Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmastide Pilgrimage

In the book The Psalter of the Liturgy of the Hours, in the Christmas evening prayer, the Intercession prayer ends with "You came to earth to lead everyone into the kingdom, share your life of glory with those who have died," there it was: the words that remind us that Jesus came to lead us on a pilgrimage into the kingdom, which was and is and will be part of his very essence of who he is. As one theologian I recently read reminded me, God had one foot in that kingdom, and one foot implanted on earth, in the person of Jesus. Christmastide is a celebration of this truth.

"Once in David's royal city," a pattern for how we are to live was set for us on our pilgrimage.

Emmanuel is with us!

Bien camino,

Pilgrim peace,


Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve...

The stores are closing around this part of North Carolina.  Blinking colored lights outline bushes and trees and houses are coming on as the night ushers us into the incredibly brilliant mystery that God deigned to be born among us in the helpless human form of a baby.  Knowing us better than we know ourselves, God knew that we would need something "out of the box" to shake us out of our death-walk into an early disaster.  Jesus--being both God and human--does exactly that: shakes all of creation anew as what Origen called the "auto-basilia" nature of Jesus: the kingdom of God embodied in human form.

The prayer "O Come, Emmanuel!" has found a head-turning response in the form of the Christ-child.

Silent night tonight...

Bien camino, dear Christ-child!

Pilgrim peace, Brett


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Doorways and Horizons on the Pilgrimage of Life

In the last few weeks, I've had a great time seeing the art work by friends.  Their beautiful paintings remind me that I am honored to be among such gifted friends.

Julia Kennedy--whose work is contemporary, with a fantastic collection of colored squares and striking gashes and lines that break the color--had an art show at her house during the Chatham County (NC) Studio Tour.  Julia had one painting that caught my attention: an orange door that reminded me of so many doors in northern New Mexico and northern Spain.  A pilgrimage is always in need of a doorway or portal of time through which we enter into and leave through. With a door, there is always the question of what is going on in life on the other side of the door, or what are we leaving and what are we soon to embrace?

Amanda Millay Hughes also had an art show with her partner Kirsten, in which she had a beautiful set of three water colors showing the vast horizon of marsh land, reminiscent of the marshy areas of North Carolina's eastern coast line.  For pilgrims, horizons just beg the question: "What is on the other side of the horizon line?"

Along with artist friends like Eduardo Lapetina and Shannon Bueker (whose work I will comment upon in upcoming blogs), artists, poets, musicians, liturgists, writers, photographers, playwrights, graphic artists, architects--all artists--have a way of capturing aspects of pilgrimage that some times words fail to capture.  Thanks for the gift of art in the body of Christ.

Bien camino,

Pilgrim peace, Brett 

Connecting Pilgrimage Among World Religions

As I was zooming around various websites tonight, I happened to come upon this interesting article from by Perry Garfinkel (Click this Link). Perry hits upon the inter-religious aspect of pilgrimage, connecting pilgrimage with a trip home during the holidays, to Buddha's pilgrimage on the side of the road:

Pilgrimage is the time-honored journey to places sacred.  Of course, the earnest pilgrim who wisely follows his or her intuitive spiritual compass always arrives at the most sacred of places:one's self.  The ultimate pilgrimage, for those willing to leave their personal baggage behind as they travel, is a rite of passage as much as a passage through time and space.

Pilgrimages take many form and many faces.  Going home for the holidays is a pilgrimage.   Thoreau took a pilgrimage by the side of a pond.  The Buddha took a pilgrimage by the side of a tree and journeyed into the back recesses of his mind, where he came upon a path that leads to happiness.
On the one hand, pilgrimage seems universal and eternal, because pilgrimage is a practice shared among world religions. After all, every world religion shares the truths that we are all human, and that we are all share this one earth. On the other hand, pilgrimage is particular, because the genesis, journey, and destination shape the pilgrim and the pilgrimage uniquely.  Thus, a Christian pilgrimage, shaped in the tradition of the Catholic church is different than a Buddhist pilgrimage in another part of the world.  

Right now, we, in the Christian church, are on a pilgrimage of Christmastide, as we sing on this fourth Sunday of Advent, "Come, thou long expected Jesus, born a child and yet a king!"

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace, 

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Advent of the Pilgrim God

The late Brother Roger of France's ecumenical monastic community, Taize, wrote that Jesus is the "Pilgrim God" who walks with us on our earthly pilgrimage. For example, Br. Roger reminds us that Jesus was literally on a pilgrimage from the day of his birth, soon taken by his parents on a pilgrimage to Egypt to avoid the slaughtering of the innocent children out of Herod's wrathful vengeance and lust for power. In his ministry upon this earth, Jesus of Nazareth was a walker--to say the least. While there were times that he rode in boats upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee, along with times of rest and teaching when he found his improvisational classroom in the middle of a meadow or in some one's house (and now and then in a synagogue), he was always portrayed by all the Gospel writers as moving by foot, even instructing his disciples to go out and proclaim the Good News with very little in the way of earthly cares. And it was Jesus who was the devout Jew, honoring Passover in his final week of earthly life, an echo of the very pilgrimage that was lived out by the people of God in the Sinai desert.

"Lord, be the companion of our journey," is a simple refrain echoed in a certain litany I learned among the brothers I walked with to Chimayo, NM in 1999. In this season of Advent, on the eve of the celebration of twelve days of Christmas, I look forward to honoring the birth of the Pilgrim God who walked--and continues to walk--upon this earth, this very day.

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace,


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Pilgrimage of Advent: A Season of Hope

Growing up as a "cradle Christian," I always heard about Advent being a pilgrimage of sorts as we move through the four seasons of the Church year.  In seminary as a student, as well as a professor, I learned, and adhered to the idea of honoring the season with a true celebration of the sense of "coming" of the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Christ.  Yet the malls and stores of America, along with radio stations, television shows, and movies have already "decked the halls" and announced it is Christmas, starting in October.  In terms of pilgrimage, it is like getting to the destination before we did the work that was needed to truly enjoy the festivities and heraldry of the Christ's birth.  Even the pastor at my home church acknowledged such as he welcomed a pageant of Christmas on the third Sunday of Advent yesterday.

In this season of Advent, with themes of joy, hope, peace, and love, I also have done what all non-profit organizations do in this season: send out last minute appeals for funds for the School of the Pilgrim.  It is a season of hope as we embrace 2008 as truly the year of more firmly establishing the School of the Pilgrim.  Plans are afoot for moving into our new office at 309 W. Weaver St., Ste. 200, Carrboro, NC 27510, along with planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, September 23-Oct. 3, 2008.  Please consider a tax deductible donation to the School of the Pilgrim in this last month of 2007!

Also on the horizon: I'm writing a personal essay, "A Pilgrimage of Coming Out" for The Rambler Magazine, tracing the pathway of October's pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela with my coming "out," officially, that is...

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace,

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Quaker Pilgrimage

Last Saturday, I had an opportunity to lead and go on pilgrimage with a group of young high school students and leaders from Carolina Friends School, located near Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  The group was meeting at an week-end long lock-in, where some of the youth could go to one of three groups: a group on being a conscientious objector; a group practicing yoga; and a group on spiritual pilgrimage.

When we all gathered together, the first discussion we had was on the practice of making and carrying a cross.  While other groups--primarily Christian--that I have led have had no problems with the symbol of the cross, that was not the same with this group.  We had a fascinating discussion on the meaning of the cross, especially since some of the youth and leaders were either agnostic or atheists, or that the meaning of the cross had become a violent symbol of hate, used against groups because of their sexual orientation or the color of their skin.  And there was discussion of the roots of Quakerism, and the movement within and among Friends groups who are looking at the roots of Quakerism, such as the biblical charge to "let our light shine" and not be hidden under a bushel.  It was decided by the group that we would not use the cross.

We met at the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting buildings, near the cemetery on the grounds of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  Buried in this cemetery are the bodies of many Carolina alumni/ae, including Charles Kuralt of CBS-TV fame.  This would be our geographical grounds for our pilgrimage.  After the large cemetery markers (literally small houses) in Spain that we walked among on the way to Santiago de Compestela, our cemeteries seem so small and quaint.  Among the tombstones we walked as we ventured toward a gazebo in the middle of the cemetery.  Many of the litany of prayers I usually use on pilgrimage we changed to reflect the theology and philosophy of the group: thus, the trinitarian language of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" or "Creator, Christ, and Sustainer," was replaced by "We behold the light within them" and "We hold them up to the light."

By the end of our pilgrimage, as we reflected upon the pilgrimage, we were all amazed and in awe of the great discussion and consensus model of decision making we participated in, and were all thankful for the time to see, even with this new group of pilgrims that are not as Christo-centric or theo-centric, the way we live life as pilgrims amid so many different traditions.

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim Peace, 


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Personal Training, French Lessons, and Teaching Pilgrimage

In the past few weeks I have had the honor and privilege of being trained personally in the weight room of our local YMCA. Noriko, a friend, has taken the basic weight lifting circuit and "bumped it up" a level or two. She has shown me how to engage the muscles I said I wanted to focus on by showing me through example and telling me what I should be doing, while praising me when I do the exercise correctly. For example, while I have prided myself in having a good pair of legs, she showed me new exercises and ways of working muscles I never knew I had. Of course, as a result of the day we worked on my legs, they were jelly for the rest of the day.

What I re-learned from Noriko is a lesson I am constantly re-learning with pilgrimage: it only works by taking people by the hand and showing and telling them, in the very context in which you want them to learn about an art or practice, what is behind the art and act of working-out...and pilgrimage.

Then yesterday, while strolling through the new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism, wandering among the works of beautiful art by Monet, Courbet, Renoir, and Childe Hassan, that I almost bumped into three women who were speaking, er, French! By that, I mean two of the women were learning to speak in conversational French by a personal trainer-of-sorts, who was teaching these two women French in front of a French impressionist painting! In other words, as Noriko was teaching me the finer arts of lifting weights in the context of the weight room, the French tutor was teaching French in a very French context, viewing French art!

I proposed, in depth and great detail, the art and act of teaching the gestures of pilgrimage in the context of life's pilgrimage in both CHRISTLY GESTURES (Eerdmans, 2003), and SCHOOL OF THE PILGRIM (W/JKP, 2007). I was reminded of Henry Carse taking Dean and me up to a bluff overlooking the Sinai desert, and asking us, "What is a miracle?" as we looked out over the miracle of God's creation. Our discussion of what is a miracle took place in a land in which the tracts of pilgrimage, including the pathway of Moses and the people of Israel, along with countless Egyptian people, have traipsed. We talked about the miracle of the mountains dancing as more than metaphor but as reality, describing the way mountains shake, rattle, and roll during and after an if they are dancing.

But it was in the midst of the Sinai, taking us by the hand, that Henry taught us a new way of understanding miracle...much like Noriko taught me a new way of understanding my physical exercises, by taking me by the hand and showing me a new way, and the French teacher taught her students the art of speaking conversational French!

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace,


Friday, November 9, 2007

The School of the Pilgrimage at LaGrange College

I had a fantastic time with the students of LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia yesterday! Thanks to Alvin Lingenfelter, a former student-now colleague in ministry and pilgrimage, who set this pilgrimage experience together.

I began with talking to a large group of students, reading from the book FOLLOW ME! I've begun adding stories of my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela in Spain, telling the story of the large incense burner, the botafumeiro, wafting over the crowd of pilgrims seated along the transept, leaving the scent of Jesus on our skin, while protecting the noses of the clergy who had to smell the pilgrims close at hand. I still marvel at the large pendulum swing of the metal beast, gliding through the air with the greatest of ease as it is hoisted by four young men.

This was followed by the true joy of talking with a class of students who had actually read portions of the book SCHOOL OF THE PILGRIM in their Christian education class. It was great to show the power point images that inspired the writing of that book.

I came out of my time with the good people of LaGrange convinced, all the more, of the power of the ideas found in the multivalent practice of pilgrimage!

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace,


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Marathon as Pilgrimage

The rising sun lit up the back of the few clouds in the sky, casting a brilliantly illuminated orange-pink tinge around the lining of the dark morning clouds. The morning temperature (in the 40s, Fahrenheit-wise), felt brisk against my face as I walked outside, and the crowds were spilling out of the Washington, D.C. Pentagon Metro, where my friend Shawn and I found ourselves gawking at the mass of people joining us on but the latest pilgrimage-like trek. We were just two of the 22,000 runners who were going to chase our dreams of finishing the 32nd Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) this past weekend (Oct. 28, 2007). Shawn had dreams of actually doing quite well in the MCM, having figured out what possible times he could possibly finish each mile throughout the entire race, while I had the singular vision of simply finishing the marathon...just like simply finishing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela in Spain earlier in the month. While this was Shawn's second marathon, this was my third marathon, and from the previous experience I knew that there would be a wonderful mixture of running with so many people, sensing how well my body does in running such a long distance, prepared to push myself through any sense of hesitation when I ask myself, "What are you doing this for?" (usually mile 13), but always followed-up by an overwhelming sense of a "job well done" at the end of the race. While the blisters from this month's pilgrimage had almost healed totally, there was still a twinge of pain in my left hip when running, a reminder of what happened as I carried my back-pack while treading lightly on my left blistered and bruised heel.

Watching Shawn slip effortlessly into his stride within the first mile--a stride that was far faster than my stride--I was agog at the sheer size of the crowd of us runners, thousands of people beating the sidewalk pavement and road tarmac of the Washington, D.C. area's thoroughfare. The undulating crowd of onlookers was large and intoxicating, cheering everyone on the race, ringing cowbells, and holding up signs for various teams who were running together. There were teams of folks supporting autism research; running for a friend who had died in Iraq; running for the Fisher House, where many vets stay while going through rehabilitation. There were twenty or thirty Marines and volunteers passing out Gatorade and water every few miles, with other stations passing out oranges and gel packs. Now and then I would run by a Halloween reveler, with one young man dressed as one of the young women from the musical "Hairspray!", blue hair and 1960s poodle skirt.

Like the pilgrimages I've taken earlier in life, I found my stride, and stuck to it. After being jostled in very narrow passageways in some parts of the race, I stuck to my running stride. I also struck up a conversation with a new friend, Rick, from nearby Saxapahaw, North Carolina (48 years old and doing his third marathon)...just like a pilgrimage, it is the most wonderful experience when perfect strangers soon become old pals. Like the pilgrimage to Santiago, I watched with fascination as the shadow on the road's surface let me know what time it was, and which direction I was pointed throughout the race. And like the pilgrimages I've been on before, I felt the presence of God carefully, tenderly protecting me each step of the way.

My running time? Oh, well, a little bit over 5 hours. But I hit no wall, felt emotionally and physically great afterwards, just a tightness in the right upper thigh that was soon gone after walking around the fantastic William Turner exhibit at the National Gallery with friends Matt and Laura that very same afternoon. Maybe it was because of the runner's high that some people get after a race. As for Shawn, he did amazingly well, as he had really trained well for this race, and was looking forward to it. He too felt that runners' high.

The very concept of the marathon is an allusion to the ancient Greek Pheidippides, who ran 26-mi. (42-km) from Marathon to Athens to carry news of the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 B.C. Perhaps that is where marathons and pilgrimages meet: we have important messages to tell...and live!

Until the next marathon, "Bien Camino!"

Pilgrim peace,

Friday, October 26, 2007

Living Liminally!

I believe it was the Turners who first coined the phrase "liminal time," in which they talked about being in a time between time, when we are betwixt and between. Liminal, coming from the Latin word limen, means "threshold." Being in a liminal time means we are disconnected from our usual anchors, and we are receptive in liminal time to eternal truths that otherwise would elude us. Many pilgrims, and scholars of pilgrimage, point to the time of pilgrimage as such a time in which we are on the threshold of something new while leaving something old behind.

For me, the month of October is a month of liminality! Without much fore-planning for what would be happening in my life, I decided in July 2007 to go on pilgrimage to Santiago, wanting to finish the "trifecta" of Medieval European pilgrimages: Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compestela! I did not know at that time that I would also be moving out of the position as interim pastor of Ernest Myatt Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, and making way to be and live the School of the Pilgrim full-time...but that is exactly what happened! As one friend reminds me often, "Sometimes God does for us what we ourselves cannot do." Call this "God's timing!"

The month of October began with an extraordinarily powerful pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela! I was reminded of the physicality of pilgrimage with blisters on both heels and three toes, carrying a 20 lb. back pack up and down hill. I remembered the connection of the pilgrim to the land, in awe of the misty mornings that would only allow a streak of Monet pink in the early morning horizon. I was thrust into the Medieval pilgrimage rituals as I watched the large incense burner, the botafumeiro, swinging across the transept of the Cathedral of St. James.

And in the middle of the month, I celebrated with great joy the work of God and God's people in a Presbyterian congregation called "Ernest Myatt Presbyterian Church." Though we have no saints in the Church per se, or name our churches after saints, the saints are spread liberally among the congregation of that Church. By November 1st, I will no longer be interim pastor at that church.

The month concludes with one more reminder of the liminal state of pilgrimage and pilgrim-life: I am running my third marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, D.C., on October 28th. The blisters have healed well on my heels, and new toe nails have conveniently replaced the old black and blue nails. Marathons are pilgrimages of a different sort, because there is no back pack (physical), but an opportunity to run (or trot) and remember and muse upon what the Spirit is doing in our world today among the pilgrims who follow the Pilgrim God.

All in all, living the pilgrim life is to live life liminally...forever more!

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Shadow Knows

While running 13 miles today, in preparation for next week's, um, "pilgrimage"--the Marine Corps Marathon (Oct. 28, 2007), I noticed my shadow. Instantly, I was reminded of the importance of shadows when I was on the pilgrimage, the camino, to Santiago. Jackie and I knew what time it was--or thereabouts--by the position of our shadows. Walking east to west, the sun moving from our south, we would simply look at the position of the shadow, and guess within an hour where we were in human time's hands.

The lessons of pilgrimage are plentiful, right where we live!

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace,


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wonder and Healing

Sue, one of my new Kiwi (New Zealander) friends, told me on the last day we were together in Santiago de Compestela, that I would use all that I learned and re-learned on pilgrimage as I came back into the business of daily life in North Carolina.

She was correct...of course.

The signs of being a pilgrim to Santiago are evident in many places of my life. For example, on the subway trip to the Madrid airport, a young Argentinian noticed my three pins stuck to a strap on my day pack: an arrow; the cross of St. James, and a scallop shell. "You're a pilgrim to Santiago, yes?" he inquired. "Si!" I said excitedly. In part-English, part-Spanish, we conversed about the pilgrimage, in which the young man he would rather ride the pilgrimage on bicycle rather than walk. I smiled, still feeling a tinge of "sensation" from my healing blisters.

I returned from the pilgrimage to preach and lead the church's Session meeting on Sunday; present the School of the Pilgrim to Waldensians on Monday; visit with church members on Tuesday; and run errands all over town (Chapel Hill and Carrboro) on Wed. What kept my grounded were the words, "One step at a time, one day at a time," which pilgrims use a lot, as do many others in our world. I was able to simply step into the next task, the next place, and do what I was expected to do.

This held true on pilgrimage as well: I learned to move one step at a time, without worrying (as much) as to what would happen in the next few miles down the road. This allowed me to enjoy the beauty of northern Spain, which is incredibly say the least.

Pilgrim lessons abound!

Pilgrim peace,


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back Home in North Carolina

After a long day's journey from Madrid, leaving at 1 in the afternoon (Madrid time) and arriving in Raleigh-Durham airport near 8:00 P.M., I threw my back-pack in the back of the car (not a train or on my back), and knew that I was no longer on the Camino de Santiago. Yet I was still on pilgrimage! Over dinner, I regaled Dean with stories of my pilgrimage after he simply said, "So, what was the event on the pilgrimage that left the deepest impression?" After I replied that there wasn't one moment, but many small and significant moments, I couldn't stop talking. The same happened when my son Parker asked the same question.

The pilgrimage lives on in my memory...a memory of mind, body, and spirit, individually and collectively, with all those I have been pilgrim with over the last few weeks, months, and years.

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Friday, October 12, 2007

Made it to Madrid!

The last night in Santiago turned quickly into morning! A group of pilgrims hunted for a place to have coffee and some food for breakfast, which was a challenge since everything was closed because of the national holiday. In between two small shops was a small cafeteria near the Cathedral. We snuck in, a group of four, and had one last good meal together.

Morning soon led to one more Mass at the Cathedral. The larger-than-life incense burner was swung again, because it is a national holiday! I smelled of incense all day...could have been worse, since I also need a shower.

I got on the Madrid train from Santiago at 1:30, with two other pilgrims, Tracey and Laurie. We had a great time talking about the pilgrimage to Santiago, and its effect upon our lives. Many of us will now begin the work of actively remembering the act of being pilgrims of Santiago!

Made it to the hotel by 11:30, and I´m ready to grab a quick bite, and then head on to bed after soaking feet a little bit.

Tomorrow: North Carolina!

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Night in Santiago!

After watching the large incense burner, or botafumeiro, swing over the transept length of the Cathedral of St. James, wafting incense over all of us ¨dirty pilgrims,¨ I went to the train station to book my passage to Madrid...only to find out it was a full train!

Plan B! I´ve learned on this pilgrimage that life is full of options, including Plans B, C, D, E, and keep the alphabet flowing! So Plan B miraculously showed up and unveiled itself. I went to the Museum of Pilgrimage, and my friends Jackie and her partner Allen said, ¨Don´t worry, we have a room for you, all paid for!¨ That was easy! So I went with the flow, went back to the train station, got my ticket for tomorrow at 1 in the afternoon, and went back to the Cathedral for a 6 in the evening walking tour of the Cathedral roof top!

It was breathtaking: we walked through the dining-reception area for the cardinals and royalty, followed by literally climbing to the roof top and looking up close at the towers and bells of the Cathedral. The bottom of the Cathedral is Romanesque; the middle is Gothic, and the top portion is sheer Baroque! We traipsed over the length of the nave, followed by the transept length. We noted the ram with the cross at the top: they used the ram for sacrifice in ancient, biblical times, and they would burn the clothes of the pilgrims in view of the stone ram, burning not only the past, but also burning the clothes that carried the plague! Of course, those who were selling clothes in the squares and plazas made a killing!

After that, a stop for coffee, and then de-bunking at the new place for the night, followed by a wonderful pilgrim dinner at Casa Manolo near the Plaza Cervantes!

Tomorrow, I leave for Madrid, and probably won´t be able to blog until I get back to the States on Sat. evening! Thank you, again, for the prayers and support!

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hotel of Kings!

This is the fun part of pilgrimage: the unexpected! I am writing this blog from the Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos! This is the oldest hotel int he world. Opened by Ferdinand and his Isabella in the 1500s for the sick pilgrims who would come into Santiago de Compestela, and run as a hospital (which is the root word for hotel) until the 1950s, in the 50s it was turned into a hotel. It claims to be the oldest, and longest running hotel in the world! While we (Sue, Jackie, and I, my Kiwi friends) had booked and moved into a room in a small pension with three beds, Jackie had always wanted to stay at this hotel. When she found out that there was a ¨pilgrim rate,¨ Jackie said, I´ll pay it! My treat! Sue and I were soon paying off the owner of the small pension, and we slept the night away in the grandest hotel of Spain! And it includes breakfast! Part of the pilgrim rate!

Yesterday we walked around the Cathedral, after having gone to 12 o´clock Mass. We will go today again to Mass, in which they use this huge incense burner, in Spanish known as a "botafumeiro," that they originally used to delouse the pilgrims while also making them smell sweet to the noses of the clergy at that time. It is used only 20 times a year. We also walked around to the various chapels of the Cathedral, seeing the reliquary of St. James, touching the columns and statues that we are supposed to touch. Outside the Cathedral, in the middle of the plaza, is a shell cemented to the floor of the plaza, in which you are supposed to say, I have arrived! Did that last night as well.

We had a disappointing last pilgrim meal, after bounteous amounts at small villages along the way. But we had sheets, no bunks, and not much snoring...well, I didn´t hear myself.

Today: cover the parts of Santiago we haven´t seen after a good breakfast, and then going to 12 noon mass, and hunt for gifts for home, and at 10 tonight, the night train to Madrid. Tomorrow, Friday, is a national holiday, so I´d rather be in Madrid, seeing parts of the city I´ve not seen, than Santiago. Then I fly out Sat. at 1!

Again: thanks for your prayers and support! The feet are healing, though I can´t wait to show the remains of the blisters!

Pilgrim peace, and Bien Camino!


Santiago de Compestela! Made it!

I´m actually here, and made it to Mass at 12 noon today! Thank you all for your prayers that made this trip possible.

Long story short: Jackie (NZ) and I were heading on the 20 km a day schedule from Palas de Rei to Ribadiso to Arca to Santiago. Ribadiso, the lovely little Albergue, had no internet, so I blogged the next day on the way through Arzua, and we kept hiking onward to Arca for the night. It was 20km a day, or thereabouts.

We kept walking and talking, passing people by, feeling in our stride while walking, and we passed through Arca before we knew it! Dilemma: We could either turn back and find a place, or keep walking. We kept walking...30 km in one day! The most ever! But then it was only 10 km to Santiago the next day.

With aching feet, tired backs, and hungry stomachs, we made it to Lavacolla, outside of Santiago. We found a hotel! It had a big bath, in which I nursed my aching feet! And we had a bed to ourselves, which was great! No bunk beds! And a nearby restaurant-cafe! We hit it big time!

After a restful night sleep, cafe con leche guzzled, I put on my Chacos sandals (no boots today) and we strode into Santiago by 12 noon!

There was a Mass at 12 noon! The sanctuary in incredible, with more gold and silver than I have seen in a long time. We are to be blest by a large incense burner tomorrow at Mass, which they used to use to de-louse the pilgrims, and change the odor of the day!

Three of us found a quaint pension for the night, and tomorrow I´m catching the night train to Madrid!

Again, thank you for prayers and peaceful thoughts! I offer your prayers to blessed Jesus, the Pilgrim God as well!

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ribadiso last night was fine

Sorry that this blog comes later than the rest. We hit Ribadiso, a lovely little Albergue by a running stream in one of the most picturesque settings we've come across so far on this pilgrimage. The inn is itself an award winning design, with rounded walls and large interior that houses up to 100 pilgrims. We chose to stay there after 27-28km walk, and we were ready to stop. It was the last night at a lovely, rural setting before we came to the close of the pilgrimage in the hustle and bustle of Santiago, and a group of us took the opportunity to rest our weary bones, dip our hot feet in cold water, and enjoy the quiet, natural, rustic beauty.

Yesterday´s pilgrimage was up and down, but we are slowly entering the count down to Santiago. Everyone is becoming nostalgic, suddenly seeing it all coming to an end. Tonight we will go to a city outside of Santiago, in which there will be a lot of reminiscing, I´m sure.

The day is sunny! Just had my caffe con leche, banana, toast, and all the blisters are bandaged. Can´t wait to go back to just walking in sandals!

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim blessing and peace, Brett

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Palais de Rei! Palace of Kings

28 KM today, and the walk was beautiful. The weather was the best ever: slightly overcast, with only a hint of sun at the end, perfect for walking.

The gift of pilgrimage, the el camino, came at the end of the evening, when the table included five Canadians--Mary Ellen, Dale, Peggy, and Al--plus a wonderful woman who read scripture earlier in the week from Canada, and the Kiwis--Jackie and Sue--and Lee from England. The conversation was alive around the table as we talked about Canada, the States, sex (all part of the camino, especially around certain farm animals on the way, OH MY), and the effects of being pilgrims for this time. There was never a lull in the conversation as each person wanted and had their say. Incredible that we all found 0urselves in a bond of friendship, heart to heart, soul to soul, that kept us all engaged. The miracle? We have only met each other throughout the pilgrimage.

Panic has set in as we realize there are three days left of this fantastic pilgrimage.

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Portomarin...More than half way there...

Today I crossed the proverbial ¨half way¨mark from Ponferrada to Santiago. Reached it around 12 noon here, and said a prayer, that the heels will have blisters healed, and all our prayer requests answered!

The scenery today was one small Spanish village after another. Rocky to walk, but beautiful to look at and behold. Cows, dogs, cats, chicken greet us around the corners, along with their ¨gifts¨of waste! What a smell!

We are all excited about reaching Santiago! Four more days. Those who began the trek earlier, in France especially, can´t believe it. They are starting to dance down the way, while I still trudge, though my step is quicker.

I am learning to live in the unexpected of life. The gifts of friendship, of hospitality, of great food and delicious coffee (et leche) continue to pop up unexpectedly, but just in the nick of time. Meeting people along the way and close bonding with them is also the unexpected gift. Some people in the villages are use to seeing our kind, while others smile and simply say ¨Bien Camino¨.

Off to a pilgrim meal: salad, trout, and flan, with as much red wine as you want for 8 euros ($1.40 is equal to a euro).

Bien camino!

Pilgrim blessing, Brett

Friday, October 5, 2007

Monastery at Samos

The day´s highlight was going to the Benedictine Monastery at Samos. It was a longer walk to Sarria, but well worth it. I was greeted by a Benedictine monk who gladly pronounced me not obltate but ¨oblato¨, smiled and hugged me, brother to brother...hermanos! Beautiful monastery and a very old community.

The blisters are better...thanks for the prayers. Walked in marvelous countryside with patchwork quilt farms on the hillsides. Loved looking at the beauty of northern Spain.

I am reminded that the body needs time to remember that it is on pilgrimage, and that I am being re-memeber, re-connected with God´s followers as pilgrims. The lessons of pilgrimage and Chrisitan daily life are flooding over me, e.g., remembering that life is one step at a time, and be where your feet are planted. I am expecting down hills around every corner after going up hill all the time, and only greeted with more uphill. But I smile, and trudge on, one step at a time.

To Portomarin tomorrow, and Santiago by Wednesday!

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The First Three Days Are Over

The first three days have drawn to a close, and I am into the pilgrimage. The first two were full of pain because of the blisters, and my body getting used to walking the distance and carrying a back pack that is heavier than what I usually carry in life. Having made the mountain top Cebriero, and getting a great pilgrim dinner (white and red wine), and talking to some new friends this morning after watching a night of great soccer with Real Madrid, I decided to walk the entire way.

Jackie is a co-sojourner from New Zealand. She and I walked down the mountain top of Cebriero, and recounted for me how her body had to get used to the walk, as did mine. How quick I forgot the first pilgrimage I was on, in which my body ached the first two or three days, and that it wasn´t until day three that all seemed to go better!

That would be the lesson: pilgrimage begins with the foot, but it begins with re-learning the steps of the pilgrim as if I have never been on pilgrimage before. The true spirit of pilgrimage, with mindbodyspirit working together, comes on day three. And it came today without fail.

I am spending the night in Tricastelos, and tomorrow Sarria. The town is quaint and beautiful. The morning began with a walk in the mist over mountain ranges, with the sun breaking through the mist and showing us the beauty of northern Spain. Villages and farms were the way through for pilgrims, and I stepped in the residue of the presence of lots of cows, meeting cows coming down the way, and being greeted with home made crepes by a farming wife. The weather has been glorious, showing us the green mountain side of Spain, with farm life well intact. The small chapels and walls reach back to the Roman and Moroccan influence, with walls built by Romans during their occupation of this land.

Feet are better. Spirits are better. It is fun watching those who began their journey at the head waters of the pilgrimage drawing close to Santiago...their excitement is palpable.

Bien Camino! Good way! Or Good Pilgrimage! This is the greeting throughout the days.

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim blessing, Brett

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Moving Onward to Sarria!

Change of plans on the pilgrimage. Last night I had a great evening with Bela from Budapest, who happened to share my room at the Alburgue (pilgrim inn). Bottoms of his feet are all blistered. After talking to him, and people knowledgeable about the el camino de Santiago, I´ve decided to take a bus today from Villa Franca to Sarria, which will get me within 100 km to Santiago. Why? Physically, I won´t be able to enjoy the camino AND be on pilgrimage. It is more up hill than I knew, and I think it is more important to spend time with people, seeing the sights, and enjoying Spain than barnstorming the el camino. If I kept up the pace I was at, it would be barnstorming Spain and not seeing the sights and talking to the people...and all the action is on the way when sitting for coffee, over dinner at night.

I met the couple of women who saved my feet, which are better today. I had a great conversation and walk with two women from France and the Netherlands, who happened to be at a small bodega on the side of the camino in the middle of an apple and fig orchard, with tomatoes as big as your fist being cut up, with fresh cheese slices. This is the camino! And the conversation between English, Spanish, French, and German at the bodega was great.

In order to be a true pilgrim of Santiago, or a ¨schnell pilger¨in German-fast pilgrim, you have to walk the last 100 km. That´s what I am doing!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pilgrimage Blisters

What a long and tiring day! I took the night train to Ponferrada, which deposited me at the train station in Ponferrada at 4 in the morning! I wrote in my journal, prayed the prayers of Benedict, and at 6 trudged up a long hill to the Albergue (the nicer of the pilgrimage inns). 50 people sleep in one room, in cots, and as I walked in, they were all coming down to fix breakfasts quickly in order to be out on the road. I watched with mouth wide open, taking in the commotion, finally asking around 8:30 if I could get my first stamp of my credential (you have to have the stamps and have walked 100KM to be a true pilgrim), and I was soon on my way.

My left heel had been bothering me with my walking shoes, so I had popped the blister in Madrid, and thought I´d taken care of it. On the train ride up to Ponferrada, the right heel also started to feel hot. By the time I finished a good stretch of the road, my left heel was bleeding through the mole skin, and they both hurt as I walked. I ducked into the Farmacia, got bandaids that were more adhesive, and put on Vaseline ointment...and my Chacos (sandals). That worked for a mile or two until the bandaids now kept slipping off. New friends gave me another protection, and they´ve held up better, though the strap in the back of the shoe brings it down over time.

The rest of the body is feeling fine! Spirit is good! Your prayers, friends and family, matter. So, um, pray for healing!

Finally: the weather is fine, the scenery beautiful (wine growing area and lots of little and old villages), and the camraderie is starting to happen. I am becoming one of ¨those pilgrims.¨

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Monday, October 1, 2007

Guernica and Spanish Pilgrimage

I spent today in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, which houses an impressive display of contemporary art, from Dali to Picasso, Miro to a wonderful new artist I had not known, Paula Rego. The highlight was seeing Picasso´s Guernica, capturing the horrors of war in graphic, black, white, and grey detail. I am reminded that this land of Spain is a land of pilgrimage, in which the people have seen great art and beauty in music, but have witnessed the horrors of war close up. It is a land of religious mysteries, and a land of iconic beauty. To see the religious art of the Prado, followed by the art capturing the wars and questions of this modern age shows how fascinating the people are who have lived here throughout the centuries.

I am also reminded that this is not only a very Catholic country, but Madrid is an incredibly metropolitan city, with a breadth of people from all countries. In attire, customs, and food, there is much to experience of the world.

I am off to Ponferrada tonight, catching the 10:10 P.M. train, arriving at 4 in the morning. Pilgrimage has begun!

Thank you for your prayers, friends!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Pilgrimage to Santiago Has Begun

It is late in night in Madrid, and I´ve had a wonderful first day in this busy city. I left North Carolina yesterday afternoon at 1:30 P.M., reaching Philadelphia, where I caught the next flight to Madrid. Ms. Patricia Cooper and I were ¨seat mates¨in our two seats on the side of the plane. Her reaction to my doing the pilgrimage to Santiago was ¨precious¨: ¨You´re going to do WHAT¨? I repeated that I was walking 120 miles across the northern part of Spain. She was in Spain, in her mid-70s, taking a tour of the cities of Spain! ¨Better late than never...and better do it while I can walk.¨ I agreed, and we both laughed heartily.

After a quick 6 (plus) hours across the Atlantic, the excitement for Santiago hit when the pilot said, ¨We´re flying over Santiago...40 minutes to Madrid.¨ And in no time we were here.

After landing, customs, and getting money from the bank, purchasing the train ticket to Ponferrada, my beginning point for the pilgrimage (leaving Madrid at 8 in the evening and getting in at 4 in the morning), and after arriving at the hotel via the Metro, I arrived to the hotel, napped, washed up, ate some breakfast, slept some more, ate lunch, it was on to the Prado!

The Prado was impressive! Largest museum of its kind in the world in terms of all the Goyas, Vazquez, with a smattering of Durer, Rembrandt, and other wonderful artists! I spent a good five hours in the museum, with stops in the cafeteria to keep going. There was a great deal of religious art from generations of artists, all inspiring, and giving me a taste of what is to come.

Dinner was with a new friend, Sinjin (St. John), a young man in his 40s from Seattle. Growing up Catholic, he knows enough about pilgrimage to be praying for me, and me for him, on this most excellent journey .

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Monday, September 24, 2007

Preparations for Santiago de Compestela!

Life's pilgrimage feels like an actual pilgrimage more and more often in my life. On an actual pilgrimage, there are moments in which a great deal happens in a short period of time--from interactions with strangers who become fast friends, to viewing one's inner landscape or outward beauty of the land that had previously been hidden--to stretches of ennui that seem to go on forever.

Currently, I am a period of living in events that are happening--and must happen--in order to move toward living in the reality of the School of the Pilgrim. For example, I am currently preparing to leave for a ten-day pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela, which is also the first fund/pledge drive for the operating costs of the School of the Pilgrim! While I do believe that God is breathing life into the School of the Pilgrim, I walk in faith, hoping each and every day that the funds for the School will follow soon after.

As I walk into the School of the Pilgrim, I am also walking from my time as an interim pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). While I have enjoyed the challenges and joys of being an interim pastor since I left Duke Divinity School, my time as an interim, or the call to being an interim, has come to an end. While I have enjoyed my time at my last interim position as solo pastor of Ernest Myatt Presbyterian Church, the time has come to say good-bye.

Dear reader: I invite your prayers for the upcoming pilgrimage to Santiago--and life!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Greenville College: A College Hike or College Pilgrimage?

A first! Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois, is the first college that has welcomed the School of the Pilgrim--and pilgrimage--with open arms and walking feet...and one rolling wheel chair. I had a wonderful time preaching and teaching about pilgrimage before the student body of this Free Methodist Church institution.

Located in southern Illinois, I preached a sermon on pilgrimage during their mandatory chapel service/worship on Monday, September 10th, followed by a colloquium on pilgrimage, death, dying, and people with disabilities on Tuesday, September 11th.

But it was on Wed., September 12th, that I had an "aha" experience: since 1912, the entire campus(or most of the campus) takes off for a six mile "all college hike" to a nearby Free Methodist retreat center outside of Greenville. While there are around 1100 students, a good four hundred or so made it out to the camp grounds, where lunch was served, canoes were paddled, zip lines were zipped, and volley ball was happening. But the beauty was the gathering of faculty, students, and staff who walked out in the beautiful summer weather of Illinois, passed rolling farm fields filled with soy plants and old corn stalks. Water was distributed by the basketball team members along the way; people in cars and trucks waved at us; new and old friends walked together...and a good time was had by all.

In my closing sermon at the camp ground I preached about the wonder and miracle of God's presence in the unexpected moments of an otherwise predictable life. I reminded those gathered together about the times we had on this "all college hike" that reflected the very same movements of pilgrimage. Toward the end of the sermon, I had the "nerve" to suggest a new name of this hike: an all college pilgrimage, for that is what it has become! The people of God from Greenville College did something subversive and radical: they moved as one body out of the predictable college behavior of having classes, and dared to become closer with one another through a common experience, book-ended by the practice of Christian prayer! I reminded them of the Benedictine monks of Esquipulas' statement, "The Christ you seek you will not find unless you bring him with you," and told them that this hike has become a holy pilgrimage, because they brought within them to this camp ground none other than the Pilgrim God: Jesus Christ.

Here's to a re-naming venture, in the name of the Pilgrim God!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Pilgrimage with SOLO Flight!

From August 31st to September 3rd, 2007, I had an amazing experience of pilgrimage with around fifty women and men at Kanuga Conference Center outside of Hendersonville, NC! Pilgrimage and being pilgrims was the theme for the seventeenth gathering of SOLO Flight, a conference for people who are considered "single" in our modern society. In other words, because of either choice, call, circumstances, widowhood, or divorce, this gathering of largely Episcopalians have gathered throughout the years to discuss issues relevant for life, as well as network with friends and associates from a host of diocese and denominations.

The entire weekend's theme was on pilgrimage! Under the direction of Dr. Kay Collier McLaughlin of Lexington, KY, the community of great leaders, and the community of participants, fused and became one during the weekend as I lectured and all of us went on an actual pilgrimage, with music, a great homily, re-affirmation of baptism, all led by a beautiful rendered cross. By the end of our time together on Monday, September 3rd, we had all moved from being individual "I's" on pilgrimage, into being a community of pilgrims, following the Pilgrim God, Jesus Christ.

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Next Step on the Pilgrims' Way: Becoming a Non-Profit Organization

It is amazing! With the approval of the IRS, the School of the Pilgrim is becoming a non-profit organization!

Now the next step on this pilgrimage begins in earnest: creating a community of soul-full, creative, artistic, stimulating, smart, like-minded and like-hearted people, and staying on the pilgrim road in letting other people and communities of faith know about the work of the School of the Pilgrim as an alternative approach to educating and nurturing people of faith. In the very near future, there will be (hopefully) two of us who are going to be working full-time on making connections with donors and benefactors, finding a place to work in creating and sustaining this community of pilgrims, and promoting the School of the Pilgrim in churches and other religious communities. Keep looking at the School of the Pilgrim website for more information in the coming weeks, including a new “donor” site (

Thanks, one and all, for the support and prayers!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Monday, July 9, 2007


It is summer time in North Carolina, and the hats are out of the closet and on our heads. Many of us work outside wear hats during all seasons of the year, like hard hat helmets, or baseball caps to keep the sun out of the eyes. When playing sports like baseball and golf, we wear hats that show which team, or brand, we are rooting for. When the sun feels like it is keeping the temperature near the boiling point, many of us wear summer hats outside with broad brims to keep not only our faces, but ears and the back of our heads protected from the now-damaging rays of too much sunshine. And for those of us who drive small convertibles, hats are a must when the wind gets good and strong, and the sun is beaming down on us.

This column on hats is sparked by my recent pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt…along with some people wearing hats during worship on Sunday morning at the church where I am pastor, which is a great, old tradition. When I was in Israel, there were young Hasidic youth wear large broad brimmed black hats with a stove-pipe top, while others wore Fedora like hats, and still others wore the simple yarmulke or kippah, as they are called. Young and old men, and now some women, wear the kippah in bright patterns, Jewish texts, and with UNC logos even! It was then that I suddenly re-imagined Jesus: did Jesus run around the streets of Nazareth with a yarmulke on his head when he was a little boy? While there is nothing biblical about wearing a kippah, they have assumed a place of honor upon many young and old Jewish men’s heads, and some wear it during the blessings of the day or the religious holidays, while others wear it throughout the day, but only outside.

However, the Egyptians did not wear a kippah but a keffieh, which is a folded cloth made into a triangle, then wrapped around the head, in which the Bedouin who wears this headdress could keep pocket change or documents in it, as well as roll it up at night and wear use it as a pillow. Unlike the Jews, a keffieh could be worn by Muslim and Christian alike…and even those who are Jewish would wear the headdress of the Bedouin.

What was interesting was that in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, I could tell who was a follower of which religious tradition or nationality some one came from, just from their headdress. What one wore on the head told much about the person! The hat becomes a sign point, telling us who a person is, and which culture, religion, or nationality they are part of.

What this sparked within me is simply this, in a place and age in which our hats say some things, but not all things, about us: what are the outward signs and symbols, pointers and indicators, that let other people know we are of God, followers of Christ, inspired by the Spirit? As we sit under trees seeking shade, drinking iced sweet tea, relaxing in rocking chairs and holding babies, let us think, and be more purposeful, in letting others know about the God who loves us most.

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Homeward Bound, But Due to Return!

May 19th, 2007

In order to be home to preach the next morning (Sunday, May 20th), we left this morning on Continental Airline, which does fly on Shabbath, though Ben Gurion Airport was a ghost-town.

We caught a taxi this morning from Ecce Homo B&B. What was amazing was this: we went on a modern highway from Jerusalem, in which we never saw any of the Palestinian areas, even though our driver was Muslim and Palestinian.

The issue of his religion, ethnicity, and nationality came into full-view when we drove up to the airport. At the entrance, we were pulled over not because we were Americans, but because he was Palestinian. The security detail asked us a lot of questions, and checked a few bags. Given the permission to go to the airport, the driver (who did not speak from Jerusalem) opened up: "This is silly! This is 2007! How can they treat people this way? If you were Arab, then they would have frisked you, checked my taxi's doors, roof, engine, trunk, and side panels. They would've made us wait for two or three hours. And for what? Nothing! Nothing! This is insane."

The anger is palpable. The chaos that is about to be sparked is going to be insane. On this day, the Israeli's have been bombing Hamas strongholds in Palestinian Gaza Strip. Later today, Lebanon would be bombing Palestinian refugee camps where terrorists were hiding. The violence is all around us.

The airport was almost vacant, because most people don't fly on Shabbath. Many of the small shops were closed in the airport. While we were flying back home, the memories of this time and place, people and holy shrines, will last forever. After all, the School of the Pilgrim has been born in Israel and Egypt, as well as North Carolina!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Set Our Feet Toward Jerusalem

May 18th, 2007

We arose at a decent time this morning after yesterday's early wake-up call. We had a delicious b'fast, and soon prepared to make our way up to Taba passport check-point, with a ride from Moussa and Ead!

After we waved good-bye to Henry, who was off on a three day camel trek, we were soon on our way to Taba. The images of the empty hotel resorts on the coast, along with all the check-points, and the need to hire a security detail for the ride up, was a lot to think about. The beauty of the Sinai was all around us, but the sense of fear is high in a land that has been gripped by insecurity and war for ages.

In Eilat, we re-traced our footsteps of a few days earlier. We got a taxi at the passport check-point; got to the bus station and I purchased a Herald-Tribune to read on the five hour bus trip back to Jerusalem. The ride back was quiet, though the ride is wild because of all the twists and turns of the road.

Back in Jerusalem, we were surprised to find everything shutting down at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem: it was Shabbath! Nothing was open! Buses were shutting down; restaurants were closed; shops were empty; banks were shut tight: all of west Jerusalem, the Jewish section, was literally shutting down. People were running home before dinner was served.

We met John Leonard, a Carolinian who is living in Tel Aviv, and is a graduate of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. As he reminded us, Tel Aviv is the European city of Israel that never sleeps, while it is Jerusalem in which the laws of the Jewish community hold sway, though not even the airline El Al flies on Shabbath.

Of course, dinner that night was Az Ahara in east Jerusalem, which was open for our final supper!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

The Camels of Mt. Sinai!

May 17th, 2007

We awakened around 2:00 A.M., and finally roused ourselves out of bed by 2:15 A.M., in order to be up and ready for our 3:00 A.M. CAMEL RIDE! Meeting Henry outside our B&B room, Moussa and Henry escorted us to "Camel Central," in which we were paired up with a camel driver who led two or three camels, and their riders, up Mt. Sinai. Of course, I had the loudest, most nasal, and most abrasive and thoroughly Egyptian camel driver, right from "Star Wars"! For two hours we rode up Mt. Sinai, following a snaking path up to the top. We went by hundreds of pilgrims going to Mt. Sinai, including South Koreans and students from Australia and Europe. At 4:00 we could hear the bells call the monks to morning prayers.

After two hours, we dismounted from our camels at a wonderfully crowded tea house, where we met a mother and daughter couple from Poland, by way of Washington, D.C. When my camel driver and were about to have our photo taken, a camel stuck his nose into the picture frame, and the driver just whacked the snout of the camel, who let out a dull "ugh"!

We walked up to a bluff just below the top of Mt. Sinai because of all the tourists (hundreds) encamped on the top, waiting for the sun to rise over the east at around 5:15 A.M. After watching shooting stars going up on camel back, now we were given the treat of watching the sun rise over the Sinai on a clear blue-sky day. Amazing.

Like a few days earlier, we celebrated Eucharist, remembering that this is Ascension Sunday, and that a few days earlier we were standing on top of Mt. Tabor, the place of Transfiguration, and now we were on the top of Mt. Sinai, again a place of Transfiguration, in which Moses received the Decalogue, and his countenance was pure light after meeting God. Henry called this the "St. George and School of the Pilgrim Chapel"!

After watching hundreds of tourists skedaddle down from Mt. Sinai, we slowly made our way up to the top of Mt. Sinai, where there was now nary a tourist. We saw two clefts in which Moses could have hidden himself, with a chapel at the top of the summit. From the top we could see a snaking trail that was possibly where the people of Israel followed themselves to Mt. Sinai.

It was here that Henry spoke to my heart, mind, and body: the School of the Pilgrim is happening! This is a land rich in pilgrimage trails, explored and unexplored. Moussa (his name means Moses), knows the Egyptian Coptic trail where the Holy Family fled from their homeland during the killing of the young innocents soon after Jesus' birth: and no one has written or filmed or documented this trek. There are still many "Gospels according to" parchments throughout this area. Stories still need to be written and recorded. The entire way down from the top of Mt. Sinai was taken up with possible new pilgrimages in the future, starting next September 2008, with another full-blown pilgrimage of the School of the Pilgrim in 2009.

That afternoon, we said good-bye to St. Catherine's. Though the museum was closed, which holds the beautifully mysterious icon Christ of the Sinai, Moussa gave me a postcard of the image that now watches me in my office.

That night, we encamp at the Red Sea resort of Nuweiba! Dinner was shared with Henry, Carol, and our motley crew after we had a wonderful swim and freshened up from our morning trek to Mt. Sinai!


Pilgrim peace, Brett

Moses' Oasis and St. Catherine

May 16th, 2007

After the quick and sudden down pour yesterday, the evening was cool and gentle. This morning, awakening in the Bedouin tent, looking straight out I could make out four camels in the distance, parked near the local sheiks jeep.

This morning, our friend Ead was preparing b'fast, with hot water for tea and coffee! We are surrounded by the beauty of the desert rock formation and sandy bluffs. The sky is blue, with nary a cloud in sight. We wear long sleeve shirts, but will soon shuck them off for t-shirts and shorts. Nice to wear shorts after wearing long trousers in all the churches and monasteries.

Last night, the sheik's wife came and spread out her wares and trinkets for the tourists to purchase. This morning, the daughter of one of the sheik's wives brought a new collection, along with her sister. Henry would just say, "Looks like the mall is open," and over we would go to purchase a gift for home.

While Moussa drove the jeep to meet us at our next destination point, Moussa and Henry took us on a hike. Asking us, "what is a miracle?" we looked out over the mountainous terrain of the Sinai. It was not the Sahara or the Gobi, but the starkly alluring mountains of the Sinai. We caught sight of our first snake, along with lizards. We learned that Moses' trick of sticking the rod into sandstone, releasing water, is an old desert trick as water gets caught in sandstone. We knew better than drinking the water, and learned that if you stamped your feet where camels dare to trod you call up camel ticks!

The hour of silence in the desert was a gift to behold. Sitting against a rock wall, with a rocky overhang, looking out over a small oasis, was sheer wonder.

And to think: Moses, a pilgrim indeed, camped in these very spots.

How do we know? We actually came to Hashmonah, mentioned in Numbers 33: 29: they set out from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah. Hashmonah had one other tourist group (Europeans) among the Bedouin encampment eateries, and our group. Underneath the overhang of bright colored cloths, with soft cushions, we rested our heads after eating and took a lovely nap.

After Hashmonah, we climbed to the top of a rocky pinnacle, and looking back we were swept up in the beauty of the thousand shades of brown, white, red, pink, black, and greenery of oases.

Before getting into our jeep with Ead behind the wheel, we came upon a large rock formation. Scratched into many of these rocks are ancient scripts mentioning where the oases are with images of camels pointing to the place, along with ancient Byzantine and Coptic scripts, with a jot from a Crusader, mentioning the Hashmonah oasis over the nearest pass. Again, like Kilroy of American fame, we would say, "Egeria the pilgrim was here!"

We drove up to St. Catherine of the Sinai Greek Orthodox Monastery after our desert trek. Egyptian tourist authorities have made this a little city, with many check-points. Checking in at the monastery, we learned that the monastery would be largely closed tomorrow because it is the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ! Eastertide is drawing to a close. However, through Moussa's friendships with the monks, we were given a rare treat: we got into the monastery walls, saw the well where Moses met his wife, as well as the burning bush, and were in the presence of the monks chanting psalms during vespers in a chapel that boasts of being built in the 6th century, during the reign of Justinian! The icons were amazingly beautiful, with gold leaf design and images of the Christ in beautiful repose.

But that wasn't the only amazing part of the journey: we met Father Justin, an American Greek Orthodox monk from Texas! He is the librarian of the monastery, which holds the largest collection of the oldest Greek manuscripts in the world, along with an impressive collection of Arabic writings. This even supersedes the collection in the Vatican. Fr. Justin was a wonderful host, only too eager to show us around.

The beauty of these historic pilgrim places is overwhelming!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Monday, June 4, 2007

To Egypt!

May 15th, 2007

One dream of mine was to visit Egypt! I didn't realize that this would be the year to do it until Henry asked me (with a wink and a smile in his voice), "Wanna camp out in the Sinai?" "Sure," I said with enthusiasm.

At 7:15 A.M., we found ourselves on a bus cruising south along the shore of the Dead Sea, headed to the seaside resort of Eliat. We passed Massada, a place of great political significance, in which a renegade group of Jews held out against the powers-that-be in the ancient of days.

Eilat is like Atlantic City, NJ! There are hotels that look like skyscrapers reaching for the skies, with all kinds of water activities on the Red Sea. After a quick lunch following the five hour ride, we crossed the border at Taba, Egypt! What a change: air conditioned passport office in Israel, fans blowing and an old out-post, circa 1950s, in Egypt. There was a Hilton Hotel with casino on the Egyptian side, but the area was vacuous after the hub-bub of Eilat. Israelis have been scared off by the violence in the area over the years, and are waiting for it to subside before they invest again. Meanwhile, there are hotels upon hotels that look like ghost-towns all the way to Nuweiba.

An hour later, in Nuweiba, we met Moussa and Ead of Abu Noud Travel Agency, our pilgrim guides for our next venture: off-road camping in the desert! The desert was mountainous, with no one hill like any other. We saw Bedouin encampments in the middle of the desert, and were amazed at the ability for people to live in the middle of absolutely nowhere! Moussa and Ead were gracious hosts, showing us the way of the pilgrim, like Moses and the people of Israel.

We planned to camp outside, with the canopy of stars overhead, until it began to rain. This was a blessing for the people in the desert, and the Bedouins rejoiced for the rain! Quickly, we made it to a Bedouin tent, covered with goat hair blanket that quickly closes up when wet. We ate a wonderful dinner that night, the rain stopped, and the stars came out. In the middle of the desert of the Sinai, we were amazed at the plethora of stars, starting with Venus and the moon coming out first, followed by a panoply of twinkling jewels.

Egypt! A land of pilgrimage!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Cognitive Dissonance!

May 14th, 2007

We made it to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, this morning via bus in Jerusalem. I've seen photos of the eternal flame of this Holocaust Museum, and was eager to see what was the story of this place.

When entering the entrance hall, I came to see how nationalism and religion can mix together from a totally different perspective than that of the States and Christianity. The various halls of Yad Vashem in the display area were filled with tourists as well as school groups. Young and old, able-bodied and disabled, jostled to see the evidence of the atrocity that were committed in Hitler's Germany.

The displays were overwhelming. It felt like someone took an attic full of memorabilia and threw it around a small room. From floor to ceiling there was plenty of evidence of what had happened: photos, brick-a-brack, newsreel photos, books, posters, all capturing the horrors of Nazi Germany. By the time we left, we were exhausted by the display.

But what stood out were the walls around the ghettos of Warsaw and other cities, and the walls of the concentration camps, which resembled the walls around the Palestinian enclaves of Israel. I struggle with the cognitive dissonance, in which the ones who were once victims were now the victimizers of others.

After lunch, we went to the Israel Museum. The display of the city of Jerusalem, circa the first century A.D. was powerful. The art in the Museum was gorgeous: impressionists like Corot and Monet, along with the modern art of Picasso and Mondrian, near a collection of the baroque art of Europe, and a Rembrandt thrown in for good measure. Beautiful!

That night we found ourselves on Jaffa St., near Ben Yehuda St., which was like a big down-town mall. We ate dinner this night in this part of west Jerusalem. It is here that we were frisked when entering a restaurant, and there was no Palestinian beer on the menu. Welcome to the divided city of a divided people!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Of Fish and People

May 13th, 2007

It is Mothers' Day in the States, and so we thanked God for all mothers around the world, especially this day the mothers of those who have died or been killed in the bloodshed in this part of the world.

After a full German breakfast at the Pilgerhaus, because it was raining lightly we ran to the small Chapel of Pilgerhaus to celebrate Eucharist. The Chapel looked out over the Sea of Galilee. Taking the bread, breaking it, and drinking from the cup of love (white wine!), I am somewhat in awe of eating this meal of salvation in the land of Jesus, the Palestinian Jew who changed the world!

After Eucharist we high tailed it to the Primacy of St. Peter Chapel, that was next door to Pilgerhaus. As we walked down to the Sea of Galilee, lo and behold two fishermen in their fishing boat came to shore! This is the place where the risen Christ reportedly fixed a meal for the fishermen. This is one of the places that Egeria met a group of Byzantine Christians, who cared for the table-rock where Jesus fed the disciples. After Henry read John 21, we hiked up our pants and stood in the Sea at the Primacy of St. Peter, smiling for the camera.

Then, next door to this Chapel was Capernaum. With wonder we walked around the synagogue that was most likely standing when Peter lived in this small town, looking down at the 1st century ruins of this once-thriving town.

With no time to spare, by lunch time we made it up to Mt. Tabor: the Mount of Transfiguration! Unfortunately, it closed early on this day (Sunday), but we nevertheless looked at the field below where one of the wars of Armageddon was to take place. We smiled as Henry read from the Gospel of Luke, in which we read that it was here that Jesus set his face, and his foot to Jerusalem, on his exodus to his death...for us and our salvation, in the company of the disciples along with Elijah and Moses.

Racing back to Jerusalem, slipping easily through check-points, Henry dropped us off at the top of the Mount of Olives as we walked the Via Dolorosa to Ecce Homo, our B&B. The view of the old city of Jerusalem was magnificent. We watched Orthodox Jews walking among the burial plots of the dearly departed; we witnessed a group of Filipino Catholics praying at the chapel where Jesus wept, followed by a group of evangelical Christians from the States praying that they would be ready for the second coming of Christ! We interrupted a folk mass in the Chapel of All Nations, and ducked into the Grotto where Mary died. We were silent before a group of Italian tourists who were reverently walking the Via Dolorosa in the chapel commemorating the whipping of Jesus. We finally made it to Ecce Homo, ready to put our feet up. Dinner tonight was at Az Ahara!

Again, what struck us as significant was that Jesus, this Palestinian Jew, whose life made such an incredible impact upon the lives of others who have all different kinds of perspectives on this man of God.

Pilgrim peace, Brett

In Search of the Annunciation

May 12th

We arose quite early this morning to meet Henry by the Lion's Gate, taking one bag each for our trek to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee! Henry promised us a great breakfast, with strong coffee, and croissants...which would've been great if it weren't for Shabbath. Everything in this area that is owned by Jews is closed!

We left Jerusalem, traveling east toward Jordan, going through a check point because we were entering--or are we leaving--occupied territory. Soon out of Jerusalem, we pull over to the side of the road, to a small viewing area. We see before us nothing but desert, but are equally intrigued with the faraway city of Jerusalem. Reading Ps. 55, Henry tells us that it was supposedly here, in this area, that Jesus was tempted by the Evil One! The beauty was that of the arid areas of New Mexico and Arizona in the States. Hostile yet gorgeous to the eye, and brown, black, with specks of green as far as the eye could see.

We found an "oasis," a gas station that was open, and so we ate some b'fast. We are seeing more camels and Bedouins, and the poor of this area live in small hovels and tents. Jericho is in the distance, and we dare not go there because it is Palestinian and thus an impregnable fortress with its prison gray wall.

Snaking up north on highway 90, we see the country Jordan across the Jordan river. It is lush and green where there are farms and fields of grain. We make a long stop at the river Jordan. At first, no one was there. But before we left, a bus load of Russian Orthodox pilgrims donned on long white t-shirts with an image of John baptizing Jesus and (with swim suits underneath) the pilgrims went down into the Jordan, blessed by their priest, coming out wet and a little wild.

We supped at a handsome Bedouin tent nearby, eating a hearty lunch that we keep us going through Nazareth.

In Nazareth, we were surprised at the congestion of a busy city. We went first to the Roman Catholic shrine to the Annunciation: the building hung over the small grotto where Mary was told that she would give birth to Emmanuel. But then Henry took us down the street to the Greek Orthodox chapel, in which Mary was supposedly by a river, drawing water, when she was told by Gabriel that she was to give birth to the source of abundant water, and thus the church was situated over the source of water! Not only that: they have found the ruins of a Roman bath, suggesting Nazareth was not a small town, but a busy city: imagine Jesus as a city kid of middle-class parents!

We then made our way to the Sea of Galilee, spending the night at the Benedictine Pilgerhaus! I met a Benedictine sister who knew of St. Benedict's Monastery, where I am an oblate! Small world! We hiked to the chapel of the Beatitudes, imagining this golden-grained field full of disciples. We hid in a small grotto where Jesus may have hung out after withdrawing from the crowds.

Dinner was superb, and there was an internet for us to use. While Henry went off with his friend that evening, we sat and enjoyed the cool breeze coming from the Sea of Galilee! In the distance were the Golan Heights of Lebanon! We just cannot believe we are in this part of the world of such thick, interesting, and turgid history amid Gospel wonders.

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Bethlehem, a Palestinian Refugee Camp

May 11th, 2007

As I write this posting, I am still filled with emotions that are raw yet tender. What I saw, heard, felt, and was moved by was not in the travel books I read before I went on this trip.

Bethlehem, which is only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem proper, is a walled-off prison, a.k.a., Palestinian refugee camp. "O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie," does not exist anymore. The high grey wall that encircles this Holy City is horrendous. I call it a snake that is trying to kill off life in this City.

Henry drove us to one of the few entry places into the walled-off city. While we went through numerous scanners, x-ray machines, and gates while being televised, all in a few minutes, it can take a Palestinian hours to go through the very same thing. Henry could not come with us because he is Israeli.

Our new friend Elias Ghareeb met us on the other side of the wall. A Greek Orthodox Palestinian, Elias had just returned from vacation. Instead of flying out of Ben Gurion airport down the road, he has to go to Amman, Jordan and fly out of Jordan because he is Palestinian.

First place to go was Manger Square. Along the Church of the Nativity you can see the bullet holes from the battle that went on in this city a few years ago. Instead the Church we saw the beauty of the mosaic floors that Helena had built, along with the icons of the Crusaders. Underneath the main floor, in a small alcove, was the spot where Jesus was born, and the spot that the cradle inhabited. Hundreds of pilgrims filled the tight space. Elias reminded us that most people lived in small caves or grottoes, which explained the tight space that felt like a rocky enclosure.

Near this site is the place that St. Jerome wrote the Vulgate version of the Bible near the chapel of St. Joseph, Jesus' father. Again, like so much in Jerusalem, we saw the Russian and the Greek Orthodox sections, the Roman Catholic section, and the Coptic sections of the Church. Protestantism does not have much of a hold on these Holy sites.

Picking up Elias' car outside the Milk Grotto (where Mary's milk touched the floor of the cave, making the entire cave white), we went to the Palestinian Refugee Camp. We specifically spent time at the Lajee Center of the Aida Refugee Camp. We heard of the stories of oppression of the Palestinian people, and went to the top of the building to see the snaking, meandering wall that is dividing the people from the land. Within Bethlehem, the medical, educational, and civil services are being constricted. Life is tense among and in families. Israel is not building a wall along the Green Line (an agreed upon line between the Palestinian people and Israel), but is taking whatever land they want.

We talked a great deal about the oppression of the Palestinian people. The wall is meant to "protect the Palestinian people" says Israel, but the Palestinian people are growing restless within these walls, and the days of the next intifada are coming. Over lunch at the Grotto Restaurant we looked at where Elias hopes to move to, though it may be torn down in order for the Israeli's to build their wall.

We sang "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" in the Shepherd's Chapel, with Elias, a group of Filipino nuns, and ourselves. After we picked up some gifts for people at home at a beautiful gift store, and tried to visit the Greek Orthodox Church in Bethlehem, Elias turned me on to kanahfay (sp?), a sweet dessert that is high on my list of "must haves."

We left Elias that day angry about the sense of victimization that is going on among the people, and lost in the question: why would a people who were once victims now turn around and become the victimizers of oppression?

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Old Jerusalem, Eternal Tensions

May 10th, 2007

After yesterday's brief introduction to "old" and "new" Jerusalem, today's focus was on the "Old Jerusalem."

We met Henry in the morning after a restful night's sleep. We began with a walk up and down the Via Dolorosa, starting at the Lion's Gate, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, with many places in between. For example, we walked up an improvised bridge to the Dome of the Rock, home of Mt. Moriah, and the Al Asque Mosque. Sadly, because of most recent violence in 2001, the interior of the Dome is closed off to visitors, though the glass-tile mosaic work, along with the gold leaf Dome are exquisite to look at.

The Dome area was once home to the Temple mentioned often in the Bible, and thus it is a place of great spiritual tension and continuing religious violence.

From the Dome, we walked to Bethesda Pool and St. Anne's Chapel. St. Anne's honors not only St. Anne but Mary herself. The beauty of the Chapel is that everything is a little bit off balance and not quite in perfect symmetry. It was also saved from being destroyed during one of the times that Jerusalem was under Ottoman rule by being turned into a Muslim school.

Bethesda was far larger than I imagined. Home to the story of the one who was paralyzed and waited for the angel to stir the waters, there were numerous levels of pools by which those with disabilities would sit and wait for the stirring of waters in order to touch the waters quickly and be healed.

After stopping for a quick cup of coffee, we went along the ancient Cordo, a corridor of shops, until Henry ducked into a sweet shop. "Give the gentleman five shekels, and come with me," and with that Henry opened a door in the back of the shop, and we walked into fourth century Jerusalem! Behind the door was an arch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that dated back to the earliest pilgrim, Egeria, a Spanish nun of the fourth century, who not only wrote down the various liturgies used in the early church, but accurately wrote down where the Holy sites were located, maintained for years by the ancient Byzantine church prior to Helena (Constantine's mother), arrival. The sweet shop owner doesn't quite know what they will do with it all yet in terms of turning it over to the antiquity authorities.

Directly above us was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre! We entered the Church through the Ethiopian Coptics and Egyptian Copts Church chapels, which were, themselves stunning in their antiquity, with a visually stunning painting of the Queen of Sheba meeting King David.

We entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and were met by pilgrims touching and praying over the large marble slab that honored the embalming of Jesus (though the embalming was to have really taken place on the Sunday after his death). To the right was the stone known simply as Golgotha! The Greek Orthodox iconography was everywhere. Touching this stone, underneath it was another stone, the cleft of Adam, where Adam was to have "originated." Walking along this level, along a corridor, we came to a tomb that was once outside the City's gates, owned by Joseph of Armithea. Near this vacant tomb was a small tabernacle, which is said to be the site of where Jesus was buried and thus rose from the dead. In order to enter and touch the stone of the place where Jesus was buried I had to wrestle with the Greek Orthodox monk who wanted to pry my hand open over a burning flame, "the light of purity." Making a sign of the cross on my open palm over the sooty debris of the candle, I prayed over the site of where Jesus was said to have been buried.

All around us were mosaics and painted icons that were stunning to the eye. Chills now and then would pass over me as I contemplated not only the possibilities of Holiness entering terra firma, but also taking in the breadth and depth of the pilgrims who have come to this place in search of the Christ.

Henry left us to tend to matters at St. Georges while we went off to Papa Andreas for lunch. The view of the Old City from the restaurant was worth the cost of the lunch! Stunning!

For the afternoon, we had some history to learn! We went to the Citadel, that was once mistakenly thought to be a part of King David's fortress. In the Citadel we watched, listened, touched, and were mesmerized by the history of this City. Many cultures and countries have laid claim to this City throughout the centuries...and more likely there will be more changing of hands.

From there we walked to the southern wall near the Western (or Wailing) wall. At the Davidson Center, we walked along the current archaeological diggings and findings of the southern part of the Old City. We saw that as each layer of dirt and grime is removed there is something new being shown about the city's former inhabitants.

That night, exhausted, we ate at a wonderful restaurant, Az Ahara, in east Jerusalem. This part of the City is Palestinian and largely Muslim, whereas west Jerusalem is largely Israeli and Jewish. The difference? We could walk right into the restaurant, and I could order a Taybeh (Palestinian) beer, while on the west Jerusalem side I would have been frisked down and there is no Taybeh beer!

Like the inner domain of the Old City, the newer parts of Jerusalem are equally divided and unique unto themselves!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Friday, May 25, 2007

Holy Land Pilgrimage: The Second Day, May 9, 2007

May 9, 2007

We arrived in Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on Wed., May 9th! The sun was out, a cloudless blue sky was over our heads, and Henry Carse, our pilgrim guide for the next ten days, was only too happy to see us at the airport. Henry and I had talked about doing this pilgrimage a year ago, but the war broke out on the border of Lebanon and Israel, thus causing us to re-schedule this pilgrimage.

While our Palestinian brothers and sisters on the flight were held up in security checks, we whisked through security checks at the airport with nary a lick of attention.

Henry first showed us the money, instructing us that four sheckels equals a dollar, "Got that?" and he plunked some money into our hand. "We'll work on the finances later." Dashing out to the car he borrowed from St. Georges College in Jerusalem, we made our way out of the airport with brochures, pamphlets, and maps in our hands. Henry, with a wink of his eye, told us that he would take us along an older route into town. Knowing full well that we would soon meet the politics of the day along the old route, we were amazed at what we saw: drawing closer to Jerusalem, we were amazed at the walls rising up in the middle of treeless plateaus. The Palestinian people were being walled in while Israeli settlements were springing up on what was their land. The walls divide friends, families, land, and cultures. Check-points sprung up out of nowhere. Amazing.

Jerusalem the Golden! Henry drove us right up to the front door of Ecce Homo, our B&B while we are in Jerusalem. Managed by the Sisters of Notre Dame, we said "adieu" to Henry, found our rooms, and napped until we saw Henry at 4:00 P.M.

After a quick nap, we roused ourselves and walked along the Via Dolorosa, the very trail that pilgrims take following the mythical last walk, or "Dead Man Walking" pathway that Jesus followed to Golgotha. We grabbed some bread for lunch, and looked inside countless small stores in which people were hawking their wares.

At 4:00, we met Henry at Ecce Homo. Henry took us to the top of Ecce Homo, the Terrace, in which we got a grand view of the Mount of Olives, Dome of the Rock, and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We saw the straight line that these three monuments made, remembering the countless cultures, civilizations, and people who had lived, prayed, worshipped, fought, laughed, loved, and worked in this place.

Dinner that night was at the American Colony Hotel. Soup and a hamburger, and Taybeh beer (a Palestinian beer)! It would be the last time we saw such Western food for the next few weeks.

It was a great welcome to the Holy places and spaces that we were to explore in the coming days.

Pilgrim peace, Brett