This winter of 2006, I travel to the Middle East to spend four months with the Armenian Orthodox communities based in that region.
The origin of the Armenian Church dates back to the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew; and Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 of the Common Era. Fleeing the Armenian Genocide during WW1 which took the lives of a million and half Armenians a large group found refuge in Syria and Lebanon, and in 1930 settled in Antelias, a suburb of Beirut.
In January, I ravel to Antelias to join the Armenians there as the guest of Aram the First (pictured below during a visit to Montreal in October.) Aram I is the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, the second highest ranking bishop in the Armenian Church today. While in Lebanon, I will take on duties in support of the mission and ministry of my hosts, possibly teaching at their seminary in nearby Bickfaya.
This Ecumenical Pilgrimage concludes with a journey to the oldest of Christian pilgrimage destination, Jerusalem to share in the liturgies of Orthodox Holy Week and Easter, followed by a three week visit as the guest of his Beatitude, Torkum II, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The Anglican Foundation of Canada is funding my time with the Armenians (travel and expenses) through the Scholarship of St. Basil the Great; and I am entirely thankful to Pastor Christian Schreiner, my associate at the Cathedral, for agreeing to take on extra duties during my absence without this support, I simply could not have accepted the scholarship. I am also extremely grateful to the Cathedral Community for granting me a full sabbatical leave for the time I am away.
Needless to say, this is a very exciting opportunity for me, and hopefully for us all. I ask you to hold this ecumenical pilgrimage in your prayers, and, if you like, to read the travel notes that I will be posting regularly on this the blog I have set up for this purpose at www.dean.cathedral.ca