Canterbury UMC
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Journeys of Paul 2012

 
 
 
 
 
Included in the group from Canterbury UMC
Jesse & Margaret, Ralph & Sally, Bill & Gerrie, Bill & Liz, Mary Beth, Erin, Susan, and Warren.
 
From Highlands UMC
Walter & Edna, Randall & Nancy, Ira & Sharon, Valerie, Brian, and Mikah.
 
Traveling from First Tuscaloosa UMC
Billy & Sally and Cindy, and from Covenant Presbyterian Church is Jennifer.
 
This group asks for your prayers while they learn and travel, and you can follow their journey here.
 
 
 
 
 ITINERARY
 
Click here to read the itinerary.

 
  
  
 
   
 EPILOGUE
November 9, 2012 and there after...
 

How can I possibly summarize a lifetime trip for 25 pilgrims from Canterbury and Highlands and First Church Tuscaloosa and Covenant Presbyterian?  How can I do justice to a pilgrimage that covered 15 days, about 12,000 air miles, 1,500 sea miles, and 2,000 years of history as we tried to follow the footsteps of St. Paul?
 
I guess I always thought I understood that Paul was called to and was responsible for the spread of the Gospel, particularly to the Gentiles, in the decades following Jesus’ death and resurrection.  But I haven’t understood, until this trip, that Paul’s ministry was not only to Gentiles (God-fearers), but also to Jews who believed that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. And that there were tens of thousands of these Jewish believers in the first century. The time we spent at St. Sabina in Rome, with its inscription that it was a place of worship for the circumcised and the uncircumcised, I will never forget.
 
I also thought I understood that Paul was up against strong odds in spreading the message of The Way, with the Greek and Roman cultural emphasis on pagan gods. But it wasn’t until I saw the enormity of the Temple of Apollo in Didyma or the hugeness of the Temple of Athena in Athens, that the scope and scale and just sheer infrastructure of the opposition to Paul’s message was really evident.  The odds against Paul's message of “The Way” succeeding were huge.
 
I knew that there was persecution of early Christians in the first 300 years after Jesus’ death.  And I knew that some were forced to give up their lives for the sake of their faith. But it wasn’t until I stood in the Coliseum that the horror of early Christians being simultaneously crucified and burned alive as human torches to provide lighting for twilight games in that arena really took hold.  And the sober understanding that the enormous basilicas that are named for St. Peter and St. Paul are as a result of their deaths by crucifixion and beheading.
 
At the end of it all, I guess I come away with a much deeper appreciation for what had to happen in order for the message that Paul carried to penetrate all the way forward through 2,000 years...in order for us to have the faith that we have today and to be able to take a trip that carries us back to the beginnings of our faith. The sequence of events...the fact of Paul’s Jewish upbringing and the fact that he was fluent in both Hebrew and Greek made him the perfect instrument of communication to both the Jews and the Gentiles...his ability to travel the Roman road system...the size of the first century cities of Corinth and Ephesus which gave him large transient audiences to speak to...and the way that the early Christians willingly gave their lives in order to stake hold the growth of the movement...all these things happened and as a result, we call ourselves followers of Jesus today. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, surely all these things couldn’t have happened.
 
Now that we are home, and the things we’ve heard and the scenes that we have seen are beginning to become memories, the question for us is:  Has what we’ve seen and heard changed us?  And what are we willing to do, in Jesus’ name, to change the world for the better?
 
May God bless our experiences together and your understanding of the footsteps of Paul on our pilgrimage together. And in all things...thanks be to God!
 
Warren Nash
 
“Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has allowed us to live, and sustained us and enabled us to reach this day.”
 
  
 
   
 DAY FIFTEEN
Thursday, November 8, 2012
 

Closing thoughts from Erin Deloach: Today is the day the remainder of the group will be heading back to Birmingham, Alabama.  Although we have had so much fun and have learned a lot on this journey, its time to get back to the real world. Yikes? Who wants to do that? Just kidding....we can’t wait to get back to see our family and friends!
 
We had a delicious last breakfast at our hotel, the Ponte Sisto. Our hotel in Rome was very nice, with delicious food and very nice rooms. The electrical system in the rooms was very intriguing...flipping a switch was like playing roulette...you never knew which light might brighten the room!
 
As we all know, most people come home with what seems to be twice the amount they started with on the trip.  Thanks to some of the bell men at our hotel, they checked our bags Wednesday night to make sure they weren’t overweight for our trip home.  That allowed some of us who were a little over to put a few things in friend’s bags who were a little under the weight limit.
 
Finally, after an hour’s ride to the airport (by the way, if you think Highway 280 and I-65 rush hour traffic is bad, Rome is twice as bad!), we get dropped off at one terminal, only to find out that our security screening is in another terminal.  Back on the bus again!  Finally we reach our boarding gate only to find that there weren’t enough seats for all the passengers on our flight.  So, just about all of us ended up sitting on the floor for about two hours!
 
The trip home was long, but uneventful. When we landed in Philadelphia and claimed our bags to go through US customs, one of the airport dogs, a beagle named Maddie with a little scarf around her neck, identified my bag because of some sweets that I had packed inside. All was well, and we made it home to Birmingham about 11:00 pm on our time...but it was 6:00 am the next day on Rome time!
 
I had a great time on the journey.  Couldn’t imagine what Paul had to endure, but had the strength and help of God and Christ to make it!  Thanks be to God!
 
 
Closing thoughts from Susan Nichols: I thank Warren Nash and Brian Kvasnica for arranging such a wonderful opportunity and rewarding trip. There is still so much to process and reflect on with deeper study. I do not have a favorite place or event...it would be like asking us to pick a favorite child. Each place and activity was different and special.  It reminded me of the body of Christ:  each site and activity was important in helping us gain a deeper understanding of Paul, the events occurring during his time, his Jewish heritage, and his fully focused mission of spreading the gospel. Now I must reflect on how I am to use this opportunity to more fully devote my life to being the hands and feet of Christ and to spreading his gospel.  God wants all of us, not just a part of our day.  
 
Just as in Paul’s day, there are many distractions that can lure us off course, but we must remain faithful and focused. I thank God for blessing our trip so that we could stay focused. Travel was efficient, the weather cooperated and most of our group were able to remain healthy. We were able to keep the stamina to complete the long, strenuous days, anxious to see and learn even more.
 
As our guide prepared us for viewing the Sistine Chapel’s famous Michelangelo’s painting of God’s fingers reaching out to Adam’s finger, he pointed out that God gave man life, a soul, and intelligence.  Now it is up to us to determine how to best use our lives serving God and giving him the glory in all things.  Amen.
 
 
 
On our last night in Rome, Brian showed us the church built around the place where Paul was first imprisoned under house arrest. This was just two blocks form our hotel.
 
 
 
 
Our final dinner together in Rome.
 
 
 
 
Walking back to our hotel, the Ponte Sisto, on our last night in Rome.
 
 
 
 
When we get back to our hotel, the question always was:
Should we get gelato tonight?
 
 
 
 
Waiting on our flight at Rome's Flumicino airport.
 
 
 
 
Our flight from Rome took us first to Philadelphia, with connecting legs to Charlotte and finally home to Birmingham.
 
 
 
 
   
 DAY FOURTEEN
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
 

Rome

Our band of pilgrims gathered this morning with cheerful faces and full hearts, despite tired legs and feet from our long walking tour yesterday.  A sunny morning helped us enjoy the bus ride along the Tiber River, seeing and learning about historical sites where 1st century Christians lived and died for their faith, strengthened by a power greater than Roman armies.  We passed a pyramid, built in 1st century BC near by the Ostian gate, one of 12 gates in the old city wall.

By the second century AD, there were 1.5 million men living in Rome.  Folding in the women, children, and slaves who were not counted, Rome in ancient times was a large city even by our standards today.  Rather than Christianity getting lost in the 1st century crowd or obliterated by the persecutions of powerful Rome, Christianity flourished and redeemed pagan Roman by the power of Christ, through the missionary work of Paul and others.

During the morning, our first stop was the Museum of Roman civilization, which displayed several models of the ancient city, beginning at the 6th century BC, including detailed models of the Coliseum.  Also shown in the museum was a relief taken from the Arch of Titus, depicting the Roman triumph over the Judean revolt in 70 AD.  We saw the actual arch yesterday on our tour of the Roman Forum.  Also included in the museum was an incredible display of all of the relief panels that make up Trajan’s column.  

Our guide explained elements of a huge model of the ancient city of Rome, identifying areas where the Apostle Paul visited including the likely place of his trial.  Paul would have seen the Forum, Temple of Saturn, the Senate, and the Forum of Augustus during his time in Rome. Ancient Rome was a rich and magnificent city filled with inspiring and exciting events. Mikah saw strong parallels of the Coliseum and Circus Maximus to Alabama’s Legion Field and Talladega Nascar race track.  Like the ancient Romans, we face many secular attractions that compete for our time, and devotion and money.  

The Abbey of the Tre Fontaine is the site of Paul’s beheading. Church tradition holds that as Paul’s head fell to the ground, three springs of water burst forth from the ground.  Located about three miles south and outside the ancient city of Rome and close to the Appian Way, Paul was bound to a column and behead June 29th of 67 AD.  The column can be seen today in the Church of St. Paul, built over the spot of his martyrdom. Our group took time to meditate in the church after seeing a short section of well-preserved  Roman road that Paul walked while on the way to his death. This was the end of Paul’s dedicated Christian walk and inspiration for our path forward.  

The Scala Coeli church stands on the site of Paul’s imprisonment, just a few steps from his beheading.  We took a short trip to the Church of St. Paul beyond the Walls where Paul’s body is buried under the altar. The fineness of the finishing and size of the church rivals St. Peter’s, and it is inspiring.  But, at the same time, it stands in stark contrast to much of Paul’s life, which was filled with hardship and often supporting his missionary journeys by working with his own hands as a tentmaker.  

Jesse Tilton  
 
 
 
Brian lectures from a 4th century BC model in the
Museum of Roman Civilization.
 
 
 
 
The group looks over a model of the Coliseum in the
Museum of Roman Civilization.
 
 
 
 
We saw a fascinating display of relief panels taken from Trajan's
Column in the Museum of Roman Civilization.
 
 
 
 
Our A model of ancient Rome in the first century. The Coliseum and Constantine's Arch are clearly visible in this shot.
 
 
 
 To see all the photos for Day Fourteen, click here.
 
 
 
   
 DAY THIRTEEN
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
 

A walking Tour of Ancient Rome and Jewish Ghetto

We spent our first night in a lovely hotel right in the heart of Rome next to the Tiber River called Hotel Ponte Sisto Roma, where we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and then bid adieu to seven of our group (the Helms, Jennifer Hewitt, and Hansfords) who headed to the airport for their journey home, leaving 18 remaining to spend 2 more days to explore ancient Rome.

We headed out for a full day of walking around 9:00 am, beginning with a 20 minute walk to Michelangelo’s Steps onto Capitoline Hill, one of the seven historic hills of Rome, where we met Favio, our Italian guide for the next 2 days. Our first stop of the day was a late medieval prison where tradition suggests both Paul and Peter may have spent time.  The tour consisted of a multi-sensory display that contained an audio, video and walking tour through several rooms highlighting the stones and the water that dominated the subterranean jail rooms. In the 8th century CE, a church was built over this space to commemorate where Peter and Paul may have been jailed.

Our next several stops of the morning consisted of walking by and through a variety of civic monuments, forums, and arches commemorating the feats of various emperors (i.e., dictators) who dominated Rome for 450 years from 27 BCE to 430 CE. Trying to keep it all straight was taxing for most of us who had long forgotten whatever Roman history we ever knew. For example, who knew/remembered that Trajan ruled in the early 2nd century CE after Nero, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian? To commemorate one of Trajan’s significant military conquests, he had a large 100+ foot column built in his honor that contains an interior spiral staircase (think Vulcan on Red Mountain) and over 2,500 figures carved onto the exterior of the column.

Next to Trajan’s column was Trajan’s Forum, one of the five “imperial forums” of Rome. These were public spaces built by various emperors of Rome that were used as a market place and for civic activities. Exploring several of these forums gave us a good sense of the “lasagna nature” of the building history of Rome, with one layer of building stacked on top and within other layers over the centuries. 

My favorite example was found in the largest of the forums – the Roman Forum – where the exterior columns of a temple built to some Roman god (I forgot which) had been left intact, and behind the columns were the exterior walls and façade of a church built to occupy the interior space of the former Roman temple.  The ground level of the Roman Forum we walked on in front of this Roman temple/church’s entrance was 20-30 feet below the entrance door to the current church and represented layers of building history that had been peeled back to show the buildings and structures of earlier eras.

Another highlight of the morning particularly relevant to our journey included hearing the history associated with Titus’s Arch in the Roman Forum, which depicted a graphic display of the Romans carting off the spoils of war after destroying the Jewish Temple in Jerusalum in 66 CE.  In this case, those spoils consisted of Jewish symbols such as the menorah, as well as 50,000 Jews carted off to Rome to use as slave labor (probably to build Titus’s Arch and the Roman Colosseum). So while the Jews mourned (and still mourn – think Western Wall in Jerusalem)  the loss of the “second Temple,” the Romans were declaring victory by building a huge arch for public display.

After a wonderful lunch sitting at outside tables of a café in a nice neighborhood eating true Italian pizza, drinking our favorite beverages (☺), sipping expresso, and topping it off with Italian pastry, we headed for our afternoon tour of the Colosseum.  After Nero apparently set a fire to burn Rome (perhaps, in part, to blame some of his domestic problems on those troublesome Christians), the Colosseum was built by three successor emperors over a marshy area from 72 to 80 CE, and served as the place for public entertainment for the next 450 years until 526 CE. Physically the stadium held 50,000 people who could come and watch the combat of gladiators as well as public executions. Several martyrs to the Christian faith were killed here, although it is believed most Christian executions probably occurred in other places.

Our last stop of the day, after a cab ride across the Tiber River, included a quick historical tour depicting the Jewish presence in Rome over the centuries. Our first guide, Ursula, gave us a tour of the Jewish synagogue and underlying museum, and then our second guide, Laura (who was a Libyan Jew who emigrated to Rome from Libya in 1967 during the Six Days War), gave us a walking tour of the nearby Jewish ghetto.

We learned there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Rome from around 161 BCE until the present day, making it the oldest continuous community of Jews in the world.  Among the more traumatic periods of this history were 300+ years from 1555 to 1870 CE, when they were confined to a small, squalid ghetto on the banks of the Tiber River and limited in their vocational options. From 1870–1938, Jews were able to integrate freely into Italian society (e.g., providing 50 Jewish generals fighting for the Italians in WWI), but in 1938 this freedom ended abruptly and the dark night of WWII descended on them in Oct. 1943 when the Germans arrived and carted off 2,090 Jews to Auschwitz, where only 16 survived.  Today there are 14,000 Jews in Rome, with many of them living in this same neighborhood which now consists of upscale residences, restaurants and shops. 

After walking back to the hotel and resting our tired legs for about 90 minutes, our tour guide, Brian Kvansnica, led us on a quick walk to a wonderful dinner in a charming Italian restaurant in the neighborhood near our hotel where we enjoyed more Italian food, our favorite beverages (mostly ones with the colors blanco and rossa), and lots of laughter over tales of worship mishaps (mostly at Highlands). We then capped the evening off with a stroll to our favorite Italian gelataria where we forced down one more round of gelato, and promised ourselves we would be back on our exercise routines next week.  But our steadfast mission and duty for the remainder of this week remained “While in Rome, ….”  

Ralph Yeilding
 
 
 
The subterranean cell in Mamertine Prison where Paul is said to have baptized his jailers. Tradition holds that the small pool on the floor provided water for their baptism.
 
 
 
The Arch of Titus
 
 
 
Construction of the Coliseum in 72 AD and was completed in 79 AD.
 
 
 
The below ground aspect of the Coliseum, which housed animals and gladiators used in combat and executions.
 
 
To see all the photos for Day Thirteen, click here.
 
 
 
   
 DAY TWELVE
Monday, November 5, 2012
 

Civitavecchia, Italy to Rome...
 
Today, we leave the luxury of the cruise ship and head toward the city of Rome.  We have enjoyed wonderful service on the ship. While I’m sure Paul never traveled with such accommodations (Ha!), we have met some wonderful people from all over the world. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and we have certainly met a diversity of people. One might say we made new friends. A special moment for me was learning how Walter Rush introduced scripture to a young man on the ship for the first time.  He had never seen a Bible!  What a powerful way to introduce the love and grace of Jesus Christ. I count myself blessed to be among fellow disciples who share their faith. I think Paul (and Jesus) would be proud!
 
 
The Appian Way
 
Departing the ship, we continued our journey toward the “Via Appia” or the Appian Way. This is the way...or road....Paul used to make his way toward the great and powerful city of Rome.  It is the straightest road to Rome. Paul traveled this road with Julius, the Roman centurion that escorted Paul to Rome.  Paul was under house arrest under Roman law.  We read Acts 28:11-16 on the Appian Way.
 
 
The Church of St. Sabina...5th century A.D. Christian Church
 
Saint Sabina was an early Christian martyr in Rome, killed just a few years after Peter and Paul were martyred. The Church of St. Sabina was named in her memory.  It is the oldest existing church in Rome, dating back to the 5th century.  The 1,500 year old church itself is absolutely breath-taking!  Please take time to view some of Warren’s pictures of the nave and sanctuary. There are many holy and sacred stories about the church. One is that it was an early example of a place where both Jews (who professed the Lordship of Jesus as the Messiah) and Gentiles worshipped together. The Bishop of Rome (also known as the Pope) celebrates Ash Wednesday services each year in this church. 
 
The absolute pinnacle of our experience in the church was our celebration of Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion) in the chire of the church. The Dominicans, who are the guardians of the church, were most gracious and hospitable to us.  They allowed us to use their vestments, and chalice and paten for Holy Communion. Leading our group of pilgrims in celebrating the Eucharist in this sacred and holy place will be one of the most blessed moments of my life.  As we received the Body and Blood of our Lord, you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, saints, and angels surrounding the altar of God.“Gloria in Excelsis....Glory to God in the Highest!  Saying one of the oldest prayers of the church, “Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison” was most meaningful.
 
 
The Vatican, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica
 
Our afternoon began with lunch in the Vatican cafeteria. We then began our tour of the Vatican museum. There are untold riches and works of art in the museum. There were artifacts from ancient Greece, Egypt, and other foreign lands. The works of art, paintings, tapestries, and statuary were a beauty in themselves. But, the ornate decoration of the ceilings was beyond description. The detail, beauty, and sheer grandeur of the art was beyond comparison.  After seeing only a small portion of the museum, we entered the Sistine Chapel. Most notable about the Sistine Chapel were the frescoes by Michelangelo. The Last Judgment above the high altar and the creation accounts were most notable. The chapel was filled with pilgrims from all over the world.  
 
I was most interested in papal elections. Our tour guide told us that it was tradition for the Cardinals to meet in “conclave” after the death of a Pope. The cardinals would line either side of the high altar...facing one another...to elect a new Pope.  In the last election of Pope Benedict, there were over 90 cardinals that met in conclave.  Conclave means they were “locked” in the Chapel until a new Pope was elected. I also asked about the furnace used to burn the ballots...signaling the election of a new Pope. They would bring in a furnace and pipe it to the top most visible window from St. Peter’s square. When the smoke burned white, it signaled the election of the new Pope.  
 
After visiting the Sistine Chapel, we made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica.  Although this church is known by Peter’s name, the grand entrance doors contain carvings honoring both St. Peter and St. Paul, and Vatican Square contains large statues of both apostles.Peter was martyred somewhere between 64-67 AD, crucified upside on a cross because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner His Lord. In religious art, Peter is often shown with keys, in reference to Christ giving Peter responsibility for His church on earth.  Paul was martyred by emperor Nero in 67 AD by beheading.  As a result, Paul is often depicted in religious art with a sword, as other martyrs are depicted with the instruments of their death.  
 
Although we only had a short time during this visit (we are planning to go again on Wednesday), the majesty and grandeur of this space, the largest church in the world, was almost beyond description. Again, please see Warren’s pictures for an idea of how magnificent this church really is. 
 
We ended our tour of the Vatican at St. Peter’s Square. There were many photo opportunities!! We viewed the obelisk in the center of the square. If you watched the movie “Angels and Demons,” it played a prominent reference point throughout the movie. While the movie is fiction, it does show the grandeur of Vatican City.  We hope to return to see more works of art, take time to feel God’s presence, and remember our roots to the universal church at St. Peter’s.  
 
I also look forward to the gift shops and other stores selling beautiful reproductions and religious symbols.  Brian and I hope to find a new principal chalice for Highlands United Methodist Church. Our adventure and pilgrimage continues. After checking into our hotel, we enjoyed delicious Italian food...warm fellowship....and a night of laughter.  The Lord has been good to us!  I leave you with a few collects we have been praying during our travels...
 
Conversion of Saint Paul
 
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul, you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we have his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teachings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the united of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.  (BCP)
 
Saint Peter and Saint Paul
 
Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.  (BCP) 
 
Blessings,
 
Mikah
 
 
 
Our group enters the nave of the Church of St. Sabina,
the oldest church in Rome.
 
 
 
 
Mikah and Warren lead the Great Thanksgiving
at the Church of St. Sabina.
 
 
 
 
 
Architectural detail of the Vatican Museum. Note the keys above the central crest, signifying the authority of St. Peter.
 
 
 
 
 
The central altar at St. Peter's is positioned directly above the apostle's final resting place. The design of the twisted columns of the altar are taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.
 
 
To see all the photos for Day Twelve, click here.
 
 
 
   
 DAY ELEVEN
Sunday, November 4, 2012
 
Naples and Pompeii

Warren told us, “It's gonna be a truly great day, if it doesn’t rain (90% chance).” We made it through the ruins of Pompeii without a single downpour. Thanks be to God—and the tour certainly lived up to our expectations!

We were greeted by Dr. Frederick Poole who is an art historian, archaeologist, hieroglyphics teacher, and tour guide. During our half hour drive through Naples to Pompeii, he described Naples as an active commercial port about 150 miles south of Rome with a metro population of around 3 million. It is considered one of the more dense, and unfortunately less safe, of the big cities in Italy. Dr. Poole attributed this to a zoning type set-up where different economic classes share the same space. He described an informal self-government in the neighborhoods, with the streets belonging to the people.

Paul landed in the Bay of Naples on his way to Rome. While there is no evidence that Paul actually visited Pompeii, the city provided a wonderful vision of first century and early Jewish life. The people in Pompeii ranged from the very literate (writers of Greek), wealthy, and cultured to the illiterate, poor, and enslaved. Brian reminded us that in Romans 12, Paul addresses the variegated nature of such societies by urging them to be sympathetic toward one another.  He elsewhere writes to be open, celebrate, and not be haughty or play actors.

New information for some of us: Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD after being dormant for centuries. It started with an approximately 20 mile high plume of pumice stone and ash, which blew south and fell on Pompeii, collapsing roofs and killing many. The second phase of the eruption consisted of six pyroplastic flows of fine ash (not lava) which caused thermal shock due to its heat of around 500 degrees F. A total of about 1,050 citizens were killed, either by roof collapse or thermal shock. Pompeii was at the peak of its prosperity although little to no writings have been found about it prior to the eruption. Archaeologists started digging in 1748 and work continues until today. While it is built on lava, that’s not what destroyed it as lava never got to Pompeii that day.

The city is simply amazing for its complex design, detail, and its ability to convey the life and lifestyles in the first century. For example, we saw remnants of temples, baths, theatres, a restaurant, stables, and even some 2,000 year-old graffiti! There were entire streets of shops with sidewalks outside. The homes varied greatly in their size, space, and opulence with some also having servant quarters. It was built on a grid system that would be recognizable in our larger cities today.

Throughout, Brian pointed out details of Biblical confirmation like particular masonry styles that Herod imported to Masada and Jericho. There was art depicting a stylus and wax pad like those mentioned in Luke. We couldn’t help but also see parallels with now as well as Biblical times. There were elements of bawdiness and pornography not unlike those found in our society. There were even campaign slogs everywhere for candidates running for office at the time that the town was destroyed!

We dined on wonderful pizza in Naples (legend has it that pizza was invented in Naples!!) after our visit, and then pursued activities of our own choosing in the late afternoon.

Blessings!

Sharon and Ira Turner
 
 
 
After docking in the harbor at Naples, we traveled to Pompeii.
 
 
 
Our local guide today was an expert archaeologist
who had excavated at Pompeii.
 
 
 
The city of Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD by superheated volcanic
ash and pumice, not lava as normally thought. The ash left
the town perfectly preserved as a window into what life in the first
century would have been like.
 
 
 
Architectural detail at the larger amphitheater at Pompeii.
 
 
 
Graffiti of a ship scratched into a wall at Pompeii.
 
 
To see all the photos for Day Eleven, click here.
 
  
 
 
   
 DAY TEN
Saturday, November 3, 2012
 
At Sea....from Santorini, Greece to Naples, Italy

As this is our second day at sea covering the 683 sea miles between Santorini and Naples, we attended two lectures that Brian gave.  The morning session focused on first century Christian worship, and the afternoon session was devoted to questions related to Paul. Thankfully today was much calmer, unlike our sea day last Sunday.  Smooth seas and sunshine prevailed today.

In the morning session, the group participated in a first century Christian worship service.  As part of this worship, Brian included a creed called “A Jerusalem Faith” that he had written, using elements of the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds, restoring the foundational role of the people of Israel in God’s work in the world expressed through Jesus:

    We believe in, seek to commune with, and follow the One God
    The Father, Creator of heaven and earth
    Of all that is seen and unseen
    God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
    Who through Moses delivered Israel from Egypt.
    And made a covenant with them at Sinai
    Who brought them into the Promised Land
    To be a holy people, and a light to the nations.

    We believe in, seek to commune with and follow Yeshua the Messiah,
    God’s Only Son, our Lord,
    Eternally Begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father
    Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and was incarnate as a Jew
    A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the Glory of God’s people Israel
    Born of the virgin Mary, circumcised on the eighth day,
    Teacher of the Commonwealth of Israel and upholder of the Torah
    To love God and neighbor, and to proclaim the present Reign of God.
    Who was followed by tens of thousands, but suffered under Pontius Pilate
    Was crucified, Dead and Buried, He descended into Hades
    The Third day He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures
   He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father      Almighty
    From there He will come to Jerusalem to restore His everlasting reign
    And to judge the living and the dead.

    We believe in, seek to be led by and filled with the Holy Spirit,
    The Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father
    In one holy international and apostolic Church,
    The communion of saints uniting Gentile believers with Israel
    The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,
    And the life everlasting. Amen.


As we worshiped, we were keenly aware that tomorrow is All Saint’s Sunday, and in our churches at Canterbury, Highlands, and First United Methodist in Tuscaloosa, the names of those who had departed this world in the past year would be read and remembered in a sacred way. A portion of our worship service included the Jewish Mourner’s Kaddish, in which those who are in mourning due to the loss of a loved one in the past year, stand and say:


Those in Mourning: As we grieve for the loss of those dear to us, we also confess that God is holy and good, and we pray for the coming of His Kingdom and that day when death itself will be utterly and finally vanquished.

Congregation: May His great Name be magnified and sanctified throughout the world which He created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire house of Israel, speedily and soon.

Those in Mourning: May His great name be magnified and sanctified throughout the world which He created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your life time and during your days, and within the life of the entire house of Israel, speedily and soon.  Amen.

Congregation: May His great name be blessed for ever and ever.

Those in Mourning: Blessed and lauded, glorified and extolled, lifted up and honored, exalted and praised by the Name of the Holy One, Blessed by He, who is high above all the blessings and songs, praises and consolations, which are spoken in the world...amen.  May there be abundant peace from heaven and life for us, all Israel and the nations, and we say...amen.

 
May the Lord bless and keep you,
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you,
May the Lord lift up His face to you, and give you shalom.

Grace and peace to all of you and to your families from all of us at sea...

Warren Nash
 
 
 
Lecture on first century Christian worship
 
 
 
Second lecture at sea.
 
 
 
   
 DAY NINE
Friday, November 2, 2012
 
Island of Santorini

This was a day when we were on our own to tour the island as we pleased.

Santorini, named for St. Irene, is the most southern of the islands of the Cyclades, the chain of islands surrounding Delos. If you remember from yesterday, it is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, considered to be the mythological birthplace of Artemis and Apollo.  

The island has been inhabited since 3200 BC, but a huge volcanic eruption in 1650 BC, one of the largest in the last 10,000 years, was followed by a collapse creating the caldera (a central bay surrounded by the ring of mountains that forms the island). The same eruption destroyed the Minoan civilization.

Today, the island is one of the most picturesque in the world, though it was heavily damaged in 1956 by an earthquake. Most of our group was tendered off the boat and transported by bus (very steep climb—11 switchbacks for our bus to reach the top!) or cable car to the top of the island.  

The capital, Fira, where the old port is located, is full of traditional white painted houses and blue domed churches.  This paint combination, like the Greek flag, came about during the Turkish occupation when the Greek flag could not be flown. So, the people painted their houses white and blue in protest.

The views of the Aegean Sea are spectacular and did not disappoint. Oia, the northernmost village, was as quaint as we had ever seen...not as high as Fira, but narrow paths, quaint homes and cafes, shops and flowers, made for some of the most beautiful scenery ever. The water is so crystal clear and dark blue, the volcanic rock stunning and dramatic. Sheer cliffs drop a thousand feet to the ocean below. Pumice stones and wine are exports from the island, though pumice is no longer mined because there would be nothing left of Santorini if left to continue.

Stunning stop and a restful day...the cable car down was an event in itself!  VERY steep and straight down, but better than the donkey option, which we were told was not safe, or the over 600 steps down to the old port trailing behind the donkeys, with their period gifts!

Now back on board Equinox, watching the sun go down on the Aegean Sea...we are very thankful to have been able to see and experience this place!

Valerie
 
 
This Greek Orthodox Church in Oia was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
 
 
 
 
The blue domed structures in Oia are churches, often small
chapels connected to family dwellings.
 
 
 
The town of Oia is perched on the mountainside, high above the
surface of the ocean in the caldera.
 
 
 
The view at lunch was...not bad!
 
 
To see all the photos for Day Nine, click here.
 
 
 
   
 DAY EIGHT
Thursday, November 1, 2012
 
Island of Delos, near Mykonos, Greece

TOP 10  HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ISLAND OF DELOS

10.  The island was a central location for trade in the southern Agean sea and was an economic powerhouse with no prominent vegetation and agriculture on the island.

9.  At its peak, the city had 30,000 inhabitants...now only 14 live on the island.  The French have been excavating here since the late 19th century.

8. Delos is called “The Holy Island” because it was thought to have no impurity.  There is no birth and no burial on the island.

7.  In the ancient world, Delos was a place of polytheism with ample evidence of the celebration of erotic practices.  This illustrates one of the challenges Paul had in bringing the gospel to this part of the world.

6.  With waves lapping at the shoreline near the synagogue on Delos, Brian explained that being ritually impure is not a sin—it is part of life.  People purified themselves which symbolizes a renewal of life given by God.

5.  While touring the Gymnasium and Stadium, Brian reminded us of Paul and the use of athletic imagery.  Paul is unique in Greek literature by using walking imagery as how you should live, i.e. Walking humbly before the Lord and be careful how you walk.  While physical training has some value, spiritual training is infinitely more valuable since it is eternal.

4.  Delos is believed to be the mythical birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.

3.  Brian dramatized and recited Deuteronomy 6:4-9 in both Hebrew and English.  Sh’ma = listen to do.

2.  The “Seat of Moses”, found in the first century synagogue at Delos, is one of three known in the world.  The other two are in Israel.

1.  The discovery of first century synagogues, like this one, changed biblical scholarship by authenticating the reference that Luke made to the synagogues in Paul’s day.  Earlier scholarship point to the belief that synagogue worship only started after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

Thanks be to God for the insights that Delos gives us to the scriptures!

Sally and Cindy
(Reliable sources indicate that Billy, Mary Beth,
and Jennifer helped on this one too!)
 
 
Mykenos is a lovely seaside city in the Mediterranean.
 
 
 
Delos was a powerful commercial and pagan religious
center in the Mediterranean in 700 BC.
 
 
 
Flat Paul in the Moses seat at Delos.
 
 
 
Greek food and salads for lunch were great. Here Erin, Susan,
Mary Beth and Jennifer enjoy local Greek fare.
 
 
To see all the photos for Day Eight, click here.
 
 
   
 DAY SEVEN
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
 


Rhodes & Lindos

This morning Warren asked me to do the blog for the day.  He said it would be a short, slow day.  All I can say is “Don’t always believe what he says!”

It seemed like a slow start since we didn’t leave the ship until 9:00. Everyone seemed to enjoy the later hour and arrived in good moods. Unfortunately, Jesse and Margaret were not able to join us.

We boarded the bus to learn that the air conditioning only worked on one side, but strong travelers that we are, we decided we could handle it—not hard for me, I was on the cool side!  We left the port by the old city walls with instructions about which gates were the best by which to enter or exit the old city on our later “walk around.”

Our guide, Constantina, pointed out the “Gates of the Virgin Mary” as our closest entrance, but also the “Mariner’s Gate”, the largest of the city gates, directly across from the harbor.

She pointed out the entrance to the harbor which was once protected by a chain to prevent entrance.  On each side was a statue of a deer on a pediment.  This is one of the two possible locations of the “Colossus of Rhodes,” one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  She said she would identify the other location later.  We did not pass that location, as it turns out, but on an earlier trip we were told it was where the tower of the old castle stands now.  It was built in 292 BC, was 100 feet tall, and was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BC. She told us that tradition says that it destroyed 16 houses when it fell. This seems to support the location being at the castle.  

We then moved on to the Temple of Apollo in the upper acropolis of the old city of Rhodes.  Herod the Great is believed to have had a part in the building of this temple (Brian told us this was Herod’s first building project), either in the designs or financially.  Here we discussed the amazing accomplishments of Herod in an effort to seal his position, and Brian also mentioned the evil he did.

We also discussed sacrifices from pagan to Jewish to the need of our becoming “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1).  We then paused at the lower acropolis to see the ruins of the stadium, the theater, and the Temple of Athena.

We then made a quick stop to drop off Randall and Nancy who were not feeling well.  Then we headed out to Lindos with a pit stop at “our favorite hotel.”  It was closing for the season—had no occupants and wonderfully clean rest rooms!

Driving along the east side of the island, we headed on to Lindos, about 30 kilometers to the south.  The roadsides gave mixed impressions.  The flowers were beautiful in many shades of pink to deep rose.  There were hotels to remind us of our Gulf Coast, there were large fine houses, small neat ones, but many houses and businesses that were started and unfinished or finished and vacant.  It seemed to be a sad sign of the bad economy here.

Arriving at Lindos, it was evident that Bill and I could not make the climb to the top of the acropolis.  It is frustrating and disappointing to have to say “I can’t”, but sometimes you must be realistic.  While the others did the climb, we walked around the village and “people watched.”  I could only think of what Dr. Morgan had said as we were leaving.  He told us to remember that wherever we go in the world, we will find that people are all just like us and are all different.  Also, one thing I noticed was how in so many different languages, even in pleasant conversations, the effect is an angry sound.  I must say, however, we have found people everywhere we have been to be so nice.

As an aside, I must add:  Yesterday in Ephesus, we stayed with the bus. Our driver did not speak English, but as soon as he parked, he found a young man who did.  He took us to a café, bought us coffee and orange juice.  Showed us a picture of his four year old daughter and checked with us as we walked around the shopping area.  I truly felt I left a friend in Ephesus.

Back to Lindos—we left about the time were supposed to be back having lunch in Rhodes, so Brian brought snacks—chips, croissants, and my favorite:  “Digestives”  (a type of European cookie).

After a drive of fifteen to twenty minutes, our driver pulled off to the side of the road because the engine light had come on. After much discussion, we were told that another bus was five minutes way, coming for us.  It actually arrived in about five minutes with a driver named Lazarus. Since it was a kind of resurrection, we thought: Does God have a sense of humor or what!

We arrived back in Rhodes about 2:30, rather than 12:30. Everyone got lunch and managed to spend time walking in the old city.  Now, I’m looking out at the sun setting over the old walled city and thanking God for His goodness and blessings.


Gerrie
 
 
Entrance to the harbor at Rhodes, traditional location
of the ancient Colossus of Rhodes.
 
 
 
 
The old city of Rhodes.
 
 
 
End of a beautiful day on Rhodes.
 
 
 To see more photos of Day Seven, click here.
 
 
   
 DAY SIX
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
 
 
Turkey:  Kusadasi, Priene, Miletus, Didyma, and Ephesus (Selcuk)
 
Although the predicted weather was 70% chance of rain, we were greeted with beautiful skies as we docked in Kusadasi, Turkey. As we departed the ship, Brian turned to the right but in the crowd, 16 faithful followers turned left. These 16 ended up in the center of the buses “lost.”  ‘We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.’  (Isaiah 53:6).  Yes, we need to keep our eyes on our shepherd!  The group decided to stay put and let Brian find us, and like the Good Shepherd, he did.  Brian led us through the shops to meet up with the rest of the group, our bus, and our guide, Zehra.
 
As we traveled, Brian and Zehra shared some of the history of the area.  Kusadasi means Bird’s Island as it once was an island.  Much of Turkey has changed over the centuries as the rivers have carried silt to the sea, filling harbors and extending the land mass where there once was water. Many islands are now hills, and many harbor towns (like the ones we visited) are now far inland.  We drove through a large silted area called the Meander Valley which is very fertile, growing cotton, corn, and olive trees. 
 
When we entered Priene, Zehra pointed out that the river was muddy as it had rained and stormed last night.  Brian’s prayers were answered with blue skies today—even Zehra said so.  We hiked up to a church where the ruins showed a baptismal font at the entrance—as it should be—and steps where the preacher would stand. Mikah stood on the steps where many preachers/teachers had stood before.  The next site was a theater that had seating for 5,000, an altar and seats of honor.  Many of the group walked on down to the ruins of a first century synagogue, which had been found only in the last four years.
 
Back to the bus and a ride to Miletus.  Here, in the large outdoor theater, is a seat which had the inscription “place of the God fearers.” Brian read (and sang) Romans 11:11-32 (33-36 song). What a treasure to be right where Paul had been!
 
After leaving the theater, we saw the base of what once was a lighthouse as this was once the harbor of lions, but the silt has built up so much that it is no longer a harbor. The islands around are now hills. We continued on seeing a bath house.
 
Once again on the bus, we headed to Didyma and lunch near the Temple of Apollo. Lunch was in a restaurant featuring buffet style and long tables for seating. Afterwards, we walked to the huge temple of Apollo,  ringed with massive 122 columns.  Today, we saw cats everywhere. After a quick walk back to the bus, we traveled through the city of Magnesia heading to Ephesus. Many took advantage of the ride to nap.
 
Ephesus was a metropolis!  Only one-quarter of the city has been excavated so far. Paul had visited here two times and John also. Paul wrote three or four letters from Ephesus. As we walked on the streets Paul had also walked, we saw the huge library (third largest in the ancient world) which had taken seven years to rebuild the part that is standing now. I was taken by the number of “pieces” separated into groups that had not yet found their “homes.”  We next went to the Grand theater—up many steps— where Brian read to us again Acts 20. Today, they are still working on uncovering parts of the theater. It was unbelievable to be sitting and listening to the words of Paul. We walked down the marble streets just as Paul had done.
 
Once again we boarded the bus to head back “home”...for quick shopping or back to the ship. A group—not to be named—shopped for a rug and came within minutes of being left behind in Turkey. Brian quickly hustled the group to board the ship in time to join the rest for dinner. All is well!
 
Grace and peace,
 
Flat Paul (aka Edna Rush)
 
 
We arrive in Kusadasi, Turkey.
 
 
 
The huge temple of Apollo at Didyma.
 
 
 
Depiction of Artemis, Greek goddess of victory,
from which the Nike logo was adapted.
 
 
 
Our group stands before the Great Theater at Ephesus, where the crowd rioting against Paul and his teaching gathered (Acts 19).
 
 
   To see more photos of Day Six, click here.
 
 
 
 
   
 DAY FIVE
Monday, October 29, 2012
 
 
Ancient Corinth...Cenchrae....Athens
 
We begin today in the Port of Athens, Greece happily back on solid land after a day in rough waters.  We met our guide, Dino, and loaded the bus to begin our journey to Corinth.  En route, he enlightened us with some Grecian history including the story of the first marathon runner, a messenger who ran 26.1 miles from Marathon to Athens, delivering his message and collapsing and dying.  He was also proud to point out that the New Testament was written in Greek because it was the language of the educated people and that all the sciences started during the Golden Age of Pericles.
 
We arrived in Corinth and began our tour of the theater as the rains poured down.  At the theater, we viewed a stone with an inscription that referenced Erastus, a Christian believer mentioned in the New Testament (Romans 16:23).  Inside the museum, we viewed artifacts uncovered by archaeologists in Corinth and grasped a better understanding of the ancient city of Corinth.  Dino also shared the meaning of the fish that believers of The Way used to identify themselves.  He explained that the word “Fish” in Greek is actually an acronym for Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.  We then began our walk on Lechaion Road, the street Paul would have walked when in Corinth and the location of the Bema (tribunal) building where Paul appeared before Gallio and was cleared of any crime (Acts 18:12-17).
 
Also of note in Corinth are the Temple of Apollo and the Fountain of Peirene.  The best part to me was actually walking on the stones believed to be trod upon by Paul.  We then enjoyed a wonderful Greek lunch including Greek salad and a gyro.
 
Our next stop was Cenchrae.  It was most notable as the place Paul cut his hair as part of his Nazirite vow (Acts 18:18).  It was also the place that was home to a small church whose member, Phoebe, is mentioned in his letter to Rome (Romans 16:1).  We enjoyed a beautiful service of baptismal remembrance here led by Mikah.
 
We then headed back to Athens and visited the Acropolis and the Parthenon.  The Acropolis is best known for the agora (marketplace) where Paul preached to the people of Athens which later spurred the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers to request him to speak at the Areopagus council.  This council took place on Mars Hill where we stood and Brian read Paul’s sermon to the leaders of Athens (Acts 17:22-31).  We also viewed the Parthenon and had a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Athens.  
 
There were numerous other temples near the Parthenon including the Temple of Pluto, Nike, and Zeus.  The Parthenon is a larger than life structure that took nine years to construct and would have been already 500 years old when Paul viewed it.  It was dedicated to the goddess Athena and built to worship wisdom.  Later it was made into a Christian church and dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  When Paul visited Athens, he told the people that God is not in a temple made by human hands which infuriated the Athenians.  This is why, Brian K. speculated, there is no letter from Paul to the Athenians.  The last place of interest was the Hill of Pynx, where democracy was first introduced.
 
We had a wonderfully full day that ended in a multilingual rendition of Praise Ye the Lord, Alleluia in Greek, Italian, Russian, Hebrew and English.
 
Peace be with you...
 
Mary Beth and Jennifer
 
 
Our group before the Temple of Apollo in ancient Corinth.
 
 
Our group stands on the Lechaion Road leading to
the agora in ancient Corinth.
 
 
Brian K. challenges our group to consider a vow of consequence at Cenchrae where Paul renewed his Nazirite vow.
 
 
 
Mikah leads a service of baptismal remembrance at Cenchrae.
 
 
  To see all the photos for Day Five, click here.
 
 
   
 DAY FOUR
Sunday, October 28, 2012
 
 
At Sea...Underway toward Athens, Greece
 
Brian gave two lectures today as we were underway all day from Messina to Athens, a sea distance of about 600 miles. Today’s two lectures set the historical foundation for the sites we will see beginning tomorrow in Corinth and Athens. 
 
The lecture in the morning focused on Saul/Paul’s early life, and his dramatic transformation as a result of his Damascus Road experience. Interesting things we learned included:
 
• It’s well known that Paul was born a Roman citizen in Tarsus, but we’re told in Acts 22:3 that he was raised in Jerusalem. His birthplace would have been considered on the fringes of the Jewish diaspora, but his upbringing put him at the center of the Jewish faith.
 
• Paul studied under Gamaliel, an extremely prominent Jewish rabbi of his time.  Because of Gamaliel’s intellectual and religious prowess, he taught in both Hebrew and Greek.  This dual approach empowered Paul to become a powerful force both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
 
• Paul emulated Gamaliel’s practice of writing letters to transfer knowledge.  This resulted in the earliest Christian writings that have become the largest part of our New Testament. 
 
• Many Christians consider that Paul’s Damascus Road experience was essentially a conversion...which transformed Saul, a Jew, into Paul, a Christian. This is not what scripture tells us...that Paul indeed remained a Jew (he proclaimed himself a Pharisee in the present tense in Acts 23:6), and that his was a conversion of the heart.  He understood that Jesus was the Messiah, but his faith remained unchanged.
 
• Many Christians associated Saul’s name change to Paul like the flip of a light switch after the Damascus Road experience.  In truth, Paul used two names throughout his life:  Saul was his Hebrew name, and Paul was his Greek name.
 
Our afternoon lecture focused on Paul’s missionary journeys, commonly understood to be four in number, ending with a final journey toward Rome which ended in shipwreck on Malta. Careful analysis of scripture reveals more journeys, some that we are not told much about, but are alluded to in scripture.  Brian shared with us that his study of Acts and the Letters of Paul reveals there were six journeys and two significant interludes in Jerusalem. While many Christians think of Paul as a wandering Christian apostle to the Gentiles, in reality his journeys emanated from Jerusalem, indicating the centrality of his Jewish faith.  It was fascinating stuff!
 
It has been gray and overcast all day today while we were at sea.  The Celebrity Equinox is a huge ship, but the 18 foot seas we encountered off the coast of Italy and Greece managed to move the decks enough to make some of us uncomfortable. As we turned north toward Athens tonight though, the clouds cleared and the sea has become still.
 
Thanks be to God!
 
 
Warren Nash
 
 
Brian's morning lecture on the first day at sea.
 
 
 
Our first lecture focused on Paul's early life in Tarsus,
Jerusalem, and Antioch.
 
 
 
We celebrated Holy Communion during worship in
our afternoon time together.
 
 
 
Our second lecture focused on Paul's six journeys and
two interludes in Jerusalem.
 
 
 
   
 DAY THREE
Saturday, October 27, 2012
 
Good morning and greetings from Sicily!  

After a night of much appreciated rest, our group disembarked the Celebrity Equinox at the Port of Messina. We were greeted by our Sicilian guide, Marcello for a short walk to the bus. On our way, we passed a 12th century church known as the Church of the Miracle because it is one of only two buildings in old Messina to survive a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 1908.

Boarding our bus, we began a two hour drive to the city of Syracuse (Siracusa).  Marcello provided lots of interesting history and information about the island of Sicily. We learned about the nine provinces making up Sicily, the different cultures and people who have populated the island, and the various terrains and agricultural areas. Marcello instructed us about the misrepresentation of the Sicilian Mafia in the American cinema, and how, these days, the mafia really only destroys their enemies economically.

One interesting site we drove past for many miles was the volcano of Mount Aetna. It was an awe-inspiring mountain, the summit of which was covered by clouds. Marcello told us that Mount Aetna is due for a major eruption, and that Sicily is hopeful that it will occur soon, as it helps boost the economy through tourism. He said that there is no danger associated with an eruption, because “...the lava, it move very slow, not like on a-CNN!”

Upon arrival in Syracuse, we met Eliana, our local guide, who led us to the small Southern port of the city. This port, while rarely visited by tourists, was more important to us (as opposed to the larger northern port of the Greeks), because it is most likely the port Paul would have used when he arrived in Syracuse (read Acts 28: 11-13).  While at the port, Brian (our primary trip guide), Marcello (our Sicilian guide) and Eliana (our Syracuse guide) engaged in a lively academic debate about the influx of European Jews during the Inquisition. The rest of us took pictures.

Following a lunch of authentic Sicilian pizza, paninis, and Italian gelato in a quaint, very European square next to a beautiful fountain of the Roman goddess Diana, we went to the Church of St. John (Giovanni). This small, ancient Christian church is built on the traditional site where Paul is believed to have preached while in Syracuse. Beneath the church is the tomb of an early Christian martyr named Marciano.  Inside the tomb were some remnants of the beautiful frescoes and columns, as well as a modern altar table where we could imagine Paul delivering a sermon to the Jews and Gentile believers (God fearers).  From the church, our group walked to the catacombs dating from the 4th and 5th centuries where 25,000 Christians were once buried.

As we returned to the bus we walked past a huge Roman Catholic church, which dominated the city skyline. This church, known as the Church of the Madonna, was built on the site of a house where a woman had lived, who became very sick, and prayed to an icon of the Virgin Mary hanging over her bed. The icon, according to the Vatican, began to weep. When the church verified the miracle, the site was made holy and the new church was later built.  It was reported that John Paul II visited the church, and while he loved the miracle, he didn’t care for the building. Given that the church strangely resembles Space Mountain at Disney World may have impacted his Holiness’ perspective!

From here, we said goodbye to Syracuse to return to the ship, about two hours away.  It was a great first full day, full of some amazing sites, interesting history and fellowship and laughter.  Off to dinner and a good night’s sleep!

Grace and peace,

Brian Bellenger

PS:  Ciao, y’all!!
 
 
Sunrise at sea near Messina, Sicily
 
 
 
Marcello tells us the history of old Messina and the earthquake.
 
 

The Church of the Miracle in Messina, Sicily.
 
 
 
Ancient Temple of Apollo in Syracuse dates to 600 BC.
 
 
 To see all the photos for Day Three, click here.
 
 
   
 DAY TWO
Friday, October 26, 2012
 
All Aboard the Celebrity Equinox

Praise Be to God!

We land safely in Rome and we are warmly greeted by our friend and teacher—Brian (Baruch) Kvasnica.

After a nice bus ride through the Italian countryside, we arrive at our first stop—lunch.  Well, it appears that my diet is over!  Wonderful pasta and pork and rich, strong coffee—forget StarBucks!!  Then on to our home away from home—the beautiful Celebrity Equinox.  After finding our stateroom and participating in emergency drills, we settle in and begin the business of enjoying the adventure of a lifetime.  There is no better way to begin this journey than to share our evening meal (no—a feast!) with new friends.  

As the day comes to an end, I reflect on my blessings.  I am richly blessed to have this opportunity.  I am anxious and excited to learn, to grow in my faith and to explore the places that have shaped my faith traditions in the footsteps of Paul.

Praise Be to God!

Liz Prosch
 
 
Mikah showing off the night view of Rome behind him.

 
 
Jennifer Hewitt and Mary Beth Helms arrive in good spirits!
 
 
 
Mary Beth Helms, Ralph & Sally Yeilding, and
Sharon & Ira Turner at lunch.
 
 
 
Brian Bellenger, Valerie Nash, and Mikah Hudson prepare to board Celebrity Equinox in Civitavecchia, Italy.
 
 
 
 
 
   
 DAY ONE
Thursday, October 25, 2012
 
The Journey

Our lives are filled with Journeys
    Some are short-
    Some are long-
    Some we will never make again
    Some are eternal.

Where will Paul’s journey take us?
    Into the anicient past—Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Rome
    Into the uncertain future—where diverse people, cultures, gods and faiths          have struggled to find peace and security
    Into the present—exploring new old places seeking to understand Paul’s           vision for the world today.

What will we discover?
    Who knows...
    God has written a lesson plan for each of us.
    We will hear God’s voice in Brian’s passion for the biblical stories...
    We will learn from each other.

Life is a wonderful journey
Travel while you can.
Take it all in.
Share it with others and
Praise God from whom all travel blessings flow.

Our journey begins....

Liz Prosch
 
 
Last time to stretch the legs before the long trip.
 
 
 
Gerrie putting on a smile, ready for the journey to start.
 
 
 
Getting comfortable with our neighbors.
 
 
 
Just the beginning.
 
 
To see all the photos for Day One, click here.