Ministers to explore sacred places through Wake Forest's Holy Land Pastoral Renewal program
June 11, 2008
A group of ministers from across the nation will travel to Galilee and Jerusalem as part of the Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Holy Land Pastoral Renewal program, July 18 – August 1. The trip to the Holy Land is intended to nurture spirituality and reflection among the group of mid-career ministers. The 21 ministers selected for the program represent seven Christian denominations from 13 states.
The journey will be both a geographic and spiritual pilgrimage, according to Divinity School Dean Bill Leonard. “This pilgrimage offers the participants an opportunity for serious reflection on the nature of ministry, as well as ways to nurture continuing spirituality by blending travel, solitude and community,” Leonard says. “In this region, geography has particular spiritual, cultural and political implications past and present.”
Their travels will take them to locations considered sacred by multiple religious traditions, each of which invests those places with distinct meanings. Leonard will serve as the spiritual leader for the trip, guiding participants in using these sites for contemplation and solitude, communal prayer and worship, and integrating extended conversations regarding the spiritual life.
Neal Walls, associate professor of Old Testament interpretation, organized the trip based on the geography, history and literature of the Holy Land. “It can fundamentally alter your understanding of the Bible when you’re standing where the stories are said to have happened,” Walls says.
One goal of the pilgrimage is for participants to get a sense of the continuity of pilgrimage to these places considered sacred by the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. “They are simply one more generation in this 2,000-year tradition, walking the same paths and encountering the same spiritual and ethical issues,” Walls says.
Christopher Chapman, pastor of Knollwood Baptist Church, is incorporating the Holy Land Pastoral Renewal Program into his sabbatical. “The idea of some sort of journey that has a purpose beyond seeing sites fits my sabbatical focus on interfaith work,” he says. “So, to get to land that’s been a part of our shared history is very important to me.” Chapman is looking forward to the journey because, he says, “it’s difficult to get perspective on your work while you’re in the midst of it.”
The Atlanta-based Cousins Foundation provided significant funding for the trip. This is the first year the Wake Forest University Divinity School has received support from the foundation.