Chandler’s Holy Land Travelogue: Day 1

Monday, January 29, 2018

This week, Rev. Chandler Stokes is traveling to Israel with other local faith leaders. He will be sharing his thoughts here and on our social media pages in the coming days.


The first time the four of us clergy got together, we took enthusiastically to Rabbi Michael Schadick’s suggestion to perhaps dispense with our titles when talking to each other. And now already it feels awkward to call Sharif (from the Islamic Cultural Center) “Dr. Sahibzada.” In public, he prefers simply to be called "Sahibzada." And, when you meet him, please use that name for my new friend. We were only perhaps an hour into our first day of the tour and our guide, Uri, inviting us to introduce ourselves, said, "With their complexity and seriousness, these conversations require our being on a first-name basis."

I’m writing from the JFK international airport in New York City on a long layover.  Rev. Bob Linstrom (of Trinity Lutheran Church) is meeting his NY-based son for a time, which left Sharif and me to head to our gate together. Evidently, B41 is whence all the Tel Aviv flights depart. It makes me wonder how holy that gate is for those heading to the holy land. Imagining the thousands and thousands whose lifelong dream has been to finally walk there, it’s not a stretch to think that those steps, even here in New York, have taken on a sacred quality. Imagining the world as already infused with holiness seems already a good place to begin this journey.

On the way to our gate, Sharif and I talked about our mutual experience of the conservative nature of the British educational system, which we have both tasted: he far more than I. We even found overlapping parts of our journeys: Sharif studied in Glasgow for a year; I studied in Edinburgh for a year. We agreed that the English spoken in Edinburgh is in fact decipherable, whereas Glaswegian is a genuine challenge.

But the most eye-brightening part of the easy conversation was about God and religion. Already, before we've even crossed the ocean, I feel like—“why did I get to be on this trip with these gracious souls?”

More soon. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me on this journey.

Grace and peace,