I write as I prepare to leave for a Holy Land trip to Israel. This trip is for the newly-ordained clergy of Indiana, their families and friends, and many other pilgrims who are choosing to make this journey with me. I invite your prayers for a safe and meaningful trip.

I am indebted to Bishop Woodie White for beginning this tradition of taking our new ordinands on a Holy Land trip to enhance their ministry by exposing them to what many call "The Fifth Gospel" - the land of the Bible. To see the lands of the Bible, to take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, to renew one's baptism in the Jordan River, to walk through the old city of Jerusalem and to stand on the Mount of Olives - these and other experiences help us to learn about the Bible and the ministry of Jesus in ways which make the stories of our faith come alive.

We also will learn about the contemporary situation in Israel, hear from Palestinians, visit United Methodist ministries and see the amazing Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. However, our primary focus is upon a having a spiritual journey. Such a trip to the Holy Land makes the Bible so much more real to our new clergy than studying Scripture alone.

For the past several years, the Indiana Area United Methodist Foundation has provided scholarships through Educational Opportunities to our newly ordained clergy to make this trip possible. Unfortunately, those funds have dried up and the new clergy ordained this year will not receive such a scholarship. While I understand the economic realities have caused these funds to be depleted, I am saddened to know that our future clergy will not be helped to have this unique educational opportunity. While it is certainly possible to read the Bible and to study the historical and geographic background of the Bible, our new clergy will likely miss the opportunity to see, touch, hear and know the reality of "The Fifth Gospel." All of our churches will eventually see the shortfall for our clergy not having this unique opportunity.

I hope some generous people who read this column will be inspired to make gifts to the Holy Land Scholarship Fund through our Indiana Area Foundation so that this tradition of Holy Land trips for ordinands can continue.

Thank you.

Old City DomeBishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Conference of
The United Methodist Church
"Making a Difference in Indiana …
and around the world"

If you feel led to give to the Holy Land Scholarship Fund, send your tax-exempt contribution to the Indiana Area United Methodist Foundation, 1100 West 42nd Street, Suite 210, Indianapolis, IN 46208.