At the end of each academic year, after the joys of John’s Day but whilst most of John’s are still enjoying Brewfest and competing to bring home the John’s/Chad’s cup, the majority of Cranmer Hall students disappear. Most final year Cranmer students move out of Durham whilst a lot of the continuing students start what we call a ‘Mission Study Block’. Usually these last two weeks and the aim is for us to have an experience that broadens our understanding, challenges us and helps us in some way in future Christian Ministry. In the past students have spent a fortnight engaging with communities in rural areas or in urban areas with significant economic deprivation. Some students have spent time with religious orders alongside nuns and monks and some have studied multimedia & digital communication with the Durham based CODEC team. Each year there has also been one trip abroad – to visit churches and Christian organisations in Belgium.
This year there was a new opportunity, another one involving overseas travel. For the first time 24 of us had the opportunity to go to Israel and Palestine on an eight day trip.
We flew out to Tel Aviv from Manchester. On arrival we journeyed north to a hotel on the edge of Lake Galilee. We stayed there for the first half of the week and then headed south to Jerusalem for the second half. It was a week that I hope I’ll never forget. The views were breathtaking, the political situation was deeply troubling, the people were inspiring, the animosity between faiths was painful, the food was delicious. As a Christian training to be a church leader it was amazing to visit places that I have read about so many times in the Bible, it was helpful (and often moving) to see them in 3D and experience them with all my senses. My understanding of the Bible deepend and as a result my faith grew.
Although all the destinations on our daily schedule were significant, the journeying itself was also really valuable. It was great to travel with a group of friends, to share the rollercoaster of emotions and to have plenty of fun. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have this experience, one that far exceeded all my expectations.