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