The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

Whelmed in the city of compassion

by Heidi Shott
Canon for Communication and Advocacy

gadaraMany years ago a wise woman – named Esther – introduced the notion of “whelmed” to me. She posited that it was possible to be not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed, but simply whelmed – full to the brim.

Upon waking on this third morning in Amman, that’s exactly how I feel. Here at the invitation of the Jordan Tourism Board, our small band of Episcopalian religion writers and bloggers, along with a larger Ecumenical group, is touring historic and Biblical sites to gain a greater appreciation for “the other Holy Land.”

On our full first day in Jordan we traveled two hours north of Amman to the ruins of the ancient (really ancient) trading city of Gadara in present day Umm Qais. How strange to follow signs to the Syrian border. How could we possibly be just a few hours’ drive away from the horror and devastation of Aleppo when the previous evening we were gathered in the departure gate at JFK?

stoneFrom its perch high in the hills, we could look out to the northwest into Israel to see Lake Tiberius, or the Sea of Galilee. Due north, the seemingly barren slopes territory of the Golan Heights rose across the far side of the Jordan River. To the northeast, we gazed into the vast plateau of southern Syria. Also within view was the hillside where three Gospel writers recount the account of Jesus casting out demons from an afflicted man into a herd of pigs. Surrounding us were the ruins, in various state of restoration, of traces of a vast Greek and later Roman trading city. Walking the Roman road, surrounded by Greek columns and a group of stone carvers working in the shade of a small grove of trees, it was impossible not to be moved by thought of the thousands of people who had trod this path before us, including, perhaps, Jesus.


Raed, our guide, stands on the later Roman expansion (106 AD) of the Forum at Jerash. In front of him are the original Greek pavers dating from 500 BC.

Returning south toward Amman, we paid a visit to the city of Jerash, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the most extensively preserved Roman cities. Again, the wonder of the ingenuity of the ancient builders and engineers and the thousands of years of human history that has unfolded in that very spot fills one’s heart and mind to bursting.

Back in Amman our we Episcopalians stopped for a 5 p.m. English service at the International Anglican Church of the Redeemer. There a kindly Australian priest and his warm congregation mixed with Jordanians and ex-pats welcomed hymnus. I confess that, during the sermon, I found it impossible to resist leafing through Book of Common Prayer in Arabic. It is a fine thing, when your heart and mind are whelmed, to allow the familiar language of the prayerbook and the fine company of dear people, to wash over your soul.

Much more to come. Stay-tuned.

Our group album from Day 2 

Visit my companions’ blogs as well.

Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer for The Episcopal Church at Neva’s Notes.

The Rev. Tim Schenck, Rector of St. John the Evangelist and Creator of Lent Madness, at Clergy Confidential.

Hannah Wilder, Director of Communications for the Diocese of San Diego, here.

The Rev. Rosalind Hughes, Rector of Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, and News Blogger for Episcopal Cafe at Over the Water.

Our group album from Day 1.


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