In the sermon before I left on sabbatical I quoted from Phil Cousineau’s book The Art of Pilgrimage regarding “5 Excellent Practices of Pilgrimages”. Given that Jan and I have just spent time on five Greek Islands, I thought it would be good to review the five practices against the five islands including Rhodes, Kos, Santorini, Mykonos and Delos.
Practice one: Practice the arts of attention and listening – while I hope to practice these everywhere, the islands of Rhodes and Delos came to the forefront when considering this practice. It was on Rhodes, the first island we visited that I found myself paying such close attention. It was all new to me…the sights of the beaches, the castle, the Old Town within the Wall, the sounds of many languages spoken, the church bells ringing. We stayed a week on this island – enjoying the hosts of our small hotel, letting ourselves sink into the Greek culture, taking many walks, a long bus trip to Lindos, absorbing the history of the land and people. After the whirlwind tour of Turkey, paying attention in Rhodes helped us slow down and take in what was around us.
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.
Over the course of several years, First Church undertook an ambitious plan to completely renovate the central meeting center. Now called the Welcome Center, this shining new building hosts events, ceremonies, workshops, services, a full commercial kitchen, a library, meeting rooms and many activities.
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