Sacred Encounters from Rome to Jerusalem
Tamara Park wanted to test her beliefs about God outside the cloistered corner of her American upbringing. So she and a couple of friends flew to Rome and from there followed the footsteps of Helena, mother of the first Christian emperor of ancient Rome, on a meandering path to Jerusalem. Along the way, she sat on all sorts of benches and talked with all sorts of people about how they thought of God. As she conversed with nuns, spies and backpackers throughout the Balkans and Middle East, she discovered understandings of the sacred in the most unexpected of encounters.
In her book you'll meet Muslims, Jews, Christians and agnostics in lands that have witnessed near-endless war, tumultuous political crises, economic stagnation and religious strife. You'll see God through the eyes of people whose lived experience is profoundly different yet surprisingly common. You'll see the world through the eyes of three pilgrims and get to know God--and yourself--a little better.
"A master of posing penetrating questions, Tamara Park guides readers through a captivating pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem. With each conversation, God emerges as larger, more compassionate and more astounding, uncovering the vast, infinite grandeur of our Creator. Though the road to Jerusalem ends, the journey toward God continues."
"Mixing historical account with current stories from volatile areas like the Balkans and the fractured Middle East, Tamara Park guides readers on their own introspective journeys. Tamara interviews Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Jewish people, skeptics, laypeople, clergy, Americans, Serbians, Italians, Croats. . . . [This] diverse record of common beliefs about God doesn't leave you once you put it down."
"Tamara Park signifies all that is good about the Christian pilgrimage. Her honesty and openness in Sacred Encounters from Rome to Jerusalem allow for a true spiritual journey in finding God. She is a contemporary pilgrim with a fresh journey to the living, breathing Yahweh."
"This isn't just a book, it's a journey. And with each turn of the page you will find yourself lost in the modern and ancient dilemma in the search for words to describe God. Along the way, you'll be entertained by Tamara's adventures, fascinated by the history and culture of each stop along the way, and intrigued by the sacred encounters. Undoubtedly, you'll find yourself pausing to reflect on your own image of God in ways you never have before."
"Tamara Park tucks the reader into her already overstuffed backpack, giving us colorful memories, historical commentary and a spiritual destination. The sacred 'relics' we carry home are a worldview that is larger than ourselves and a reflective look at our own spirituality."
"Sharing her personal story--with all its demons and preconceptions--as a backdrop, Tamara Park gently challenges us to reach beyond our prejudices so that we might approach others with curious and ready-to-listen hearts. I am encouraged to make my own pilgrimage, asking God to guide me to faraway sacred benches. Sacred Encounters from Rome to Jerusalem subtly questions our too-often Americanized faith and all its compartmentalized boxes. It dares us to make room for a living, breathing, global God."
"Tamara takes you on a beautiful and amazing journey through the sights, sounds and smells of her pilgrimage. You feel as though you've packed your bags and are traveling with her. Here is a book that inspires you to love God and people of all nations and faiths. Well worth reading!"
"Tamara Park takes the reader on a wonderful, descriptive pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem where she records her sacred encounters with men and women from the ancient past (Emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena; Savonarola; St. Francis of Assisi; St. Paul; and John) and with modern men and women from all ages and religious backgrounds. From the first rather shallow reflections springs forth, over the course of the journey, a mosaic of deep spiritual encounters that bring her to Jesus--"the Icon of God."
"Tamara Park's account of her forty-day pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem is a fresh twist on an ancient journey as she asked those she met along the way to describe God and then listened--really listened--to the answers. Park's contemplative, lyrical, honest writing was an invitation throughout Sacred Encounters to join her on the journey, right here where I live. "
"This book is a gift of love from the children of Abraham who live among the historical roots of Christianity. The author's vulnerability in laying bare her inner struggles while journeying to hear how followers of all three Abrahamic faiths describe God creates a holy space for the reader."
"Sacred Encounters from Rome to Jerusalem is an engaging and intelligent exploration of faith that explores culture and history in their most captivating form: the context of love and life relationships. This book masterfully captures the spirit of spiritual pilgrimage and our universal need to seek to know God beyond the scope of our limited understanding of him."
"Sacred Encounters from Rome to Jerusalem is an authentic and breezy, yet poignant, voyage in and toward a more dynamic faith in God captured during Tamara Park's real-life travels to the Holy City from Rome. Between the two famous cities, we follow Tamara and her companions through questions, doubts, hopes and spiritual insights, while they gather the spiritual revelations of an interesting assortment of people from diverse cultures, backgrounds and perspectives along the way. Take this provocative and entertaining journey with Tamara to encounter God and his greatness more deeply, just as she did."
"It's tricky to pull off a book about one's own spiritual pilgrimage that will also be enticing and applicable to others, but Tamara Park has done just that. At turns poignant and hilarious, her fantastic writing carries us, her readers, along on her journey. Sacred Encounters from Rome to Jerusalem is both a page-turner and a soul-stirrer."
"An innovative project leads the author on a journey across ancient roads in search of common beliefs about God as expressed by Jews, Christians and Muslims from Rome to Jerusalem."
"Sacred Encounters offers a valuable insight into the spiritual life and lessons of a single female pastor. Its biographical and historical material offer educational value, and its narrative--which includes travel mishaps and the promise of romance--keeps the reader engaged."
"The idea of a religious pilgrim might bring about an image of a religious zealot, but Tamara Park and her two traveling companions definitely do not fit that stereotype. Park searches out benches where she asks people to describe God. The answers, some simple and some complex, lead her on an intriguing literal and spiritual journey."
"It's a highlight of the book to read about Park's experience in Antioch, Turkey, where Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians pray together and try as best they can to live as one church, modeling themselves on the early Christian communities that had their start in this ancient city. Sacred Encounters does a good job of evoking how travel can broaden your horizons, especially when you are young and free to wander."
"Sacred Encounters will appeal to those who love travel, want new perspectives on God, or perhaps secretly dream of striking out on a personal pilgrimage."
"The stories people shared spontaneously [are compelling], including those from troubled places like the Balkans which were still reeling from the conflicts of the 1990s."
Introduction: Jerusalem, Israel
1. Charlotte, North Carolina (U.S.A.)
2. Rome, Italy
3. Florence, Italy
4. Assisi, Italy
5. Split, Croatia
6. Dubrovnik, Croatia
7. Medjugorje and Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
8. Sarajevo, Bosnia
9.. Belgrade, Serbia
10 Tirana, Albania
11. Ohrid, The Republic of Macedonia
12. Meteora and Delphi, Greece
13. Athens, Greece
14. Patmos, Greece
15. Ephesus, Turkey
16. Izmir/Smyrna, Turkey
17. Istanbul, Turkey
18. Cappadocia, Turkey
19. Antioch, Turkey
20. Aleppo, Syria
21. Damascus, Syria
22. Beirut, Lebanon
23. Amman, Jordan
24. Jerusalem, Israel
25. Jerusalem, Israel
Beyond the Holy City
Surplus of Grace
Another Sacred Bench
Notes and Photo Captions