Trainee vicars from across the Portsmouth Diocese make a moving visit to the Holy Land

This shepherd and sheep pen were part of a replica of a first-century village in Nazareth
This shepherd and sheep pen were part of a replica of a first-century village in Nazareth
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The Bishop of Portsmouth led a pilgrimage of Church of England clergy to Israel and Palestine.

Rt Rev Christopher Foster took the 18 curates to Israel and Palestine to enable them to see the places where Jesus was born, lived and died – and to understand the geography of the Bible better.

The curates stand on the ancient steps outside the High Priest's house in Jerusalem, where Jesus would have walked

The curates stand on the ancient steps outside the High Priest's house in Jerusalem, where Jesus would have walked

Among the highlights was the chance to sail across the Sea of Galilee, which Jesus would have done with his disciples.

The calmness of the landscape contrasted with the hustle and bustle of modern-day Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, they were able to touch the rock on which it is thought Jesus was crucified, and to see first-century burial chambers similar to those where Jesus was buried.

The Rev Sam Cullen, curate at St Peter’s Church, Petersfield, said: ‘There was something special about being on the Sea of Galilee and it being so still.

Bishop Christopher Foster leads a reflection inside the dungeon under the High Priest's house, where Jesus would have been held

Bishop Christopher Foster leads a reflection inside the dungeon under the High Priest's house, where Jesus would have been held

‘It’s a beautiful lake and easy to experience God there, and to be filled with peace.

‘It makes it all the more horrifying that Jesus left that beauty to go to Jerusalem, knowing that he would die there. It makes his sacrifice seem even greater.

‘It showed us that we also have to follow Jesus from the comfortable, safe places to the uncomfortable, gritty places – that we shouldn’t be afraid of getting involved and helping those who are hurting and need compassion.’

They also renewed their baptismal vows in the River Jordan, at a spot similar to the one where John the Baptist baptised Jesus.

Gosport curate the Rev Chris Richardson examines the security wall between Israel and Palestine

Gosport curate the Rev Chris Richardson examines the security wall between Israel and Palestine

There was also a chance to understand better what people of other faiths believe. The curates saw Orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and visited the Jewish Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem.

They also donated gifts to children at a Bethlehem orphanage and visited the security wall between Israel and Palestine.

The Rev Matt Bray, curate at Harbour Church and Portsmouth Cathedral, said: ‘Being here made everything seem very real. We went into the dungeon under the High Priest’s house where Jesus would have been held after his arrest, and you could imagine Jesus being there.

‘It will impact how I read the Bible and talk about faith. There is nothing more relevant to people than a God who knows what it is like to live as a human, as Jesus did.’

Gosport curate the Rev Mary Kells reflects as she sits on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Gosport curate the Rev Mary Kells reflects as she sits on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Bishop Christopher Foster leads a service of Communion on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Bishop Christopher Foster leads a service of Communion on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Bishop Christopher Foster with the curates from Portsmouth diocese outside the city of Jerusalem

Bishop Christopher Foster with the curates from Portsmouth diocese outside the city of Jerusalem