Local ministers to explore Holy Land

From Bethlehem to Jerusalem, a group of 20 North Carolina ministers will have the opportunity to explore the Holy Land as part of Wake Forest University Divinity School’s 2011 Holy Land Pilgrimage and Macedonian Ministries program “Renewing Ministers, Revitalizing Congregations” (RMRC).

Funded by a grant from the CF Foundation, the program is open to Triad-area ministers from all denominations and is intended to nurture spirituality and reflection among mid-career ministers (ages 35-55).

“This program provides a distinctive opportunity for clergy and congregational renewal,” said Gail O’Day, dean of the Divinity School.  “The CF Foundation is committing its resources to ensure that the spiritual lives of clergy are nurtured by experiencing firsthand the landscape where the stories of their faith tradition were first shaped.”

The 2011 program begins with a summer trip, July 27 to Aug. 10, to the Holy Land for a period of spiritual pilgrimage, prayer, and renewal.  Upon their return, ministers will meet six times per year for a two-year program of peer-support and continuing education.   Group sessions will explore new ideas and tools for ministry, including liturgical and educational resources, church growth, sustaining vital congregations, and preaching excellence.

A pre-trip orientation retreat and a post-trip reflection retreat are also part of the program.

“We return to the places of our tradition’s sacred history in order to hear again the call to live our lives more fully and to embrace our own work with renewed clarity and energy,” said Neal Walls, the program director and associate professor of Old Testament interpretation, who organized the trip. “The experience of pilgrimage allows for a time away from our normal places and routines in order to focus on deeper questions of our vocational call, life’s work, and vision for community life.”

Bill Leonard, professor of church history, is the spiritual leader and pastoral mentor for the program. “This pilgrimage offers the participants an opportunity for serious reflection on the nature of ministry, as well as ways to nurture continuing spirituality by blending travel, solitude and community,” Leonard said.

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