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

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