Pilgrimage overview

December 4-15, 2021

Led by the Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson, Bishop of Missouri

Coordinator – the Rev. Todd McDowell, Grace Episcopal Church

Advent is a season of expectation and hope, grounded in the incarnation of Emmanuel; God with us. Each year we turn our gaze eastward to look for the familiar people and places that make the incarnation of Christ come alive. How best to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child than to stand in the places where the events of Jesus’ life and ministry took place.


Join us on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land as we see firsthand the places where Jesus walked, taught and preached. We will visit the Church of the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel- announced the coming of the Savior. Journey to one of the oldest churches in Christendom in Bethlehem, and the place of Jesus’ birth. See the many sites around and on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of his three years of ministry. We will go to the site of his Baptism at the River Jordan and renew our own Baptismal Covenant, and finally journey up to Jerusalem and walk the via Delarosa as we make our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Christianity’s holiest church, where the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ took place. 


Early in the 4th Century, C.E., the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine traveled from Western Europe to the Holy Land. Helena, like countless pilgrims after her, made the journey in order to find the place, to see and pray where events in the life of Christ took place. Her journey changed her life, that of her son, and the entire world. Since that time, millions of Christians have followed in the footsteps of Helena.


You are invited to join us on pilgrimage to stand for a time in Helena’s shoes. Not only will you see the places where it all began, but you will see the “facts on the ground”—what it means to be a Christian in Israel and Palestine today. So do come join us. Bring your head and your heart but put your feet on the ground of the Holy Land.


The Holy Land is often described as the 5th Gospel for its power to bring scripture alive and inspire us all in our Christian faith. Join us this Advent for an adventure into Holy Hope. Holy Land, as we embark on an incredible adventure to discover anew the places of our faith.


If you have questions about the pilgrimage, you are welcome either to contact Lightline directly, or the Rev Todd McDowell at Grace Church, Kirkwood (314) 821-1806 ext. 14, or todd.mcdowell@GraceKirkwood.org


  • Airfare
  • All airport departure & passenger taxes
  • Hotel Accommodations
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
  • All gratuities, entrance fees and local government taxes
  • English speaking guides throughout tour
  • Modern air-conditioned tour buses

Not Included

  • Single room supplement
  • Travel insurance
  • Any item of a personal nature
Download pdf brochure

Day 1: Saturday, December 4

(John of Damascus, Priest, c. 760)
We meet at St Louis-Lambert Airport in the afternoon, to check in for our journey to Israel. After a short flight to Chicago, we change planes for our flight to Israel. Dinner will be served on the flight, and we hope to be able to sleep well as we head across the Atlantic to the Holy Land.

Day 2: Sunday, December 5

(Advent II - Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210)
We land at Tel Aviv in the afternoon. After clearing Immigration and Customs formalities we will be met by the local Christians who will be our guide and driver throughout our journey and make our way to our beautiful pilgrim guest house on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. We will arrive in time to freshen up before dinner and an early night!

Day 3: monday, December 6

(Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c. 342)
We begin our pilgrimage with the celebration of the Eucharist at Dalmanutha on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We will spend the rest of the day visiting the sites around the Sea of Galilee associated with Jesus’ ministry of miracles and teaching set around the lake. We will have the chance to visit the Mount of Beatitudes, the ruins of Capernaum, the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, and the Church of Peter’s Primacy. We will have the chance to experience our own boat ride on the lake, as well as seeing the first century fishing boat discovered towards the end of the last century. We will also visit the recently excavated first century synagogue at Magdala, the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, before returning to our hotel in good time to freshen up before dinner. Overnight stay by the Sea of Galilee.


(Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 397)
This morning, leaving the hotel we drive in a westerly direction crossing the fertile Valley of Jezreel to visit the Basilica on the summit of Mount Tabor, believed by many to be the site of the Transfiguration. We will celebrate the Eucharist here before descending the mountain. After a break for lunch, we drive to Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up, to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation and the Synagogue Church. We then continue to the nearby village of Cana, the site of Jesus’ first “sign” according to St John, and the ruins of the city of Sepphoris, a major Roman and Byzantine city, before returning to our lakeside guest house in good time to relax before dinner. Overnight stay by the Sea of Galilee.


Leaving the beauty and tranquility of the Galilee, we will journey through the heart of the West Bank to the major Palestinian city of Nablus. We will see the work of St Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, providing significant medical care in the heart of the city, and visit Jacob’s Well, which was already a place of pilgrimage in the time of Jesus. After lunch we come to the Jordan River to renew our Baptismal Covenant. From here we make our way to Jerusalem, stopping in the town of Bethany, where Jesus would stay in the home of his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Finally, we will arrive at the Christian Quarter of the Old City and check into our hotel situated inside the city walls, which will be our home for the remainder of our pilgrimage.

Day 6: Thursday, December 9

Today we head south after breakfast to visit the Old Testament city of Hebron, a city of crucial importance to the three Abrahamic faiths to visit the Tombs of the Patriarchs and see for ourselves the effects of the Occupation in the heart of the old city. From here we come to Bethlehem. In addition to visiting the Church of the Nativity, the oldest intact church in Christendom, and the nearby Shepherds Fields at Beit Sahour, we will also see the remarkable work of the St Vincent Creche/Orphanage. Run by the Daughters of Charity, this is the only facility of its kind in the West Bank, offering Christian love and compassion to over forty abandoned babies and small children. At the end of the day, we return to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and our overnight stay.

Day 7: Friday, December 10

This morning we begin the day with a visit to the Garden Tomb, which will give us a sense of how Golgotha might have looked at the time of Jesus. From here we drive to the Princess Basma Center, an Episcopal institution renowned for its remarkable work with disabled children. After a break for lunch, we will walk the traditional Palm Sunday route down the Mount of Olives, starting at Bethphage, and finishing in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the way we will stop at the Chapel of the Ascension, and the churches of Pater Noster and Dominus Flevit, and finally the Church of All Nations.

Day 8: saturday, December 11

After an early breakfast we leave Jerusalem and drive down to the Dead Sea basin and continue south along the shoreline to Mount Masada. We ascend the summit by cable car to visit Herod’s stepped palace complex, ancient water cisterns, massive grain silos and the remains of a Byzantine church. Afterwards we will have the opportunity to bathe in the unique mineral laden waters of the Dead Sea. We return north along the Dead Sea visiting Qumran on our way. It was here that the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered and led to the excavations of the nearby Essene Monastery where the scrolls may have originated. We plan to arrive back in Jerusalem in good time to freshen up before dinner. Overnight stay in Jerusalem.

Day 9: Sunday, December 12

(Advent III)
We begin our day by attending the principal Sunday Eucharist at St George’s Episcopal Cathedral. Late morning, we make our way to the Israel Museum to visit the Shrine of the Book exhibition about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a beautiful, scaled model of ancient Jerusalem as it was at the time of Jesus. In the afternoon we drive to Mount Zion to visit sites associated with the Last Supper, the Day of Pentecost, the falling asleep of Mary, and the church of St Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus was held by the Jewish authorities on the night before his death. We will finish the day in the village of Ein Karem, believed to be the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist. Here we can sing ‘Magnificat’ where it was first sung, before returning to our hotel for dinner and our overnight stay.

Day 10: monday, December 13

This morning we start at the Dung Gate to ascend the Temple Mount (if permitted) to enjoy a close-up view of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. Exiting the Temple Mount, we visit the church of St Anne by the Pools of Bethesda, close to the start of the Via Dolorosa. From where we will prayerfully walk the Way of the Cross through the winding alleys of the “Via Dolorosa” until we come to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over what every generation has believed is the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. After a break for lunch, we drive to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum and Garden. Later in the afternoon we return to the Dung Gate to visit the Western Wall plaza and make the extraordinary walk through the Western Wall Tunnels that take us underground through the heart of the Old City.

Day 11: Tuesday, december 14

On our final day of pilgrimage, we will drive to one of the sites associated with biblical Emmaus to have a final act of worship together, stopping first at the Orthodox Monastery of the Cross, built at the site where it is believed the tree grew that provided the wood for Jesus’ cross. Returning to Jerusalem, we will have the chance to enjoy some free time (lunch will not be provided today) until we depart midafternoon to the beautiful town of Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast for our final dinner in the Holy Land. From here we drive to Tel Aviv airport to begin our journey home, flying overnight to Newark.

Day 12: wednesday, December 15

Landing at Newark in the early morning, we clear U.S. immigration and Customs before flying onwards to Saint Louis, where we land around 8am, ready to tell our family and friends of all that we have learned in the Land of the Holy One.

Jordan Extension (optional) December 1-5, 2021

Wednesday, december 1 (Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, 1637)

We meet at St Louis-Lambert Airport in the early afternoon to start our journey to the Middle East, flying first to Chicago, and then onwards to Amman, Jordan. Dinner will be served on board and we hope to get a good night’s sleep as we cross the Atlantic.

Thursday, december 2 (Channing Moore Williams, Missionary Bishop in China and Japan, 1910)

Landing in Amman at lunch time we will drive the short distance to Mount Nebo to start our pilgrimage at the place where Moses gazed across to the Promised Land, before visiting nearby Madaba to see the famous mosaic map that places Jerusalem at the center of the known world. After these visits we will drive south to Wadi Musa, to our hotel located by the entrance to the archaeological site of Petra, where we will spend two nights.

friday, december 3

We will spend the day in the ancient city of Petra, located in a spectacular setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge. From the main entrance we will travel on foot through the awesome ‘Siq’, an immense crack in the sandstone that winds its way between overhanging cliffs. At the end of the Siq is Petra’s most famous monument, the Treasury, and various walks and climbs reveal literally hundreds of buildings, facades, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples and a 3,000 seat Roman theatre.

Saturday, December 4 (John of Damascus, Priest, c. 760)

Leaving Petra after breakfast, we drive north to visit the Baptism Site and see the impressive excavations on the eastern side of the Jordan River. From here it is only a short drive to our hotel on the shore of the Dead Sea, where we will have the rest of the day to relax and enjoy its facilities.

Sunday, December 5 (Advent II - Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210)

After celebrating a Sunday Eucharist together, we will drive north out of the city to Salt, where we will see the remarkable work of the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf. After lunch we continue north to Um Qeis, believed to be biblical Gadara, and enjoy the breathtaking view over the Sea of Galilee. Finally we come to the Sheik Hussein border crossing, and on entering Israel will drive to our pilgrim hotel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where we will meet the rest of our pilgrim group.

Tuesday, 14 December / Wednesday, 15 December

Pilgrims who started the pilgrimage in Jordan will also spend this one extra night at the hotel in Jerusalem, and will start their journey home after an early breakfast on Wednesday 15 December using the flights shown below.

Download pdf brochure