Word of the Week

Israel or Bust

As many of you know, I am going to be gone for 10 days this January on a trip to the Holy Land with another Christian pastor from Reston, an Imam from the Adams Center in Sterling, an Imam from a mosque in DC, and the former Rabbi of Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation who now serves a synagogue in Ohio.

The idea for this adventure was first mentioned at a Reston Ministerium meeting I was attending in the spring of 2009 (a good reason to remember to go to meetings-- good things can come out of them). The Rabbi  told the group about his desire to travel to Israel with a local Imam and asked the group if any Christian pastors would be interested in attending. The goal would be to travel over the course of the Martin Luther King holiday in the spirit of King’s vision of peace, reconciliation and non-violence together as clergy of three of the world’s largest faiths showing through our going together that indeed people with differing opinions, even religious ones don’t have to hate each other, in fact they can respectfully learn from one another and encourage others to do the same.  And soon as I heard this, I was sold on my being part of this courageous group if I could.  I found my heart moved in support of my colleagues that I didn’t know very well yet and began imagining what an impact our friendship and travel experiences would have not only on our own spiritual journeys but on the larger religious community of Reston and beyond. It was a moment of imagining as the Apostle Paul prescribed to long ago, “With God’s power working in us, we can do more than we could ever ask for or imagine.”

As details of the trip emerged through the careful planning of George Mason’s center for Conflict Resolution, I knew it would be an experience like none other—not only for scholarship purposes to be and see and learn in the sacred spaces of faith for many—but to be a part of the fresh wind of the Spirit’s movement in such a time as this. That indeed, yes, God is present when we break down barriers of race, creed and tradition that keep us from one another for no other reason that lack of information and fear.

So, now that all the details are finalized, and soon I’ll be boarding a plane for Israel, what are my hopes? How can you pray for not only me, but Kevin who will be participating in the group as well?

In spite of our busy meeting schedule, I pray for a sense of peace and rest to come over us—that will be able to embody the gifts that this journey has for us and not have any worries about what awaits us at home.

I hope for safety in travel. Though I have complete confidence in the leaders of our delegation and their expertise in traveling in this region, I know that our group will be an usual one which might face special challenges. I pray for our unity as a team and for our peacemaking spirit to shine in all that we do.

I pray for an open mind and heart to receive all of the information that I know we’ll be taking in through site visits to places of religious significance to each of us, visits to settlement camps and prayer sites where conflict has ruled. I pray for an open mind to receive the unique perspectives of each of my colleagues as we travel and spend time with one another.

Because ultimately this trip is not about me. It’s not about Kevin or any of the other group members—it is about how we can be a part of how God longs to lead both our congregation and our community in the future. Know I’m so glad to have your support and partnership in this effort. I could not go with knowing you, Washington Plaza, were behind me and all that this trip represents.