Tuesday, February 5, 2019

We Will Remember

Our Mountain Sky pilgrims visited the house of Caiphas, where it is believed Jesus spent the night in a pit following his arrest, The Church of St. Peter, where Peter denied Christ. We then went to Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial Museum), then to visit the Garden of the Tomb where we shared communion and concluded our pilgrimage.

Bishop Karen:

MSC Pilgrims reflect on their trip:

Scenes from our day:

Church of St. Peter

Church of St. Peter

Church of St. Peter

Church of St. Peter

Holocaust Museum

The Garden Tomb

In The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Lowest of the Low

Today, our Mountain Sky Conference pilgrims traveled to the lowest point on earth. We floated in the Dead Sea and also visited Masada, a fortress built by King Herod. Some of us went to a light show depicting the history of Jerusalem. We ended our night with a talk by our United Methodist missionary in Palestine Rev. Kristen Brown. 

Mary Gilland, 1st UMC Colorado Springs, CO:

A Quick Synopsis of my Israel Trip

In Bethlehem where Christ was born,
We saw where shepherds quaked.
Where our Lord Jesus gave his life,
And Mary’s heart would ache.

The garden where disciples prayed,
Where they shared the bread and wine
That Jesus blessed and told them
To repeat time after time.

We walked the steps that Jesus walked
While carrying his tree.
Where he fell and got back up again
To truly set us free.

We saw the steps where Jesus taught...
Prayed at the wailing wall.
Saw Herod’s thrones and Jesus tomb
I can’t describe it all.

We walked a hundred miles a day,
Or it seemed that way at least.
Three times a day we fed ourselves  
cuisine of the Middle East.

I’m glad we took this journey,
With the new friends that we met.
So much to learn about our faith, 
A trip I’ll not forget.


At the Dead Sea

Marv Baber, Colorado Springs, reflects on his time here:

Rev. Dr. Youngsook Kang:

Wanted to walk the “Via Dolorosa” one more time.  After we came back to the hotel, JinHo and I quickly walked back to the Old City of Jerusalem through Damascus Gate, which is located near the Arab local market place.  “Via Dolorosa” is just a few minutes from the Gate. 

United Methodist Missionary in Palestine, Rev. Kristen Brown, met with our pilgrims and shared with us more about the Israeli-Palestinian history and her ministry here. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Jesus Walked—And So Did We

Today our Mountain Sky pilgrims were in the old city of Jerusalem, walking the stations of the cross that marked Jesus’ journey to his crucifixion. They visited St. Ann’s Church, the pools of Bethesda, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Wailing Wall, and the Temple Mount. 

Rev. Dr. Youngsook Kang:

Via Dolorosa:

Walking the stations of the cross is an important  spiritual practice for me.  So,  walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem is one of the most special parts of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Thanks be to God for the opportunity that we had today - WALKING THE PATH THAT JESUS WALKED ON THE WAY TO THE CROSS!  

Our MSC pilgrims sing by the pools of Bethesda 

Rev. AJ Bush:

Today we spent the day walking around the old city of Jerusalem, visiting places such as the Church of the Holy Seplicure and the Western Wall. After our “official” day of touring was over, a small group of us decided to walk along the top of the old city wall. As we rounded a corner overlooking the Mt. Of Olives, we decided to have an impromptu communion service. Someone pulled out a half a bagel from their bag. Another person pulled out a water bottle. And there on the top of the wall we shared in Holy Communion. (How cool is that?!) 

As we were sharing in this sacrament, I was reminded of how important it is to retell the stories of Jesus. To retell the stories of love and grace and justice made flesh in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to share those stories with one another. Because these stories remind us who we are, and whose we are. 

Perhaps that is why Jesus took bread that night and broke it. Perhaps that’s why he took every day items (that a group of weary travels would have in their backpacks) and gave them to his disciples. Perhaps that is why he gathered with his friends one last time in the upper room, so that WE would have a story to share over and over and over again, whether we are gathered in an upper room, or in a beautiful church, or simply with group of friends on top of a wall. 

MSC Pilgrims share their reflections after visiting The Tomb Of Jesus:

The Wailing Wall, where prayers were offered

Saturday, February 2, 2019

From Walls That Divide to Bridges of Compassion

Today the group spent most of the day in Bethlehem, crossing the Israeli checkpoint and visiting the Church of the Nativity, Shepherds Field, and Wi’Am Center, which seeks to improve the quality of relationships and to promote peace, justice, a culture of acceptance, and reconciliation in the community. We also visited the Upper Room, which sits above the Tomb of David. 

Reflections on our day, with Sam and Elaine Gould, Mountain View UMC in Woodland Park, CO, Susanne Hicks, Payson, AZ, Antonia Craighill, 1st UMC Billings, MT, and EO staffers Leah and Heather

Rev. Tiffany Keith:


I’ve often heard that religious art was used to teach people the biblical story before the common man, woman, and child could read. That was probably even more true when mass was in Latin, a language most people couldn’t understand. With the story of a faith hidden behind ignorance, lack of education, and systems in power holding close the depths of faith, art became the vehicle by which truth made its way past hardened hearts and shattered the powers holding truth tight. 

Truth is unveiled in the ancient art. In the “swaddled” baby laying in a manger lying with open arms, ready to embrace all of humanity. Truth is unveiled in the sanctuary designed to remind us of the tears of Jesus. Art was used to unveil truth. 

Today I discovered how true that is, even today. Well, I think I can say it better than that, my heart experienced it in a powerful way today. We went to a shop with olive wood carvings. Almost immediately I was captivated by the unveiled truth of one of them. Jesus with pain and sadness, holes in his hands and feet, holds upright a man with a hammer and nail. Hammer. And. Nail. The hands holding the power to stop the beating heart of the Son of God. A small plaque at the bottom with one simple word, “forgiveness.”

Is it true? 

Could the man that crucified Christ be forgiven? 

Could I be forgiven for the times I crucified Christ? 

Can my enemies be forgiven for crucifying Christ? 

Can the people I’ve decided are
Christ’s enemies be forgiven for crucifying Him?

Art has the power to teach, to draw us into truth that we can only know through experience. 

Today truth is still hidden behind ignorance, lack of education, and systems of power hiding the truth. Only now it’s hidden behind partial education, wrong education, false connection, group think via social media... well, you get the idea.

Today, truth continues to be unveiled in new art. Art on The Wall. Art in the flowers planted in Bethlehem. Art in an Olive Wood shop. 

Bishop Karen:

At the Church of the Nativity:

Scenes from our day:

Wi’Am Center: United Methodist Missionary Kristen Brown welcoming us

Wi’Am Center hospitality

Wi’Am Center

Wi’Am Center

Wi’Am Center

At Wi’Am Center, next to the separation wall and Israeli watchtower 

Wi’Am Center director Zoughbi Alzoughbi

The Vice President of the British Methodist Church came by to greet us

UM Missionary Kristen Brown with trip pilgrim deaconesses Cindy Johnson, Megan Hale, and Robin Ridenour with Bishop Karen

By the wall in Bethlehem 

Touching the place of Jesus’ birth at the church of the nativity

The manger at The Church of the Nativity

At The Church of the Nativity

In a cave in the Shepherds Field

The Shepherds Field Chapel

Leaving the Upper Room

Friday, February 1, 2019

From The Jordan River To Jerusalem

Today, our mountain sky pilgrims reaffirmed their baptisms in the Jordan River, then went to Jericho to the place where Jesus was tempted before heading to Jerusalem where they paused for prayer at the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane. 

Rev. Tiffany Keith, Colorado Springs, CO:


How many hands does it take to polish a rock? No machines. No sand paper. No water. No tools. Just a simple touch. 

Last year when we were here we couldn’t get to the rock that church tradition says Jesus prayed for God to take the cross from him. (Found in Luke 22). So, this time was my first time to bend down, reach my hand over the metal thorns guarding the rock...

And it was smooth. 

Not the entire rock. Just the edges where people can reach. 

How many touches does it take to polish a rock? 

How many years?

Bend. Touch. Pray. Bend. Touch. Pray. Bend. Touch. Pray. Day after day. Year after year. Decade after decade. Century after century. Millennium after millennium. Hand after hand. 

I thought of all of those hands. All of the prayers they represent. 

And then I thought of all the other smooth stones I’ve seen this trip. The feet and hands that have smoothed them out. 

And I wonder how much smoother they will get. The prayers that will touch them. And I experience a glimpse of paradox of time. The touches that were. That are. That will be. 

And of course the power of touch to polish the hardest of stone. 

Reflections on our day, from Calvin Mukarakate, Green Mountain UMC, Liz Smith, Boulder, CO, and Marco López and Rev. Tracy Hausman, Park City UMC, Utah:

Tom Kremer, Gillette UMC, Wyoming:

Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed before being betrayed. 

Rev. Dr. Youngsook Kang, Director of Connectional Ministries and Superintendent of Leadership Development:

Radical hospitality by a local restaurant in Jericho:

Rev. AJ Bush, Gillette UMC, Wyoming:

Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Jerusalem as part of a group of newly ordained clergy. When I left for that trip last February, I had no idea I would be coming back to Jerusalem just a year later. In fact, it almost seemed excessive to come again so soon. However, my experience this year has been completely different than last year. Yes, we are going to the same sites. Yes, we are doing mostly the same things. However, I am experiencing them differently. I am a different person than I was a year ago. I have different things on my heart. My life is in a different space, my heart is in a difference space, and so I am experiening each place differently. For example, places last year that were unmemorable have been deeply moving, while  other places that were moving last year have been less so this year. Each day I encounter God’s presence in new and different ways, and God is speaking to me in different places and different spaces this time around. 

While I hadn’t expected this, it’s the same with scripture, you know. Even though some of the scripture stories might be familiar to us, each time we read them we experience them afresh. One story that didn’t mean much in your life last year, might mean a lot this year, and another story might be exactly what you needed to hear in that moment, even though you’ve read it 100 times. God has the ability to speak to us anew each time we encounter God, each time we read scripture, each time we come to pray. So now, I hope I can come back to Jerusalem every year! But if not, I know I can always open the scriptures and find God afresh in my life. 

Bishop Karen:

Deanna Hanna, Green Mountain UMC, CO:

Pictures from The Jordan River where we reaffirmed our baptisms:

Other scenes from our day:

We Will Remember

Our Mountain Sky pilgrims visited the house of Caiphas, where it is believed Jesus spent the night in a pit following his arrest, The Church...