Lisa Bailey & Susan Holt,
Dave & Suzanne Bair,
Jim & Holly Cantrell,
Pam & Sam Hess,
Ben & Sandra Ingram,
Stephen & Mary Liz Ingram
David & Phyllis Klock,
Warren & Valerie Nash
Ralph & Sally Yeilding,
Deborah Baker & Amelia Hart,
Mikah Hudson & Brian Bellenger
Carolyn Davis, Sybil Watson,
Annie Skinner, LaVone Warren,
Laurie Akin, and Lisa Donnell.
Guide: Brian (Baruch) Kvasnica
Carolyn Davis, Sybil Watson,
Annie Skinner, LaVone Warren,
Laurie Akin, and Lisa Donnell.Guide: Brian (Baruch) Kvasnica
Guide: Brian (Baruch) Kvasnica with Jerusalem Biblical Studies Society www.jbss.org.
Click here to view the itinerary.
Day One & Two
June 16 & June 17, 2014
Today marks day one of our Reformation Trip. We left Canterbury this morning in high spirits, excited to begin our trip. After meeting and getting to know those on the trip unfamiliar to me, I learned I am not the only one who has not been to Europe before. I am excited that this will be my first experience, and I know the others feel the same way. Even those who have been to Europe before have not necessarily seen what we will be doing these next 10 days, and I am excited that this will be a new experience for us all.
The flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt was extremely long and fatiguing. I think most people agreed with me when I said that I don't really remember sleeping or reading on the plane, but that it was just one big hazy memory. We departed around 4:30 pm eastern time and landed at 7:50 am Frankfurt time (about 1 am eastern). However, once we were off the plane and had met up with Brian, or tour guide, I think we all ignored how tired we were, excited to finally be in Germany.
Immediately after we landed, we boarded a bright pink coach bus that took us to Mainz to visit the Gutenberg Press museum. There we were shown how Martin Luther was able to print Bibles using the machine instead of by hand. Although the machine wasn't the original, the replica was able to print a page just like the original would, and I thought it was really neat to see in person. We also got to see some of the products of the real Gutenberg Press,, including those of Martin Luther. They were beautiful. I find the use of gold leaf incredible, and was pleased to see that many pages had been decorated with beautiful golds and reds.
After our stop in Mainz, we headed to Eisenach to visit Wartburg Castle and eat lunch. On our way, Brian provided us with a delicious German breakfast: bread, and an assortment of cheeses, fruit, eggs, yogurt, and two chocolate and sprinkle covered marshmallow of sorts. It was definitely one of my more interesting breakfasts!
When we got to Eisenach, we were unable to drive all the way to the top ops the mountain, so we hiked the last five or so minutes, The view was absolutely gorgeous, but he hike was actually kind of difficult (coming from the youngest one on the trip). However, it was definitely worth it. We ate a delicious lunch in this beautifully ornate mess hall that was decorated with stunning hand painted details and shields. The view was amazing, and there was a man playing an instrument on the path up that could be heard from an open window that put the icing on the cake.
After lunch, we toured Wartburg Castle and were able to see exactly where Martin Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German. We saw the table and chair he used, and it was amazing to think of him sitting there working on this massive translation.
Our final stop of the day was the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt. By this time, late afternoon of day 2 basically, most of us (including myself) were very tired and read to go to bed. However, we were shown where Martin Luther stayed as a monk for a while. We were sitting in the chapter room and our guide pointed out that we were walking on the same stones that Martin Luther had walked on nearly 500 years ago.
Even through all of the fatigue, today (and yesterday I guess) I have eaten some amazing food, see some of the prettiest buildings and most ornate rooms, and witness part of Martin Luther's life.
Although we hit the ground running after we landed in Frankfurt, everyone has been in a great mood, excited about our journey together. After a great night's sleep, I am very much so looking forward to tomorrow. We will have a somber morning, but I am happy to know I will be well rested after a great night's sleep tonight in Erfurt.
We missing everyone at home and hope you continue to keep up so as we blog about our ever so exciting trip!
— Laurie Akin
Slideshow for Day 1 & 2
June 18, 2014
The Dark Faces of Religion and Humanity
The crunching of chewed up gravel, and the chirping of precious sparrows are the only noises you hear at the most horrific place I have ever been.
When you enter in to Buchenwald there is no reason to believe that you are entering into any place other than a beautiful alpine getaway. The gorgeous forest, the sounds of wildlife all around and a narrow dirt road. The prisoners of war who spent years and ultimately lost their life at Buchenwald may have thought many of the same things as they entered this deceivingly beautiful hell.
Once inside the gates of the camp your perspective changes dramatically. Nature did not change, the birds and tiny butterflies did not change, we changed. We stripped the forest and replaced its undergrowth the jagged stones and a barren hillside. We replaced the wooded landscape with buildings exclusively for burning bodies, “examination rooms” designed to play games with the lives of homosexuals , gypsies and Jews and rooms lined with steel hooks in which “to more efficiently” hang the men of Buchenwald. We did this. We found more and more creative ways to torture, humiliate and dehumanize those who were different than us. We created Buchenwald.
I say we, because “we” are all capable of this. We all have the possibility of the greatest of evil in us and are just a few choices away from its harsh realities. I say “we” because, we have to remember this possibility in order to never let it happen again. As I walked through the torturous structures I found myself continuously touching the areas of death. The furnaces, the dissection tables and the hooks, I had to touch them, over and over again. I had to touch them, not because I had some sick desire to place my hand upon devices of evil, but to bring my wandering mind back to this nauseating reality, to force myself to remember that this is real and not a set for some box office horror movie.
This happened here.
This happened to real people, with real families and real lives.
This happened because of people like me.
This did not happen in a time of barbarian hoards, or even in the darkness of medieval plagues. This happened just a few years ago. We still have the potential to be barbaric and worse.
There were many banners under which the atrocities were funded; ethics, cleansing, political and religious. What is often the most difficult pill to swallow is that this campaign was at least partially funded by religion. Our very own sacred texts became the profane mantras of the gas chambers. The Gospel of John provided bi lines for the speeches that rallied the people of a nation. Theologians and scholars developed entire theological structures to propagate the furors mission. Some stood against but they were few and were not organized.
What did I learn today?
I learned that evil exists, in very real tangible forms, forms that you can touch and rub your hands along.
I learned that evil is not in nature, we bring it in and we corrupt nature with it.
I learned that we are all the same and that we all need one another.
As you walk out of the gate at Buchenwald, there is a phrase welded into the gate. In this gate, which many came through but few left are the words “Jedem Das Seine” which translates “Each to his Own” This was the mantra that the prisoners would read each day as they looked upon an unattainable freedom.
Today, I learned that anytime we believe, act upon or live
into these words “Each to his own” evil is probable and holocaust is
Slideshow for Day 3
June 19, 2014
"God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That is why we won't be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea..." Psalm 46:1
We had the opportunity to sing one of the soaring hymns from the reformation, "A Mighty Fortress is our God", in a small church next to the church where Martin Luther preached. This was the same day that we visited Buchenwald. These moments are always tender and, frankly, filled with spiritual tension.
As we leave Germany today, winding through small country roads, I am struck by the beauty of our surroundings. Heading toward Berlin, the seat of the Nazi government, it strikes me that this country has come so far. The country that was so bent on "purity" is now one of the most diverse and welcoming populations. A country divided by walls of stone reunited with a fresh sense of purpose.
For me, it was an opportunity to visit with my brother, who has lived there since 1986. These moments are special and precious. The rest of our group headed to the Pergamon museum, present day home of the famous "Halls of Babylon" and much more. I am reminded that many families are separated from loved ones, and like those separated, we all long to celebrate times together and cherish those moments. And during the times when we are not together, well, God generously gives us traveling companions, such as the group I am with here and at home, who travel with us giving us strength and joy, reminding us that he is a refuge and is the one, who through the power of community, changes lives, brings hope and healing, and best of all, traveling companions.
— Annie Skinner
One of the delights of the day is that Annie got to spend some time with her brother and his wife who live in Berlin. While she was with him, the group visited the Pergamon museum, a huge and wonderful museum devoted to ancient artifacts from the Middle East in a large complex of museums in Berlin.
For me, the Pergamon experience tied this trip to the history of the Israel and Journeys of Paul trips taken earlier. Inside, we saw the massive blue Ishtar gate, which once stood outside the ancient city of Babylon. The gate itself dates to 500 BC during the time of King Nebuchazzar and the Israelite exile. Its highly likely that Biblical characters of that time period passed through the gate, as we did, on their way back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.
Equally massive was the market gate of Miletus, a Turkish town near Ephesus. We visited Miletus in the fall of 2012, and in the amphitheater there, saw the inscription "where the Godfearers sit." This is perhaps the earliest indication of Gentile peoples who recognized the God of Israel. The Miletus gate connected us in Berlin with those ancestors in the faith who were preached to by Paul.
After leaving the museum, we made a quick trip to the Schoenfield airport in Berlin for our flight to Edinbergh. The flight was quick and smooth, and we landed around 7:00 pm in the full sunlight of a Scottish evening.
We are all glad to be here, and are looking forward to continuing our learning in the land of John Knox.
— Warren Nash
Slideshow for Day 4
June 20, 2014
Following a restful night's sleep and hearty breakfast, we started our first full day in Scotland. The Good Lord provided us with gloriously bright sunshine, and our driver, Nigel, shared local information with us as well as providing light-hearted entertainment. From our hotel in downtown Edinburgh, we headed to St. Andrews, best known for it's golfing history, but we were on the quest to discover more about our Christian heritage.
the way, as we spied beautiful children dressed in coats and ties,
plaid pleated skirts and bright red knee-high socks walking to school,
Nigel enlightened us regarding the difference between private school
education and the type he received at "normal" school. Pointing out
some other students, he remarked that you could recognize the kids from
public school because they dressed in "scruffy pumps, shirts hanging out
and stupid hats!"
As we rode on the
bus, Brian Kvasnica, our guide, responded to a question regarding
Biblical scripture support for varying controversial perspectives on
communion ranging from the belief of transubstantiation to that of only
"remembering" Christ during the partaking of the elements. These
varying viewpoints and questions were major points of dissension in the
16th century, and they continue even today! Great learning and
Upon arriving at the
beautiful seaside town of St. Andrews, we toured the ruins of what were
once a tremendously strong and influential cathedral, castle and
fortress - St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Andrews Castle. These both were
destroyed in the name of religion. What a history the ruins hold in our
Protestant faith - and at what a great price! Violence, including the
loss of countless lives, was associated with both the Roman Catholic
Church as well as the Reformers. There were no lily-white robes on
either side - the true meaning of Christianity appears to have often
been ignored. How often do we do the same?
conjunction with our understanding of the destruction of the castle and
cathedral, we reviewed the impact of the great Scottish theologian John
Knox. With all of his many positive influences on the Reformation, even
he was a major contributor to the decimation of the cathedral.
... then we had a fabulous lunch at The Doll's House in the quaint town of St. Andrews. (see photograph).
our way back to Edinburgh we took the scenic route, experiencing the
lovely countryside, stopping long enough to learn how scotch is made,
and seeing the memorial to William Wallace (aka, Mel Gibson from
Dinner was a special treat
in a restaurant named Ghillie-Dhu a short walk from our hotel. Some of
the group were brave enough to order the Scottish dish of haggis - made
with oatmeal and internal organs of sheep, cooked in the sheep's
stomach. Fortunately, it turned out to be rather good; however, there
were doubts about it being the true authentic recipe. We then had an
opportunity to participate in Scottish folk dancing, and many of our
group joined in with the locals "kicking up their heels"!
the end of the day, when we stop to realize how many lives were
sacrificed to shape our Christian faith, we know how blessed we are to
be able to worship freely, accepting that we all still struggle with the
mysteries of our faith. The greatest blessing, however, comes in
knowing that we can love and enjoy each other through our struggles and
in our fun and laughter together!
— Sam and Pam Hess
Slideshow for Day 5
June 21, 2014
A Day in Edinburgh
We spent our entire day in this beautiful capital city of Scotland. Our Scottish bus driver, George, took us about the city pointing out significant buildings and monuments. Not many of us were aware there is an Old Edinburgh and a New Edinburgh, the latter being older than the US! George was eager to share the fact that the stunning Holy Rood Palace exists to house the Queen one week a year, the requisite amount of time for Her Majesty to be in residence in order to be the Queen of Scotland.
After a day touring such a memorable city, it's funny to see what comes to mind as we recall the day.....
..Being in the home of John Knox and seeing Stephen Ingram donning a "Knox robe" and striking a pose.
..Seeing a tiny room that was Knox's study and imagining his sitting in that chair pondering a sermon.
..Experiencing St. Giles church, the home of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, with its combined Norman and Gothic architecture.
..Sitting in St. Giles as our awesome leader, Brian Kvasnica, stands on the steps leading to John Knox's pulpit and reads portions of Knox's only remaining sermon.
..Walking into Thistle Chapel filled with intricate and beautiful wood panels, looking up and seeing a carving of an angel playing a bagpipe.
..Seeing the burial place of John Knox that is identified by a plaque in spot 23 of the parking lot adjacent to St. Giles (those thrifty Scots!)
We are half way through our journey. Now that we have "conquered" the Lutherans and Presbyterians, we will be leaving Scotland for England (at 5:30am!!!) tomorrow and begining our focus on John Wesley and Methodism. "Home Sweet Home."
— Suzanne and Dave Bair
Slideshow for Day 6
June 22, 2014
Our day began quite early with a departure for Edinburgh under cloudy skies at 5:30 am. For many of us, it was a bitter sweet departure as we said farewell to the beauty of Scotland, her people, and her history while looking ahead to England, the Reformation of the English church, and the influence of John Wesley. We began the long coach ride to Yorkminster through some beautiful countryside, slowing for a moment to reflect on Jedburgh Abbey, a 12th century structure that weathered the Great Disolution carried out by Henry VIII and remained active and relevant for a time.
While enroute to worship at Yorkminster, we made a detour to see a section of Hadrian's Wall. There is a five-mile stretch of the original Roman wall that is largely intact, rising and falling through pasture land. Large English sheep and cows were wandering about the the sun shown down as we took a 30 minute hike up a steep rise for a great view of the wall. It was an invigorating experience to see the Roman influence and presence in ancient Britannia.
Another long drive put us in the city of York just after noon. York is a beautiful, quaint and ancient city in the north of England, home to the great cathedral of Yorkminster. This is the largest cathedral in Western Europe and the location where Constantine was crowned emperor of Rome. We missed the worship service, but were given a small chapel in which to hold a brief morning prayer service for our group, led by Mikah. It was very moving to worship together in such a lovely and sacred place. We then had some time to wander through the cathedral and spend some quiet time with God. An organist began playing the magnificent pipe organ. The Chapter House, an octagonal chapel off the North Transcept of the cathedral, was especially nice, very quiet and peaceful.
From the cathedral, we walked through York to Clifford's Tower. This was an ancient stronghold where a community of Jewish people living in York went to escape persecution and were then unable to escape. They ultimately made the decision to kill each other rather than renounce their faith. What a testament to their commitment to their beliefs.
Alas, we left York to journey to Epworth, the birthplace of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. The Old Rectory is the home of the parish rector where Same and Suzanna Wesley raised John, Charles and their seventeen siblings. We had a lovely guided tour of the Rectory to get a taste of the early life of John and Charles, and then we went to St. Andrew's Church where Samuel was rector. Two events in Epworth are worth noting. The first was a fire that consumed the Rectory where John was about six years old. John was trapped in the second floor and escaped through a window into the arms of a man standing on the shoulders of others. This moment, in which John was pulled "like a brand from the fire" had a powerful impact on his life and ministry.
The second event occurred when John was an adult and returned home to preach at St. Andrews. After preaching the morning service, he was asked not to return for evening prayer. John returned anyway, standing outside the church on the grave of his father and preached to a very receptive crowd. His passion and tenacity carried John through many trials in his life.
So, a very full day! As we travel to our castle/hotel for the evening, I am struct by several notions. Christianity has been in the United Kingdom since the fourth century and this place has struggled through so many divisions and identities of their church and faith during that time. Today, our church is having similar struggles over doctrine, interpretation of scripture, and inclusiveness. Thankfully, God loves us no matter how we disagree or how we respond to challenges to our faith. And as Wesley demonstrated, God's grace is available to all.
Grace and peace,
— Brian Bellenger (member of Highlands UMC)
Slideshow for Day 7
June 23, 2014
Our What I'm thinking: OMG--I am the blogger (OK...don't overthink this...)
What I'm listening to:
Love Letter from God--Bethel Music
"Come to Me"
I am The Lord your God.
I go before you now
I stand beside you
I'm all around you
Though you feel I am far away
I'm closer than your breath.
I am with you, more than you know....
First Stop: St. Mary's Church Ludderworth
Ancient and holy sanctuary contrasted with toddlers and tiaras playing during Bible School
John Wycliffe, who translated the Vulgate Bible into English (transformed the word by THE WORD) preached and died here...
And, Charlie the current day vicar, who speaks the truth to all who listen (transforms the world by THE WORD) preaches here. TADA!!
The side note was the "Little Acorns" toddling around at the holy day care. Tabitha, Elisabeth, Lorna you know who you are....(ADORABLE!)
Second Stop: Canterbury does Christ Church at Oxford University
We are all Catholic first as was the Augustinian monastery at Christ Church college at Oxford University. BUT the nasty reformers destroyed the monasteries, all but the Christ Church chapel survived thanks to Saint Frideswick, patron saint of Oxford (680 ad). FORTUNATELY , SHE WAS URIED THERE AND PROTECTED THE PLACE (Thank God for women!). Because of her foresight, John, Charles, and Samuel Wesley all snapped degrees from Christ Church at Oxford University.
Third Stop: St. Mary's Church, Oxford
"The Vault" (no joke) at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin (does this have a Roman Catholic feel or what??!!) YES. We at lunch in "The Vault" at the church (delicious and deadly if you are buried there!)
Fourth Stop: Lincoln College, Oxford University
Lincoln College for John Wesley's masters degree. He preached in the chapel, but then was asked NOT to preach in the chapel...ooops!
He taught on the Bible:
Read both the Old and the New Testament daily
Write it on your heart!
Execute with the power of God
He taught on prayer:
Pray without ceasing
All conversation is prayer
Pray with the desire of your heart to please God!
Amen and amen!
PS: There was no bed in John Wesley's dorm room mainly because HE DID NOT SLEEP!
Fifth Stop: The New Room at Bristol
The Oxymoron of the trip was THE NEW ROOM: The oldest Methodist establishment in the world...
John Wesley submitted to being more vile and moved to Bristol to start a new church/new room. ..although the world was actually his parish. He knew the work and was faithful to fulfill it.
Our challenge today is to take the seeds and sow them!
We closed by singing Charles Wesley's hymn "What We Sow"
Changed from glory into glory
Till in heaven we take our place...
Fill we cast our crowns before thee
Lost in wonder, lover praise...
— Lisa Donnell
Slideshow for Day 8
June 24, 2014
As we prepare to depart Bristol, I am thinking about the question, "What or who is a Methodist?" We are a group of travelers from different churches and different states. We have learned much about Methodism already and have become a group who cares for and looks out for one another. We have heard several Methodist claims. Bristol claimed to be the "cradle of Methodism." Oxford claimed to be the "birthplace." At the Wesley sites in London (Foundry Chapel, Wesley's House, Museum of Methodism) the claims are further expanded as we encounter the "Mother Church of World Methodism." So today I want to think about what it means to be Methodist.
To be sure, we are tied to historical Christianity and we are reformed. Our debts to Judaism, Catholicism and the continental Reformers cannot be overstated. But I am a Methodist Christian. My roots and identity are tied to John and Charles Wesley. The more I learn about the incredible energy, thought and sacrifice they expended to make it possible for a people called Methodist to exist, the more amazing the blessings become!
Charles Wesley was the theologian and poet of our faith family. He wrote beautifully and copiously about our gracious and merciful God. Through hymns like "And Are We Yet Alive, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Christ The Lord is Risen Today" and thousands more, Charles charts our theological pathway.
John Wesley is the pastor/preacher/organizer of our faith family. He cared for the souls and bodies of all people, especially the poor, the orphaned, the sick and the imprisoned. John reminds us that there is no such thing as a solitary Christian - that we need each other, that life in Christ is an experience best shared in community.
The Museum of Methodism, Wesley House and the Foundry or City Road Chapel complex comprised our first stop after a driving tour through the city of London, one of the truly magnificent cities of the world. In the Museum we were reminded that foundational to Christian living for the Wesleys is a belief in the importance of love for God and love for neighbor. In the home John Wesley built for himself and his friends, we found a tidy four story home that was built for frugal, not opulent living. John Wesley helped design the home in a way that used every space carefully, including a small room off his bedroom where he began each day with prayer and reading of scripture. The theme was continued in the Chapel, which is a beautiful and practical space for worship and meeting. The Foundry Chapel, a space which is identified by its simplicity, elegance and functionality, was the site of several of the early Methodist Conferences.
From there we took a walking tour that led through Bunhill Cemetery, where Susannah Wesley was buried. We then went on to the Charterhouse School, where John was educated as a child and to Aldersgate Street, where John's heart was strangely warmed. After that we attended a sung Eucharist at St Paul's Cathedral, one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring churches in the world. The service was elegantly crafted, the music was superb, the sermon was challenging. As we sat there together, I looked around and saw persons of every age, station and nationality. It felt like we were gathered as God's great family. What an amazing day! What a wonderful moment to be a Methodist Christian!
At the end of the day, I think that what it means to be a Methodist is that we are people who care about other people, ALL people, and want to draw others into relationship with Jesus Christ and with others. As we walked along Aldersgate Street and later sat together on the bus, I realized that those of us on the trip, mostly but not all Methodist, are as varied as our upbringings and our opinions. But we have at least two things in common - we love Jesus Christ and we love one another. As I think about that, I am very thankful. And my heart is strangely warmed.
— Jim Cantrell, grateful member of the group
Slideshow for Day 9
June 25, 2014
We began our day with a late wake up call and a lovely breakfast. Thanks be to God! We then journeyed to the British Museum. Nigel has been our coachman through all Scotland and England. His wit, humor, and knowledge of the UK has been a blessing to us. His British accent continues to enthrall us.
The British Museum was full of ancient artifacts from all over the world. We spent the majority of our time learning about Assyrian, Babylonian, Persians, Hittites, and other ancient civilizations. Brian gave us a very detailed tour of the museum. His depth of knowledge concerning ancient art...particularly in how it connects to the biblical text. During the the Enlightenment some questioned the need for faith and religion, yet it was also during this period when many discoveries were made rendering much (but not all) of the biblical text as historically accurate. As people of scripture, it is important to study the context with which the story took place. This helps us find the Word in the word.
WE continued our pilgrimage to Canterbury, the great and grand cathedral of Augustine (not of Hippo) and Thomas Becket. Canterbury is the "mother church" of the Anglican Communion. It is the cathedral church of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and the Anglican communion. The Norman architecture was absolutely beautiful to behold. We toured the nave, crypt, Thomas Becket's chapel and many other sacred rooms in the church. To me, the most beautiful part was the quire (choir) and high altar. After spending much time in the gift shop, we were privileged to attend Choral Evensong. The Archbishop himself attended the service. As a good Methodist and lover of all things Anglican, I found my heart...even mine...strangely warmed during the service. The beauty, reverence, and presence of Almighty God was truly palpable. Brian Bellenger is now officially the Verger of Highlands! Get ready for it, people! Just google it if you have no idea what I'm writing about!
We ended the day with a delicious meal and even more heartwarming sharing from our group of pilgrims.
I came to discover and see the roots of my faith. The many places we saw certainly fulfilled that for me. What I did not expect was how God worked in my heart; not through buildings, cathedrals, ancient artifacts, or history but through real people like the pilgrims on this journey and the coachman that drove, my new brother in Christ, Nigel. I now know what evangelism truly means. He was Good News...a light in the darkness. John's gospel tells us "and the Word became flesh and lived among us." To me that means God is real!
I close with a prayer from Evensongs that helps me collect the day:
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord, and by thy great mercy, defend us from all perils and dangers of this night, for the love of thy only son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
— Mikah Hudson
Slideshow for Day 10