In times of turmoil and frustration, the faithful turn their eyes toward religious leaders, seeking solace and guidance from the most high.
These are such troubled times — from political angst to social unrest, the world has been experiencing its fair share of tribulations.
In their respective congregations, local clergy have sought to share messages of peace and unification. It is something that Rabbi Rachael Bregman of Temple Beth Tefilloh in Brunswick and the Revs. Tom Purdy of Christ Church Frederica and Alan Dyer of St. Simons Presbyterian Church have done many times — both through sermons, as well as by setting an example.
Bregman, Dyer and Purdy have been meeting along with the Rev. Dr. Tony Lankford of First Baptist St. Simons, and the Rev. Bonnie Lanyi of Lord of Life ELCA, for more than five years. Together, they have been finding ways to create community and common ground between their congregations, despite their differences in religious doctrine. Roughly a year ago, the group collectively addressed the events of Charlottesville, Va., when white supremacists demonstrated in the streets. They composed and published a letter condemning that type of activity and the hate it represented. At the time, it provided a sense of comfort for all, especially Bregman, who as a Jew, felt particularly threatened. She found a great sense of support from the group.
The bond has only grown stronger and they began to look at making an important dream come true — traveling to the Holy Land.
“We talked to the group and it turned out that Bonnie and Tony’s congregations weren’t able to go, but the three of us could,” Purdy explained.
“(Temple Beth Tefilloh) has been trying to do a trip to Israel for a while. So I talked with these guys,” Bregman said, smiling and gesturing to Purdy and Dyer. “We thought it would be an added benefit to not just make it a trip between our congregations but to open it up to the community.”
Bregman, Dyer and Purdy started looking into options. What they discovered was a group called Medji Tours. The dynamic of the company mimicked their own diversity which interested them.
“There are three guys who started this group, one is a Palestinian, one is an Orthodox Jew and the other grew up in the Jewish settlements,” Bregman said.
“So they all came from these different parts of Israel and from dramatically different backgrounds. But they came together to form this business and to tell the story of Israel.”
“Peace through tourism,” Purdy added. “They have learned to overcome hatred and division by creating relationships ... that’s what we want to do.”
Once the trio heard the story, they knew they’d found the answer. Their plan is simple — to take their collective congregations to Israel to explore all the faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — that call the ancient city home.
“It is going to be a really beautiful experience. We are going to go to take part in Sabbath at a synagogue and then we are going to a Lutheran church for Sunday,” Bregman said. “I think it’s going to be really special for us to share this as a community and then be able to bring it back here to the Golden Isles.”
The Interfaith Journey to the Holy Land will take place from May 27 to June 5. There will also be an additional option to travel to Petra in Jordan at the end of the trip. Tour guides will outline the historical significance of locations from a number of religious perspectives. Their website outlines the pricing and particulars of the trip.
The group feels there’s no place better to start a path to greater understanding than in the cradle of their collective faiths. Dyer and Bregman, who have both travelled to the Holy Land prior, know how moving it will be for participants.
“It’s just incredible to stand in these places that have been in existence for 4,000 years,” Dyer said. “It is really powerful.”
The group hopes to share that with the broader community. They currently have 30 participants signed up but can take 20 more. They hope that others will join the journey. When they return, the trio hopes all will use their new relationships and connections to spread love and understanding.
“The subtitle of the trip is ‘Relationship, Understanding, Community and Harmony’ which spells out the Hebrew word, ‘Ruach,’ which means ‘breath’ or ‘spirit,’” Bregman explained. “Which is what we want to foster.”