Evoking the season and spirit of Epiphany, which signifies the revelation of Christ to the world, 23 members of the Eastern PA and Greater New Jersey conferences began 2024 in Greece on a revealing “Journey with Paul.” Since January 4 they have been traveling paths and visiting places where the Apostle Paul went to spread Christ’s gospel, led by Bishop John Schol. They return home on this Saturday, January 13.
On an excursion organized in 2023, the group was scheduled to tour biblical sites in the Holy Land. But the ongoing, brutal violence of war between Israel and Hamas in and around Gaza forced them to change their travel plans. Reminiscent of Paul’s change of plans in his evangelistic mission, they visited instead the land where the apostle first sought to share Christianity with the Western world.
Walking in Paul’s footsteps
“By walking in the footsteps of Paul we understand better what he faced and his perseverance,” said one tour member. “We learned so much! Scripture came alive.” Some also describe the tour as “therapeutic and healing,” especially as friendships are formed and fortified on the journey.
On the first day of the pilgrimage, they visited the archaeological site of ancient Philippi, where Paul baptized Lydia, regarded as the first Christian woman in Europe, and where many other Christians are baptized today. Bishop Schol, who described the trip as “renewing,” preached and, along with Taylor-Storm, led the group in a reaffirmation of their baptism there.
“We have experienced the profound power of this journey,” wrote Kim. “We gleaned lessons from Paul’s courage and Lydia’s hospitality. Not only do we remember our baptism and are thankful, but we also actively live it out as we remember.” The tour in Philippi also included seeing the site where Paul was imprisoned and experiencing worship in a Greek Orthodox Church.
“Paul’s journey gives us a roadmap for the church today,” writes Taylor-Storm. “Paul met people where they were and respected the faith and culture of the community, as he shared the love of Christ. This time immersed in Scripture and walking in Paul’s footsteps reminds me again of God’s call to go into all the world.”