2019 Religious Travel Planning Guide

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Expanding Horizons With Overseas Travel

One of the biggest events on the 2020 world travel calendar is happening in Germany, and many church groups are making plans to be part of it.

I’m talking about a spectacle that occurs only once a decade—the Oberammergau Passion Play. The story of Christ’s last days on earth, to be re-enacted 103 times between May and October next year, will enthrall the faithful from around the world, both Protestants and Catholics. The epic drama has been performed every 10 years, with a just few exceptions, since 1634.

Religious Travel Planning Guide has put together a whitepaper on the Passion Play, a project I was proud to have a small role in. It not only explains the logistics of traveling to the Bavarian town of Oberammergau and booking seats for the play but gives some ready-to-go European itineraries designed by major tour operators that have secured tickets for the play. And you’ll get a real feel for the event from someone who has been there—travel writer Don Heimburger, an expert on the German-speaking world who contributed to many sections of the whitepaper. For details on the guide, see page 22 and learn how you can download a free copy.

If you’ve never been to Oberammergau, it’s the perfect Alpine town, a fairy-tale hamlet surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Happily, it is within easy driving distance of other popular German tourist destinations. Your group’s Oberammergau visit in 2020 can be combined with not only places in Germany but with other countries in Central Europe, like Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, even Italy.

The Cappadocia region of Turkey, also featured in these pages, draws travelers looking to tap into the roots of early Christianity. A treasure chest of religious heritage is found in the cave churches sprinkled throughout this part of central Turkey, a land of bizarre rock formations where Christians sought refuge during Roman rule and continued to build communities centuries after. As my son and I toured the area—scrambling up rocky paths, burrowing through tunnels and admiring remnants of frescos in dimly lit church interiors—we not only communed with the past but got real tastes of Turkish hospitality wherever we went. In the town of Urgup, one family we met in a park invited us into their nearby home, where they served us thick Turkish coffee in little cups and then showed us their cellar, garden and rooftop strung with clotheslines.

For other ideas on foreign travel with your church group, check out “Religious Retreats in England” (p. 18). Or consider combining a cruise with volunteer opportunities incorporated into shore excursions in the Caribbean and Central America (“Cruising with a Mission,” p. 10).

Focusing on places closer to home, author Lori Erickson suggests invigorating and mind-expanding camp experiences from West Virginia to Washington State in “Faith, Fellowship and S’mores” (p. 13).

We hope this ninth annual edition of Religious Travel Planning Guide, along with our online resources, will inspire you to create meaningful travel programs for your community of faith.

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