity to hear people from parts of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and enter into their lives gives greater opportunity for us to begin to walk in an other’s shoes.”

Baptist and Christian Aid Intercommunity initiative manager Nigel Varndell said: “The situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories is politically complicated, theologically challenging and, at a human level, heartbreaking. For many of us it is so difficult we don’t know where to begin. I think this on-line pilgrimage is the perfect place to start and I hope that Baptists will sign up, get informed and get involved.”

Rev Richard Mortimer, the United Reformed Church General Secretary, said: “The Holy Land is treasured by three great world faiths. All three religions seek peace and the common good. The virtual pilgrimage can help us connect with the story of the Land in order to help that process.”

Lent begins on February 25th, 2009. To sign up to a free online pilgrimage, visit www.christianaid.org.uk/pilgrimage

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