Were it not for parish priests, two young people in our diocese might not be headed for the Holy Land.
Hailey Colwell (Parish of Coldbrook-St. Mary) and Chase McLean (Parish of Wicklow Wilmot Peel & Aberdeen) credit the Rev. Canon Greg McMullin and the Rev. Harold Boomer with alerting them to a national program for youths 20-26 to join the ultimate pilgrimage for Christians.
The Anglican Church of Canada has a partnership with the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Together they host a program of pilgrimage, learning and immersion, which will take place May 1-12.
The $5,095 cost is highly subsidized, leaving participants to raise about $1,500. The national church and donors cover the rest of the cost.
“I was talking to pastor Greg about wanting to connect with young adults my age,” said Hailey, 22. “Most people in church are all older. He found out about this trip. So it found me, for sure.”
Chase got a text from Harold, a priest in his Archdeaconry of Woodstock last year.
“He asked me if I had any interest in going to the Holy Land,” said Chase, 25. “I jumped at the opportunity. Who wouldn’t?”
Both participated in an interview to judge their demeanour and their motivation.
“It was like a normal interview, on Zoom,” said Hailey. “They asked questions about why I wanted to go. It was more like a conversation.”
Chase’s girlfriend is an HR professional, so they practiced beforehand, he said.
“Some questions challenged me, and made me look deeper into myself,” he said. “Like ‘why do I want to do this?’”
After the interview came the final confirmation, then monthly meetings with organizers and the other 17 participants, and a meeting with Archbishop David Edwards and parish development officer Shawn Branch.
Shawn, having travelled to the Holy Land, gave them tips, and the diocese offered financial and prayerful support.
“My church has been very supportive,” said Hailey. “They’ve been helping me.”
She also held a fundraiser at a bowling alley her grandfather runs, and anticipates a spaghetti supper fundraiser at St. Mary and St. Bartholomew in March.
“I was fortunate in my parish (WWPA) back home and the Parish of Andover and New Denmark — they gave me funds to go,” said Chase. “They’re awesome, and I feel very blessed.”
“I’m hoping to have my eyes opened,” said Chase. “I have no doubt about my faith, but I think this will encourage me to play more of an active role in my community and in the Anglican Church. I’m just ready to go there with an open heart.”
For Hailey, she’s looking for more connections to strengthen her relationship with God.
“I’m hoping I can grow in my faith,” she said. “I’m not always sure what to believe or how to believe. I hope it will help me.
“I want to connect back to the bible — what I read to what I am seeing and experiencing.”
The history aspect has both Hailey and Chase excited.
“I really like the history, of being in the footsteps of Jesus,” said Hailey, who is an early childhood educator in Saint John.
Chase has a slightly different take on the history of the Holy Land. He is finishing a Masters degree in archeology and works as an archeologist for the Province of New Brunswick. The thought of visiting one of the oldest civilizations on earth is overwhelming.
“I’m looking forward, figuratively and literally, to walking in the footsteps of Christ and the disciples,” he said. “That’s going to be surreal — living in that moment in history, being immersed in this ancient culture and birthplace of our spirituality.”
He’s particularly hopeful of visiting Jericho, one of the earliest continuous settlements in the world, dating back to 9,000 BC.
Some of the highlights of the trip will be a tour of Jerusalem’s holy sites, the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.
Both have been advised, by organizers and by Shawn, to take a journal to record the highlights, sights, sounds and feelings they will experience.
“I can’t wait to see how other people live,” said Hailey. “I have an open mind.”
Both are looking forward to meeting other like-minded Anglican youth with whom they can build relationships.
“I want to connect with young people who are active in the church from across the country,” said Chase.
The two fly to Toronto May 1, where they will meet up with the other delegates and organizers. Then they fly to Tel Aviv, where their spiritual adventure awaits.
For more information on the pilgrimage, visit https://www.anglican.ca/gr/provinces/jerusalem/companions/pilgrimage2023/
1. Chase McLean and Hailey Colwell will travel to Israel in May for a tour of the Holy Land under a partnership of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
2. Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee (wikimedia commons)
3. The Jordan River (wikimedia commons)
4. The Western Wall in Jerusalem (wikimedia commons)