2023 Clark Sabbatical Brief Highlight Recap
We would like to thank the Church Council for the financial assistance to our travel and for the volunteer support while we were away that made our sabbatical experience possible. It was a highly educational and spiritually fruitful journey!
In Ephesus we had an in-depth guided tour of the ancient Roman City, museum, burial site of the Apostle John, the home of the Virgin Mary where she lived out her final years and the workshops of traditional local weavers and ceramic artisans. We were given an eight hour detailed description of Paul’s environment and the conflict he had with Roman authorities in Ephesus as well as a history of the first century Christian community he founded there and to which we have one of his letters in the Bible.
On the island of Patmos on the day of Eastern Orthodox Easter, we were given a guided tour of the cave (and the monastery built around it) in which John the Theologian wrote the book of Revelation. We were guided through the medieval town and the large, and still functioning, monastery founded there in his honor. The lecture enlightened us to his life experiences and the exile under which he wrote the final book of the Bible.
On Crete, we toured the 6,000 year-old Minoan palace and cultural heritage site and gained foundational knowledge of the Goddess worshiping culture that dominated the Mediterranean region prior to the rise of Greece and Rome.
In Corinth, we toured the Roman city archaeological site with a guide and received a detailed explanation of the culture, practices and customs of the city which Paul visited twice, lived and worked in, and where he founded a Christian community to which we have two important letters in the New Testament. We gained essential knowledge of his experience defending the Christian faith when brought before the Roman authorities by the Jewish leaders there and important information about the Roman pagan beliefs and customs which he was so publicly defying.
In Athens we were given a guided tour of the Acropolis, Greek and Roman archaeological remains and the site where Paul attempted to persuade the Athenian Areopagus Court of the merits of the Christian faith as the logical successor to their traditional beliefs. We gained a much deeper appreciation of the unique position Paul was in to challenge the normative Roman beliefs of his day and of the philosophical and civic system that resisted him.
In Rome we had a guided tour of the Vatican, a guided tour of the Christian catacombs, tomb and Basilica of St. Sebastian, the aqueduct remains, and a guided tour of the Colosseum and Roman city archaeological remains as well as some site visiting on our own. We gained a broad base of knowledge of early Christianity in Rome including the martyrdom of Peter, the experience of Christians in Roman society while being persecuted, the rise of legalized Christianity in the Roman empire and some key history of the Holy Roman Empire.
At Assisi, we had a guided tour of the Basilica of St. Clair, the medieval city and the Basilica and tomb of St. Francis. We were treated to a history lesson about the life of St. Francis and how his emphasis on simplicity, care of the poor and honoring of all creatures and creation scandalized the papacy and the Catholic Church.
Our focus in Florence was on Renaissance Christian art and architecture, the work of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and the extensive collection of Greek and Roman statuary preserved there. We visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Medici chapel, the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Veccio.
In addition to being able to interpret the letters of Paul, the book of Revelation, as well as understand the world in which the gospels were written much more effectively, we feel more equipped to be able to preach/teach with a greater understanding of the early church. We intend to have some programming opportunities to offer, including a multimedia presentation of the trip, an in-depth adult education program on Paul and a more focused bible study of his letters, particularly to the communities that we visited. Also, because we were inspired by the astounding art, paricularly in the sanctuaries we visited, we might like to explore incorporating visual arts more into our worship life together.
Kelly Jo and Tim Clark 5/9/2023