What a gift of time this sabbatical is and again, I thank you, the Congregation for understanding the need for a sabbatical. The first few days were busy with final preparations for our three months abroad. We flew to New York and then to Istanbul on Tuesday, Sept. 4th. We arrived a day or so earlier than the tour group with which we would travel the country. We met the tour group (through SmarTours) on Thursday evening and began a two-week adventure. Our tour guide was a fabulous man with extensive knowledge and stories to share. His master’s degree in political science and his love of history and his country made his commentary most informative and entertaining. We traveled a little over 2,250 miles via bus as we made our way through central and western Turkey. We found the people friendly, the history very rich; and we found there are some similarities that Turkey and the United States share. The people love their land, their traditions and customs and in many ways want to be accepted by the West. Also like the United States, there are many cultures and traditions that make up the people and the country.
Time after time, in many places – whether it was visiting Istanbul and the Blue Mosque, or the Hagia Sofia, or the Holy Relics of the Prophet Mohammed in the Sultans’ Palace to visiting the early Christian cave churches in the Cappadocia region, to visiting Ephesus and the House of Mary (where Jesus’ mother is supposed to have lived out her final days), the power of belief, the act of believing in the legend/story/place has power and it is the act of belief that holds the power, not the site/story/legend. The people’s devotion, the way they approach and come to these places, full of reverence, full of longing – is what moved me more than the place, the church, the legend. And I ponder what we Unitarian Universalists hold to so strongly – what are our actions, how we choose to spend our free time and our resources – what do they say about what we believe.
I know this isn’t a new insight, but in this country, in the midst of such living history – through visits to museums, churches, and villages and interacting with local people, I was reminded again and again of this truth. I will be reflecting on this in the days to come as we continue on our way…leaving Turkey and heading toward Greece. We have identified five different phases for our travels in the Mediterranean, 1. Turkey, 2, Greek Islands, 3, Italy – the mainland, 4, Italy – the coast and southern regions and 5, Greece, the Peloponnesus and the mainland. Through it all, I’ll continue to write and share some experiences and learning. Already, I have some ideas for sermons and Adult Religious Education classes forming; already I am remembering you in my thoughts and prayers and wishing you a full and rich time in San Diego.
Posted on Thu, September 20, 2012
by Kathleen Minister