Pilgrims Together August 9th 2015
My friend Rev. Lynne McNaughton, with whom I’ve gone on four pilgrimages says that travel is a metaphor for our being. Since our spiritual ancestors Abraham and Sarah, people have journeyed in order to explore, deepen, and rekindle their faith.
Lynne was interviewed for the current UC Observer article ‘Pilgrims’ progress’ and says, …pilgrimages offer an opportunity to “experience the communion of saints” a connection to ancient peoples who have gone before. They are also great levelers since travelers leave behind their usual identity and status trappings and outfit themselves in a simple getup of hiking boots and back packs. And because pilgrimages can be arduous, they are often a “lived metaphor for physically enacting what is happening spiritually – there is something in walking that allows us to process and heal.” p. 16 UC Observer
The family reunion Jim and I attended last weekend had a pilgrimage moment with Sunday worship and a poignant reading that my aunt Vera wrote in 2003, reminding of our family tree with roots in Ireland, Scotland, England and France. By the next reunion in 2006 she was too ill to attend, and died that winter. While at Mackenzie Camp last month, I wrote a new song for the family reunion, played last Sunday night and made everybody cry. Not because the song was so bad, but because it pulled them back into such a tender connection with our ancestors.
Have you ever been on a journey that you would call a pilgrimage? What made it a pilgrimage? Are there pilgrimages you have taken physically or emotionally that brought to a different place of understanding, or a deeper connection to someone, some place, some era, some idea?
As commissioners gather for General Council in Corner Brook Nfld this week, they will be connecting to the past, and drawn into a new journey – and a way of traveling light.
Most people will fly to Newfoundland, but there is one group for whom the trip is definitely a pilgrimage – from one end of Canada to the other.
13 youth commissioners plus 2 young adult leaders are traveling together across the country. As they journey they are listening to the dreams and needs of young people, visiting sites and people that will help to inform them of issues coming before the General Council, and conferring about the recommendations of the Comprehensive Review Task Group. They are listening deeply and considering wisely as they engage with Spirit and the church.
Here’s their itinerary: July 4th-8th: Vancouver, July 8th-10th: Fort McMurray, July 11th-13th: Saskatoon, July 14th-16th: Winnipeg, July 18th-21st: Sudbury, July 21st-24th: Hamilton & London, July 25th-28th: Toronto, July 28th-29th: Kingston, July 30th-August 2nd: Montreal, August 3rd-5th: Miramichi, August 6th-15th: Corner Brook. Wow!
They have a Facebook page so I went there, and I want to share with you some of their journal entries.
July 18th Wiinnipeg was a blast. I learned so much from both the All Native Circle Conference and Manitoba Northwestern Ontario Conference. The pilgrims had the privilege of visiting the Sandy-Saulteaux center where we learned about the medicine wheel and made tobacco ties. Everyone agreed that the energy there was so peaceful, both calming and energizing. …. Our host taught us more about The United Church Half Way Houses. The second day in Winnipeg was spent visiting Welcome Place, learning about immigrants and refugees, before visiting the Human Rights museum. The museum was a highlight for many as we realized how fortunate we are to have all of our basic human rights met, when so many still don’t have that privilege. It was a humbling experience.
Winnipeg was a challenging part of the trip for some as homesickness began to take its course. It’s been wonderful watching us become a family though. I saw it most evident in Winnipeg. We’re not quite at (and hopefully will never reach) the point where we start arguing like siblings, but we are a family. We watch out for one another, check in with each other, and love each other so dearly. Knowing that I have a family here on the road makes the feelings of homesick a little easier to manage. -Katelyn
August 4th (written by Maia from Kamloops UC)
It’s funny how we always seem to have a notion of where we’re going but don’t even realize it until much later. Like foreshadowing our own lives. (Maia posted a water colour she painted, with mountains and the words “where do you want to start”)
This is an old and mildly prophetic painting. Done way back in December, before I was even thinking about winter gathering never mind the pilgrimage, I had a vague sense of needing to find an adventure. I had no idea where to go or even where to start from, but I knew that I wanted to go somewhere and do something that mattered. I love the church for being my starting point. -Maia
Written on August 5th
I have spent a while trying to put this insane journey of ours, into words …After spending over a month with the same people, I cannot help but become attached to them. As we drive to Moncton to board the plane to Newfoundland, I’m the happiest I’ve been in awhile. I’ve discovered a lot about myself on this journey. From conquering my fear of the unknown to accepting myself, my whole self and all that I am. This group of people have made me love myself, something I haven’t been able to do for a long time. Travelling from coast to coast has been spectacular. From the scenic view of the Pacific Ocean in BC, to the colourful fields in the prairies, to the busy days of Ontario life and the French culture of Montreal and of course, the hospitality of the Miramichi. The love that we experienced in each conference has been overwhelming in the best way possible. To all the pilgrim partners we have met along the way, thank you so much, your support has been absolutely amazing. And as I sit here in Moncton airport, I can’t help but think about the amazing people we have met along the way. I have never been more proud of our province and all that it entails.
August 5th – It’s a very bittersweet feeling we have in our hearts today. Leaving Miramichi marks the ending of our pilgrimage and the beginning of General Council. As excited as we are to meet all the other youth that are attending we can’t help but feel sad that our Journey is coming to a close.
These past 5 weeks have been filled with so many happy memories and amazing people, if it wasn’t for all of the people that took time off of work to come and support Us and drive us places this Journey never would have happened. To all of those people, thank you so much. To all the people who came out to see us just because they wanted to talk to us and hear about the trip, thank you for making it memorable. …
Everyone says how as we travel and meet with people that we brighten their days and teach them all these new things, but in reality they were the ones that were teaching us. We wouldn’t be as knowledgeable and helpful as we are now without all the other people that have joined us at separate times during our travels.
We have loved all of you and I can definitely say that you have all touched our hearts in many different ways’
So thank you again for loving us and showing us why we are a part of the United Church of Canada. ~Alex
What for me is exciting and precious about these reflections is that these are young people in the UC of Canada between 15- 25 years old. They are showing leadership, they are asking questions, they are living their faith, and they are helping to shape who we become as a national church.
Remember the first Christians in the book of Acts 9:2 are called “People of the Way” to reflect not only their belief in Christ, as the Way, Truth and Life, but also that they perceived their faith as a `journey’ with Christ.
So I ask that we hold the commissioners and guests of General Council in our prayers this week, as they seek direction – following the one who had no place to rest his head; learning how to help us be a church that travels lighter, risking perhaps feeling a bit disconnected from the wider body, but affirming each small group of worshipers – be it in a congregation such as ours, a mission outreach such as First United in Vancouver, an on-line group that meets together via Conference calls or webinars. May we have a pilgrim heart to leave some of the comforts of home, to travel light, lean more deeply into the love of God, and the fellowship of one another. Amen.