Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pledge Reminder

Dear Friend:

A few weeks ago I sent a letter announcing the winter pledge drive for the School of the Pilgrim. Many of you have responded kindly – some by sending in pledges, some by asking for prayers, while others have inquired about the upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land to be held November 12-22, 2011. For this I thank you!

Since we wrote you a few weeks ago, the Chapel Hill News has accepted for publication an essay about my most recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land (see attached). Last week I had a great lunchtime conversation with one of the campus ministries at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill about the School of the Pilgrim guiding their upcoming mission trip to a Navajo reservation in Arizona this May 2011. Opportunities to create pilgrimages with others groups are starting to percolate.

The School of the Pilgrim is becoming an exciting opportunity to provide an alternative way of educating and nurturing people of faith in a way that the world has either largely forgotten about or never considered before. But we cannot stop now; we need your continuing help to keep building upon the School of the Pilgrim’s progress.

Here's where you can help: please consider pledging $25, $50, $75, $100, or as much as you feel comfortable giving. You can contribute online at Simply go to the menu on the left of the website, click "Contribute" and follow the instructions. Or you can send a check with a contribution to: School of the Pilgrim, P.O. Box 572, Carrboro, NC 27510. Remember that the School of the Pilgrim is a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. Your contribution by December 31, 2010 is deductible this tax year.

If you cannot give at this time, please consider ways you can support us with volunteer efforts during the next year. Meanwhile, I will continue to post insights regarding the life of a pilgrim on You can look for new images from recent pilgrimages on our website

Thank you in advance for your support of the School of the Pilgrim! Through the kindness of you and others like you, we continue to make progress. Please feel free to forward this letter to others who might be interested!

Pilgrim Peace,

Brett Webb-Mitchell
P.O. Box 572
Carrboro, NC 27510

End of Year Report of the School of the Pilgrim

Greetings from the School of the Pilgrim!

On behalf of the School of the Pilgrim, I want to share with you the latest happenings within the School.
* I just returned from a pilgrimage in Israel and Egypt, in which the School of the Pilgrim participated in a pilgrimage-on-camel back led by our dear friend Dr. Henry Carse. This pilgrimage is the subject of the latest newsletter attached to this email.
* The School of the Pilgrim is working with East Caroline University's Presbyterian Campus Ministry program for a service pilgrimage in the Dominican Republic in March 2011, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Presbyterian Campus Ministry pilgrimage with the Navajo people in Arizona in May 2011;
* The School of the Pilgrim is leading a pilgrimage in the Holy Land the third week of November in 2011. We are going to spend three days in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, followed by four days in the Sinai wilderness, and a day at St. Catherine's of the Sinai Monastery. More news forthcoming of this pilgrimage.
* Desert Spirituality Pilgrimage: we are working on plans for a Desert Spirituality pilgrimage in Egypt in 2011. Plans are flying in and out of Cairo to St. Antony's Monastery; St. Markarios, and then five days on pilgrimage in the wilderness of the Sinai, ending with time at St. Catherine's;
* I am currently teaching world religions at North Carolina Central University for Spring 2011. This course is going to be framed as a pilgrimage among world religions;
* Pilgrimage to Chimayo, New Mexico: The first week of June, I will be joining the brothers and sisters who walk 120 miles in 6 days to the sacred chapel of Chimayo, New Mexico. The School of the Pilgrim will be hosting our Egyptian friend, Moussa Hanna, who leads our pilgrimages in Egypt through Abanoub Travel Company. Moussa is an Egyptian Coptic Christian, and this will be his first time visiting the United States.

As we head to fourth quarter of the calendar year, along with your prayers and other volunteer work on behalf of the School of the Pilgrim, please consider sending a tax deductible donation by December 31, 2010, so that this new and growing non-profit will have funds throughout 2011! There are two ways you can contribute: (1) go to and click on the word "Contribute" on the side bar, and follow the instructions on, or (2) simply mail a check School of the Pilgrim, c/o Brett Webb-Mitchell, P.O. Box 572, Carrboro, NC 27510.

Thank you, again, for your support that makes the School of the Pilgrim possible! We are dependent upon the generosity of you, kind donors, to sustain and grow the School of the Pilgrim. Keep us in your prayers, and we shall do the same!

Pilgrim peace,



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Homeward Bound

Above is my felafel. It was lunch for my return trip to Jerusalem. I got it at the bus station in Eilat, waiting for the 1:00 PM bus for Jerusalem. On this leg of the trip, I sat by Shookie Abo, an Israeli whose parents were from Jews from Morocco. Shookie ran a boat for scuba divers in Eilat, and was on his way to China to see about purchasing new boats for his business.

The most important part of this leg of the journey was the uneasy, unraveling truce between Israelis and Palestinians that erupted on the bus outside of Jerusalem as we neared the beginning of Sabbath. The article from that eruption, "The Bus Ride" will be linked later.

There is no doubt that I will be back in the area next year, third week of November. Come, one and all, for this pilgrimage!

Buen camino!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Day Five: Heading Home

This is a picture of the sun rising over the Sinai. On the left side of the pic you can see the Jeep of Abanoub travel agency. My camping equipment is in the foreground. The desert beauty of the Sinai surrounds me.

Yesterday we said good bye to our camels and Bedouin friends, promising to see each other in the new year, "God willing." The days in the desert seemed to fly by. It all ended so soon...too soon...I want more.

On this day I traveled in three cars simply getting to the border crossing in Taba. I was just ahead of the crowd of Muslims coming back from vacation. I caught a taxi and found myself on the Egged bus to Jerusalem. The experience on the bus as we neared Jerusalem is itself an article, which I will post soon. After a delicious dinner at the Jerusalem Hotel, I got on the Nesher to Tel Aviv, leaving early in the morning (12:30 AM) to JFK in NYC.

Buen camino!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day Four: Between Holy Mystery and Violence

What I have come to understand about this land--after four consecutive years in this part of the world--is that it is a holy land that embodies both mystery and violence. There is nothing about this landscape (picture above) that shouts "lush" and "verdant." It is a raw beauty that is saturated with holy mystery. And yet the landscape is also violent to the touch and even from the look. There is nothing in this landscape that necessarily speaks of peace. Thus the walls between this river of rock and sand is "holy mystery" and "violence."

Buen camino!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day Three in the Sinai: The Lunar Landscape

On day three in the Sinai: what I noticed most about this holy, mysterious land is how eerily it resembles what I think the moon or lunar landscape would look like. Now and then a brave acacia tree takes root and springs forth. Sandstone captures whatever water descends. How can one's mind, spirit, and imagination not soar, or descend, as one looks for a point of reference that is smooth and reassuring. Austere and wind-swept acreage surrounds me as far as the eye can see, or the ear hear.

In the season of Advent, I hear of new growth emerging from deserts. The pic is the desert. Hard to see, with the naked eye, how anything can grow.



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day Two in the Sinai: Imagination Station

The second day in the wilderness of the Sinai: we come to Imagination Station. This was no time to ride camels as the steep decline is enough for the camel to do by him or herself. Imagination Station received its name because the rock formation elicits all kinds of images. For example, above is Elephant Head Rock...of course! See the trunk? See the ears?

It is here where Henry Carse--friend and guide--challenges people to wonder about the word "miracle" and how the word "mirror" comes from the basic root of the same word.

In the desert, we can imagine anything we want, because the canvas is so wide and beautifully exposing our creative minds to dream dreams...just like brother Joseph from the Hebrew Texts, who was sold by his brothers in the land of Egypt.

Wonders of wonders...

Buen camino!


Monday, December 13, 2010

First Day in Egypt

The bus ride to Eilat was uneventful, and border crossing took just a little bit longer than usual because we found our way in the middle of the beginning of a Muslim holiday, which celebrates the safety of Ishmael (not sacrificed).

In Taba, we were met by the good people of Abanoub Travel, especially my/our friend Moussa Hanna. For a delicious lunch, we ate at a seaside resort, owned by a Christian family, in the seaside port/holiday spot of Nuweiba.

Ater our lunch, we drove out to the desert, taking a right off of the road, and drove miles into the desert to our Bedouin camp. The Egyptian government is starting to reduce the number of Bedouins (in a kind of way) by building them homes in the middle of (what feels like) nowhere.

Dusk greeted us as we neared the Bedouin tent, surrounded by our camels. The pilgrimage is engaged.

Buen camino!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Destination: Egypt!

On November 15th, we were on a small mini-van at 6:00 AM, in order to get onto a bus (government owned Egged bus) from Jerusalem to Eilat, Israel. It will take around 4 1/2 hours, going down the spine of Israel, passing sites like the Dead Sea and Masada.

Pic is of me FINALLY in Taba, Egypt. Only hours away from walking in the beauty of the desert.

Buen camino!


St. George's College, Jerusalem, Israel

The morning of the 14th of November was warm, almost sultry. Joined by Henry Carse--who was officially the leader of the pilgrimage to the Sinai--and his companion Carole, we helped ourselves to breakfast at St. George's Pilgrim Guest House. Then a small gropu of us joined the congregants who gather Sunday mornings at 9:30 for the Arabic-English worship in the Cathedral of St. George's. We listened to the lilting voice of the Anglican priest who spoke in Arabic, not understanding a word he was saying.

The rest of the day was busy with meeting of other pilgrims, and a quick dash through East Jerusalem, the Old City, and the refurbished Israel Museum. That evening, dinner was at my favorite place, Al Azahra's Restaurant for a great feast, getting the logistics down for the next day, in which we would officially begin the pilgrimage of the Sinai!

Buen camino!


The Damascus Gate: Day One

I left Raleigh-Durham Intl. Airport at 7:45 in the evening of Fri., Nov. 12th, 2010, arriving in Tel Aviv at 5:30 the next afternoon (Nov. 13). I took a minivan--Nesher van service--to St. George's College, Cathedral, and Guest House, where I began meeting with various members of the pilgrim group. We went to dinner that night at Pasha's Restaurant, feasting on dishes of hummus, olives, cucumbers, and roasted chicken, lamb, and tomatoes.

The pic above is the Damascus Gate, one of the entry ways into the Old City. At other times it is simply a bazaar of extraordinary proportions.

Buen camino!


Remembering Jerusalem

I'm going to be posting pics and narrative from this previous pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt. Reading and hearing all the Scriptural references to Sinai and Jerusalem in the readings of Advent, I can't help BUT think of these places.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Newsletter from the School of the Pilgrim

Here it is, folks! Some photos from the latest sojourn in Egypt!

Buen camino!


Friday, December 3, 2010


At North Carolina Central University, I was showing them all the various blogsites, and showed them this one (among many others). The students are coming to a resting place in their pilgrimage of life.


Buen Camino!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sinai Reflections

First Sunday of Advent was this previous Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. First hymn that we sang at United Church of Chapel Hill was "O come, O come, Emmanuel." Having sung this hymn too many times to count, I was suddenly smiling at the words in the fourth or fifth (depends on version) stanza. The words brought me back to the Sinai quickly:

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Having just been on pilgrimage on camel back in the middle of the Sinai, I quickly remembered that the Holy appeared not to scholars, scribes, or learned professors in seminaries and universities, but to average, ordinary, Bedouin-like the people who led me on camel back, who have never been to college, let alone finished any kind of formal schooling.

Pic above is from the latest trek!

Buen Camino!