Designed by architect Frank Montana, Tantur opened in 1972.

Designed by architect Frank Montana, the Tantur Ecumenical Institute opened in 1972.

The Tantur Ecumenical Institute is on a rocky hillside about four miles from the Old City of Jerusalem.  I know because I walked there along the Hebron Road.  It took 68 minutes. Situated on about 40 acres, the property of Tantur is owned by the Vatican and leased to the University of Notre Dame, which supervises its programs.  I am one of 17 participants in a three month program that includes field trips to various sites in the Holy Land, lectures on the Bible, Israeli history and culture, and encounters with the religions of the Holy Land.

The Tantur participants gather in the dining room for grace before the meal.

The Tantur participants gather in the dining room for grace before the meal.

The other members of my group form a lively bunch. The dominant language is English. We come from the USA, Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico and Kenya. Participants include 4 religious (three nuns and a religious brother), 3 priests ordained for the Church of England, 8 Roman Catholic priests, and 2 Catholic laymen.  The staff at Tantur, mostly Christian Palestinians, speaks Arabic. The Rector of Tantur, Father Russ McDougal, is a Priest of the Holy Cross.  Jeff VonWald, the program director, is ordained in the United Church of Christ.

The entrance is flanked by trees.

The approach to Tantur is flanked by trees.

At 5:30 we gather for evening prayer, and each of us is responsible periodically to lead it.  We can quickly tell who the strong singers are.  When I was the leader I surprised the group by playing the melody to “O God of Morning and of Night” on the trumpet. The chapel has a high ceiling and musical sounds reverberate.  I only played the melody once, and so I don’t think I overdid it.  But in such a space, a little trumpet goes a long way.  During my stay I experienced different liturgies and enjoyed many lectures and excursions .