THE Archdeacon of Blackburn led a pilgrimage of Lancashire parishioners to the Holy Land, where they found a ‘kneeler’ prayer cushion from a Rossendale church in Jerusalem’s St George’s Cathedral.

Mark Ireland was accompanied by his wife Gill and 17 worshippers from across the county including some from Hoddlesden, Samlesbury, Blackburn and Hoghton.

The party visited key Christian sites including The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The Venerable Rev Ireland and his companions were stunned to find a kneeler, or prayer cushion, from St Thomas’s Church in Musbury, Helmshore.

It was placed in the front row of the nave in St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, where kneelers from all around the world can be found.

The pilgrims, 36 in total, including Church of England members from elsewhere in the country, also visited the West Bank and Jordan as well as Israel.

The Ven Ireland said: “It was an unforgettable journey.

“The experience was a whirlwind of sights and sounds.

“At times we joined vast crowds at some of the sights, such as The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

“At other times, we were able to get away from the crowds, sharing a very moving eucharist together in the desert and visiting one of the few remaining working Palestinian monasteries in the Jordan valley.

“I was keen to bring the Bible alive for the pilgrims.

“It was not all ancient stones and sites.

“In Salt in Jordan we visited an amazing Anglican-run boarding school for deaf and deaf-blind pupils.

“In Bethlehem we met Johnny Shawan, a Palestinian who was converted to Christianity after he emigrated to Canada,

“Meanwhile, in Jordan and the West Bank as well as in Israel, we gained an insight into the complex political realities and challenges of the region.”

Among the pilgrims from Lancashire were Judith Bennett, from Read and Simonstone; Kenneth Winterburn, from Feniscowles; John and Patricia Massey, from Baxenden; Mike and Gill Chew, from Hoddlesden; Paul and Pam Daunton, from Samlesbury and John and Judith Pearson, from Feniscowles.

The Ven Ireland said: “Each of us on the pilgrimage has been changed by this opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.”