Holy Land 2023 (Seyi)

It has been four weeks since we returned from the Holy Land pilgrimage. I did not post on the last two days of our trip for the sake of my sleep: the whole falling asleep after dinner and waking up to post before midnight was taking its toll. But I did maintain my daily poetry writing, so I have two last poems to share. Consider this the wrap up for the “Holy Land 2023 (Seyi)” series! This will actually be my penultimate post to cover our second to last day; I’ll post the last day of the journey separately.

Note: While the poems were written four weeks ago (and dated accordingly), my preamble reflections are from today looking back at memories and photos.

Pilgrimage Day 7: We started our day visiting a crusader church in Abu Gosh. The church had a beautiful crypt where I felt this somber peace. Then we journeyed up a hill to have our last group Eucharist overlooking the city (photo shown above). I remember it was so windy that day; I tightly wrapped my prayer shawl around my head. There were a couple highlights for me that morning. We sang “There is a Balm in Gilead” twice: first as a group inside the crusader church and then during the Eucharist as Dean Steve prepared the table for communion. This is one of my favorite songs, a traditional African American spiritual, and it melts my heart every time I hear the Compline Choir sing it at St. Mark’s Cathedral. A second highlight was that we did the peace during service in the tradition where everyone says peace to every person in the group. I found this very special as we were approaching the end of our journey together.

Later we returned to the Judean desert to visit Qumran, the site where they discovered the Dead Sea scrolls. I took the photo below as we left Qumran, with a view of the Dead Sea in the background. We then spent the afternoon swimming in the Dead Sea, which was fantastic! You had to float on your back and keep your head above water; it was an unexpected core workout. I kept trying to face the mountains of Jordan as I floated in sea. The view of the mountains was epic. I felt both tranquility and awe as I watched them on the beautiful clear day. And thus my inspiration for the penultimate day of our pilgrimage.

Dead Sea Drift


What is dead shall perish in salt mine stars. What is life shall lift on

To sea above. Then greet forward the mountains for Jordan as you

Stand. We float under, together, this journey through these

Remembered lands. Hide our truth in caves with a whisper, on

Scrolls to make a poor man’s shoes. Walk path of The Teacher,

Your Prophet, My Redeemer, Our Lord.

The procession continues.

We hold our heads above to find our feet have already

Arrived. You cannot stand on this floor. You cannot face

The dead world down. You can only lift your heart

Up to sky, wrap your skin in mud ancient, and give

Thanks for your dried eyes. We entered this journey as

Strangers, learned to sing as friends; now our harmonies are

So subtle. You might have to be silent to see

This joy. Here we are, adrift in the Sea

Dead. Some hold on to land, others release the water. I wade

In clouds. Together we float on. Unified in memories,

Tethered by God’s grace in this,

His Holy Land.

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