A UTTOXETER minister has just returned from the trip of a lifetime as he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Reverend Gordon Gresswell, of Uttoxeter Methodist Church, was part of a party which headed over to one of the oldest cities as he followed in the believed footsteps of Jesus.
The party stayed in Manger Square, in Bethlehem, the supposed place where Jesus was born, and then moved on to stay in a Franciscan Retreat Centre where the Pope was staying on the day they left.
Reverend Gresswell told the Post and Times it was an inspiring trip.
He said: “It was great to be, in some small way, part of the Pope’s visit to Israel/Palestine.
“There are many things I could say about the trip but Bethlehem was special, partly because of the Pope’s visit.
“As protestant Methodists, this might sound strange [to those in the know], but the visit of the Pope was hugely significant.”
While on the once in a lifetime trip, the vicar saw an ‘enormous’ concrete wall in Bethlehem, which he said was put up as a protective barrier by the state of Israel.
He said: “It is hideous to see and a message of power, suppression, oppression and dividing of human people.
“It would be easy to get political at this point, but no, the Pope, his staying in Bethlehem and visiting of Jerusalem is everything that wall isn’t.
“As the spiritual leader of one billion Christians he was saying that the God revealed in Jesus Christ breaks down walls, not puts them up.
“Those walls alienate people, God welcomes people. Walls divide. God unites.
“Being a tiny, tiny part of a message of reconciliation in a troubled place [as we see in the news this week] reminded me of my human need to be more welcoming, more tolerant, more loving and caring toward ‘the other’.
“This Pope reminded me of why I am a Christian, a follower of the one who came to break down walls, the one who set me free, the Lord Jesus Christ.”