LETTER FROM THE RECTOR
The letter this month comes from Revd Tony Lynn, more than a year after his retirement as Team Vicar. It is good to hear his news, I am sure you will agree.
From our Former Team Vicar
Some years ago, when I retired from the Hermitage Team, you were very generous. You gave me many wonderful gifts, as well as a handsome cheque. It took some time to decide how that money should be spent. Borage (remember him?) was all for food, biscuits, more food and edible treats. When I saw an advertisement for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land led by the former Bishop of Oxford, I knew that that was what I should do. Now I am back, after an exhausting but truly wonderful and revealing time.
The Bishop (“Call me ‘John’”, but no one did!) took us to so many special sites that, just now, I’m still reeling to think that I walked where Jesus walked. Possibly most special was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was quiet, peaceful, the water lapped the pebbly shore making, surely, that gentle, comforting sound that Jesus himself will have heard. Something of a contrast with being on the Sea itself. We gathered on a boat like so many tourists before; then the union flag was hoisted, the National Anthem was played, and we stood to attention! Bizarre! It was, I suppose, a somewhat tourist-y event. In Jerusalem itself, which was not too awash with other visitors, we could sense the special-ness of the places: all those sites so familiar from the Bible stories. Sites which I’ve read about, mentioned in sermons and talks, and right there! From Bethlehem to Nazareth and on to Jerusalem.
But there was another side of the Holy Land which we witnessed. Most afternoons, we heard from Palestinians about their plight. We discovered that, if you were resident in a refugee camp (flats not tents), you had just 12 seconds of the doctor’s time to describe your ailment. Palestinians have to keep their curtains and shutters closed at all times if they overlook the homes of settlers. And you can easily tell which is the home of a Palestinian: it has a water tank on top because the authorities frequently turn off the water supply. All the Palestinians we met asked that we pass on their story. In humility, sadness, and in solidarity with them, I am doing just that right now. The Wall of Separation built within living memory by the Israelis is a cruel and very visible sign of a repression and fear that, surely, cannot be sustained.
One extraordinary oddity was our final stop: coffee at an All-American diner, dedicated to Elvis Presley. The place was filled with him: life-size statues, wall-paintings, and his songs on the radio! And, on leaving, you are given the Elvis mug in which your coffee was served! That souvenir now stands alongside the small wooden cross which we were given to carry down the Via Dolorosa (the route Jesus took in Jerusalem to the Cross), and a tiny dove given by the Palestinian guide we had (a reminder of his desire to live amicably alongside all others).
Those items cannot hope to express all I felt, experienced, enjoyed, endured, loved during that Pilgrimage. A stunning, overwhelming trip to the Holy Land, made possible by you. Thank you again.
And, surprisingly enough, there was enough money left over to buy Borage a biscuit ! So he thanks you, too!
The Reverend Tony Lynn firstname.lastname@example.org