Clanton First United Methodist Church Associate Pastor Brian Dovey above Mount Scopus in Jerusalem

By Drew Granthum

One of the remarkable things about the holiday season is that it allows people to take a step back from everyday life and put things in perspective.

The daily grind of a job, bills and the general callousness that comes from constant 9-to-5 work can be put down during the break, and the things that should matter, like family, friends and faith can be re-evaluated.

For local pastor Brian Dovey, this Christmas will be different from ones in the past. No, he doesn’t plan on changing any traditions; he won’t be doing anything out of the ordinary or drastic.

Instead, how he views the holiday will take on a different meaning because he will have seen several places talked about in the original Christmas story.

Dovey, who spent 26 years in the U.S. Navy, recently returned from a trip to the Holy Land with his wife and a group of friends from San Diego. As a result, he said his faith has taken on a new outlook.

“Since becoming a Christian, [going to the Holy Land] has been a dream of mine,” he said. “To walk in places that Jesus walked. I hoped it would give me deeper insight — to see things and put them in perspective.”

Dovey’s experiences included seeing the Mount of Beatitudes and taking part in Communion at the Garden Tomb. He said that while most people have preconceived notions about what things look like in Israel, they have to understand that as in any area, things change over time.

“They should understand, it’s not exactly like it was when Jesus was there,” he said. “They have to realize Israel’s a modern country, it isn’t like [they’re thousands of years in the past].”

In addition to strengthening his faith, Dovey said he believes the trip assists his work as associate pastor at Clanton First United Methodist.

“As a pastor, I feel it deepens my understanding of certain stories and parables,” he said. “When the Bible says ‘Jesus went up to Jerusalem,’ he literally went up the hill. There are some questions about exact locations of events [after all these years], but even so, it still helps.”

Of all the experiences he had in the Holy Land, Dovey said there was one that stuck out the most.

“For me, personally, it was baptizing my good friend in the Jordan River,” he said. “As long as I have my mind, I’ll never forget that.”