PANDORA — As a Methodist pastor, the Rev. Duane A. Kemerley always had an image of what the Holy Land might be like.
After his 19th pilgrimage, the pastor at the Pandora and Riley Creek United Methodist Churches said people can better understand the Bible once they’ve witnessed where it’s set.
“We read the Bible in black and white and make up pictures and artist renditions,” Kemerley said. “After this kind of experience, you read the Bible, and it’s in color, and you have visual auditory memories of places.”
Kemerley returned Tuesday after a 15-day pilgrimage to Israel.
The national organization of the Masonic Knights Templar (Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America) has a program, “In the Footsteps of Jesus: A Pilgrim’s Journey for Sir Knights, Ladies, Friends and Guests.”
The group completed the pilgrimage Nov. 11-21 with participants from Washington state to Virginia. Kemerley stayed behind with his wife, Debra, and relatives to tour the area before coming home.
Rev. Kemerley was a participant in the Knights Templar Holy Land Pilgrimage in 1987 and began serving as a tour host in 2000. During the pilgrimage, he managed itinerary and a variety of group needs along the way.
He arrived in Tel Aviv on Nov. 12 and visited Caesarea Martima, a port city Herod the Great built.
He visited the Jordan River in Israel and performed baptismal renewals on group members. There were 15 renewals that he performed and another pastor assisted.
“I liked the many layers of history and its connection to our religious heritage,” Kemerley said.
He went on a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee, where he sang and prayed with the group.
“While on the boat, the tour guide was able to visually identify the various sites in the life of Jesus around the Sea of Galilee,” Kemerley said.
He also visited Capernaum (Peter’s house and synagogue), Nazareth, Mt. Zion, Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu and Bethlehem Church of the Nativity. Other sites visited included the Dead Sea, which includes Masada and Qumran, where the first of the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.
He also saw the Israel Museum, Garden of Gethsemane and St. Anne’s Church and Pools of Bethesda. The group retraced the traditional 14 stations of the cross.
Kemerley also toured Jerusalem, where there is a church containing the crucifixion site and the burial tomb of Jesus. The name of the church where the tomb is located is called The Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
“It’s a very powerful and moving moment to be able to enter that area,” Kemerley said.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.