Church leaders of all denominations laced up their hiking boots, hoisted their rucksacks and gathered their laptops yesterday (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 the 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. He 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 who was also there 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.”
Lent begins on February 25th, 2009. To sign up to a free online pilgrimage, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk/pilgrimage