Last week I returned from leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was a great privilege to walk the holy sites once more while also meeting people who live and work there. It is indeed both a beautiful and turbulent place where land and dividing boundaries are continually contested, and the stories and experiences of the past have shaped the way individuals and communities are living the present. Etched on my mind are both the horrific exhibits at Yad Vashem (the holocaust museum), and the oppressive West Bank wall which grows ever longer.
Two days after arriving home came the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – an abhorrent act of aggression in which once again land and dividing boundaries are contested, and the stories and experiences of the past have shaped the way individuals and communities are living the present.
In Israel Palestine it was poignant meeting with Christians in different places who spoke of their commitment to be people of peace, hope, love and light, despite being small in number. As I enter Lent I am holding fast to their faith and hope in my endeavour to remember them and pray for them.
Closer to home, the priest from the Ukrainian church in Gloucester responded to a message from me with the words: ‘We are most grateful for your prayers and blessing which remind us of the words of St. Paul who said that ‘in the body of Christ, the weak are supported by the strong’.’
As we venture into Lent may we not only pray earnestly for peace and for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, Russia, Israel Palestine, and so many places across our world where there is damaging and dangerous division; but may we also recognise how our own stories and experiences from the past have both positively and negatively shaped our personal inner landscapes and the way we live our lives in our different contexts across our diocese.
May this Lent take us deeper into discovering more of what it means to be members together of the Body of Christ across our diocese, country and world, and may we walk the holy ground of our contexts wearing shoes of peace:
‘As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace’ (Ephesians 6:15)
With my thanks and prayers as ever