Update from MNO Bishop Elaine Sauer

January 9, 2009

Bishop Elaine Sauer

Bishop Elaine Sauer

In the Holy Land – Day 1
From the plains of Tel Aviv we climbed towards Jerusalem. The roads became steeper and steeper. Biblical imagery of the fortress of Jerusalem came to mind often. As we looked out of our vehicle we saw terraced housing, a remnant of a time past but as we came closer to the city we found modern towers, bridges, glass reflecting light. There was a sense that we had entered a place caught between the ancient and the contemporary. With anticipation, we looked for a sense of the spiritual, a sense of this ancient place of God.  
But Jerusalem is just another city, a bustling place like others encounter around the world. Skateboarders bounced off barriers at the city hall, daily workers ate their lunches along walls of the office buildings, marketers yelled out their goods. Our expectation for something spiritual would need to wait another day.

In the Holy Land – Day 2
Intertwining between religious, political and personal life is reflected in our schedule- we worshipped with Holy Communion at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer; we walked to the Temple Mount but were refused entry because of political and security concerns. Police and armed guards are clearly in evidence; a walking tour of the holy sites was intended to inspire us personally but does so minimally. Only putting a prayer in the Wailing Wall evokes feelings. The stations of the Via Delarosa, the Church of the Sepulchre are interesting to see but promote little inspiration or sense of spiritual presence. The incense at the Church of the Sepulchre caused a personal allergic reaction so I had to leave the place quickly.

Palestinian merchants in the market place did cause a personal, political and faith reaction though. Some called on us to pray for peace in Gaza.

In the Holy Land – Day 3
It has been inspiring to meet leaders from all across North America, committed to this study tour. Being here re-emphasized the importance of accompaniment. I have been living a white middle class faith, occasionally tested but never to the point where I had to make a choice between preserving my life or taking a risk and encountering violence and perhaps death. When this study tour was arranged, there was limited peace in the Holy Land. A 2006 ceasefire assured that we would be free of violence and war, that we would be protected as we travelled. In the week before we departed Canada, that reality changed. We were no longer sure of our safety and we knew that a heightened anxiety was evident in our family. Daily we reflected on the purpose of the trip and looked to scripture to guide us. We were committed to the original purpose of the trip, my spouse and I did not waver, and we rested in that choice.

We knew that in making a commitment to “accompaniment” with our sisters and brothers of the Holy Land meant that we knew risks would be taken. We knew as one of our sons stated, that 150 bishops and spouses would be one big target for potential violence. We knew that suicide bombers walked in the marketplace and touched everyone in a variety of ways every day. What consistently came to mind was that a middle class North Americans we have choices to make about our own safety. That is not the case for people in the Holy Land. If I were, as a North American chose to stay home, what kind of commitment was I making to “accompaniment”? That I would accompany them as long as I was safe and secure? A commitment means we accompany under all conditions.

The prayers of our friends, family, colleagues in ministry, synod family were gifts that cemented our choice to come on this study tour. People praying for us and the people of the Holy Land. This was a pillar of our faith that strengthened us for the journey, lessened our anxieties and helped prepare us to “accompany” our friends here.

Thanks be to God.

In the Holy Land – Day 4 
Today we spent the day in meetings with Israeli officials and guides where they shared their perspective. It is interesting to see how people view the same events differently, depending on their context. Our second purpose for this study tour was to become more fully aware of what the people in the Holy Land encounter on a daily basis. Many spoke of their dream for peace- political leaders, religious leaders, even our waiter serving us in a restaurant.
We were also reminded of who tends to the traumatized as a solution for peace is sought. An inter-religious council works diligently together to ensure that pastoral and spiritual care occurs for all. There are approximately 10,000 Christians in this area of the world; 30% of Israeli’s are religious Jews. But in the midst of the trauma and violence and war, these small numbers together with their Muslim neighbours are caring for one another and participating in the process for peace. Praying for peace, just as we care called to do.

The Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Bishop’s Blog page can be viewed here: http://mnosynod.wordpress.com/

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