Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jesus: The Next Step on this Earthly Pilgrimage

The ancient theologian Origen had a word for Jesus: autobasilia: he was the walking, talking kingdom, realm, or reign of God in the flesh, walking and talking among us, beginning in Capernaum, a city on the edge of the Sea of Galilee In other words, in Jesus we had, in the flesh not merely the coming of the kingdom, but the very kingdom or commonwealth of God! And Matthew borrows the metaphor of Isaiah's reference to light, and the light that never sets, is what has come to us in Jesus. Repentance is not called forth from us because darkness is descending, but because the light of God has broken the darkness of night.

On the pilgrimage to Santiago, some people liked to take off as early as possible for the next place. I saw many little lights on people's headbands (and LL Bean gift idea) bouncing along like little drops of sunshine, as they would leave the Alburgues before the sun rose, feeling their way up gravel and dirt paths. Time and again I would meet these very same people later in the day with bumps and bruises, scratches and red patches, if not bandages, because they fell along some of the more uneven paths because they were walking in the darkness of early morning. As some of my compadres would tell me, there was an eerie stillness and beauty of walking in the darkness--not in the shadows, unless there was a full moon, but darkness--but there were far fewer falls, bumps, and bruises when walking in the light of the day.

Walk in light, to love and serve God! For the companion of our journey is the autobasilia! Not a bad admonition for pilgrims!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Michael Chabon: A Writer of Pilgrimage

I've been reading Michael Chabon's latest book, GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD, after having read THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY, THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION, and others, and have to say that Chabon understands journeys, travels, and pilgrimage, just like other authors like Paul Theroux. This tale takes place in A.D. 950, and is about an area of the world I would like to know more about: the Caucasus mountains, with enough in the way of hooligans, bamboozlers, and other gullible folks, just like any other pilgrimage I've been on.

A great read for those interested in novels about pilgrimage!

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace,


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Watery Jesus Meets Flaming John

In a brilliant essay in this month's (January 2008) Harper's magazine, my friend Richard Rodriguez wrote an essay from his time in the Holy Land. I've read it several times, and there are various passages that jump out, grab me by the proverbial lapels, and demands me to pay attention for what it says about this fascinatingly mysterious land. Rodriguez writes this of the encounter between John and Jesus, the beginning of Jesus' public pilgrimage, God's literal footstep in our time, our place, our lives:

John the Baptist wrapped himself in camel hide. He wandered the desert and ate the desert--honey and locusts and gray leaves. John preached hellfire and he performed dunking ceremonies in the River Jordan. People came from far and wide to be addressed by the interesting wild man as 'Brood of Vipers.' When watery Jesus approached flaming John and asked for baptism, john recognized Jesus as greater than he. It was as though the desert bowed to the sea. But, in fact, their meeting was an inversion of elements. John said: I baptize only with water. The one who comes after me will baptize with Spirit and fire (Harper's Magazine/January 2008, p. 46).

In the shadow of Epiphany, before the looming reflective period of life called Lent, the intermingling of earthy elements, water and fire, are reflective of the jumble of elements that one feels on pilgrimage...throw in land and wind as well, and, voila! Pilgrimage!

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace,

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr.: An Extraordinary Pilgrim

On this, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, I want to reflect on his ability to understand the power of walking non-violently, en masse, on a land that is besotted with trails blazed by generations of people of the land: black and white, native to this land, rich and poor. I was struck last year, with both presidential candidates walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. They were remembering the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, march, re-creating what-was-then a dangerous pilgrimage in a land, and among a people, who did not embrace equality for all among the races, let alone on issues of gender, sexual orientation, abilities, or economic class.

Click to this link for more about this incredible journey.

In the "Education as Pilgrimage" class that I taught (or should I say convened) at Duke Divinity School in my latter years, along with other pilgrimage groups I have led, I have asked people to read Letters from a Birmingham Jail. Besides being a great example of personal essay, this letter is King's "postcard" to the world from his pilgrimage.

What is powerful about pilgrimages like Kings, and others in civil rights marches, whether it is on the issue of disability rights, gender equality, immigration rights, or LGBT rights, is this: there is power when people gather together and put one foot before the other and walk together for a common cause. This simple act is saying that "we"--whoever we might be--are moving together in common cause, and are going so far as to move with our very body, as well as mind and spirit.

In all that I have written and spoken about in regards to all-life-is-a-pilgrimage, I have never said that pilgrimage isn't dangerous. After all, it can change your very life...and the lives we live in community.

Bien camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baptism of Jesus: The Pilgrim God Begins His Journey

Though he was without sin, and not necessarily in need of atonement, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer in the pilgrim-packed river Jordan. According to Matthew, John even says "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" (Matt. 3:14). The river Jordan has played a central place in the Bible, with the story of the people of God crossing it earlier in their lives to land of plenty. The pilgrimage story of the adult Jesus, the Pilgrim God, begins in earnest in this (what we now call) sacrament with water, an earthy element of God's own design , with a little hydrogen and oxygen. Submerged in the muddy waters, Jesus comes out of the water, gasping for air, and suddenly the clouds were opened to Jesus and Jesus saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and alighting on him with the voice saying "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). And immediately, Jesus went off to the wilderness to be tempted by the Evil One.

Many times that I've led groups on pilgrimage, we've often begun with a re-affirmation of baptismal covenants, remembering our baptism, our genesis, our "point of origin" for our earthly pilgrimage. It is in our baptism that we begin, in earnest, our pilgrimage as we openly, in community, connect with our forbears who preceded us on this holy trek. In our baptism, we become, publicly, part of the motley, silly, women able-bodied, men, disabled, old, young, straight, gay, royal, prophetic, ordinarily extraordinary throng on their way to the Holy City. In our baptism, we experience a death of individualism, and rise in Christ, as members of the body of Christ for all the world to see, hear, and know.

On this Sunday, we worship the Pilgrim God, who faithfully accompanies us wherever we may go.

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace,

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

To Walk or Not to Walk...That is the Question

Jim and Terre Greer passed this article (click here for link) from the New York Times, "To Walk a Landscape is to Know It." Henry Shukman, who wrote this article, writes about what is learned about a landscape, a terrain, a geography, when one walks it rather than those who ride or fly over it. As Wendell Berry once wrote, we process information as fast as we walk. We know the land better by walking it rather than flying or riding over it, moving so fast that we fail to appreciate the land under or around us.

Shukman wrote this wonderful line that reminds me of pilgrimage: "There’s no telling what you’ll find once you start walking." That is the very thrill of pilgrimage, making it a challenge; throwing the gauntlet down to ordinary life and saying "I dare you to shock me and surprise me!" It is the very unexpected God who greets us in unbelievable ways or times or people or moments that keeps us on edge and in the land of wonder. A "wild creature (is) itching to break out," writes Shukman.


Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Virtual Community of the School of the Pilgrim: Coming Soon to this Blog and Website!

2008 has started off with a quick dash on our pilgrimage: the office is well-decorated and a great spot to write, dream, and create in most every day of the week (except on Sunday afternoons when a punk band takes over the downstairs insurance office and everything shakes, rattles, and rolls).

We are moving forward and making changes with the School of the Pilgrim website and need your help: we are going to make the website a nexus of community resources for everyone interested in pilgrimage around the world! This includes the following:
* Maintaining a list of written resources on pilgrimage among the world religions;
* Creating a list of movies and plays that reflect a pilgrimage theme, especially documentaries;
* Making a list of music that emerges from pilgrimage, from the Codex of Santiago de Compestela sung by Anonymous 4, to the musical based upon "Canterbury Tales";
* Developing a link with resources to visual art that is about pilgrimages;
* Photos of pilgrimage through resources like flickr;
* Other websites and blogspots that cater to pilgrimage.

We are also going to convert the newsletter "Postcards" to a Zine!

Stay tuned!

And make a comment below about what else we should consider!

Bien Camino,

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Epiphany: A Celebration of the Magi's Pilgrimage

Christmastide is coming to a close tonight. Epiphany, or Old Christmas as they call it in the South, is upon us. "Arise, shine, your light has come," says Isaiah (Is. 60:1)

There is great debate in theological and biblical circles as to whether or not the Wise men from the East actually existed, let alone made this holy pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Christ-child (see Matt. 2:1-12). Nonetheless, in the religious traditions of the Church, the Magi (representing Gentiles, say biblical scholars) become part of the forbears of modern pilgrims today. As the biblical story tells us, they came from the East, following a star to the resting place of the Christ-child. Though they were told by Herod to come back and tell him exactly where this Child was, the Wise men followed the star, finding the babe and his mother Mary. And God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod, "so they left for their own country by another road."

The mystery of the Magi following the shining star is an act of faith that it may bring them to the child who is the fulfillment of the prophet's dream. Many pilgrimage I have met along the way are also on a pilgrimage, journeying to a destination with little information, except that the inside gut feeling, inspiration of faith, intellectual curiosity, that we must move onward...sometimes on little as a wing and a prayer. I sense this some times when living in the middle of trying to build-up the School of the Pilgrim.

My prayer: that this single act of faith be an inspiration to those of us on pilgrimage in our daily life. May we all seek the light of faith in our daily pilgrimage.

Happy Epiphany!

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

New Year for the School of the Pilgrim!

2008 has started out with a bang for the School of the Pilgrim! On Dec. 31st, we got the keys for the new offices of the School: 309 W. Weaver St., Ste. 200! On Jan. 1st, we began painting the office walls, and moved furniture into the new environs! Then on Jan. 4th, with the help of the fabulous artist Shannon Bueker, we hung her painting, along with paintings by artist friends and supporters of the School, including Julia Kennedy and Eduardo Lapetina, with sculpture by Ruffin Hobbs!

In this new year, there are ideas perking and moving along quickly. For example, in publications, I am working on an article for The Rambler magazine, along with articles with Chapel Hill Magazine and Carrboro Citizen. We are planning a big pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September 23-Oct.3rd, with people sharing with me hopes that we soon take a pilgrimage along a route that leads to a visit to various pilgrimage churches in France, a trek to Chimayo in northern New Mexico. The proposal is together for producing a television pilot "Pilgrimage Life," a weekly series on visiting and taking treks among the various pilgrimage sites around the world. And we are moving quickly beyond discussing the production of a Zine to making it happen, based upon the life of pilgrims along the pilgrimage routes that criss-cross this world.

Closer to home, many of you, kind friends and family members, have contributed with your money, prayers, and volunteer efforts, to the creation of the School of the Pilgrim: THANK YOU! Your support is making all the above possible!

Please feel free to email any other ideas for the burgeoning School of the Pilgrim! And thanks for the support along the pilgrim's way. Having been on pilgrimage often enough in life now, I can tell you that it is always good to hear an affirming word and hug.

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Glowing Review of the book School of the Pilgrim in "Christian Century"!

There is a great review of The School of the Pilgrim book in The Christian Century by Arthur Paul Boers of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He writes, "Webb-Mitchell sees pilgrimage not as a single practice but as a collection of practices: community, hospitality, communion, friendship, worship, prayer and encountering strange." For a further reading, click here to the link.

It is 2008. Christmastide joy and hope continues to wash over my tired bones and gladsome soul (we stayed out late last night for New Year's Eve), and we are going over to the new office of the School of the Pilgrim to paint the walls and take furniture, paintings, and books over: 309 W. Weaver St., Ste., 200, Carrboro, NC 27510. We are sharing the suite with Carolina Mornings and a lawyer. 2008 is the year of the School of the Pilgrim! Come on over for a visit; let's go for a cup of coffee at Weaver St. Market and Cafe, and on Sat. morning we can go over to the Farmers' Market nearby.

In 2008, watch for the following news:
* The Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: September 23-Oct. 3, 2008: Call or email me ASAP!
* Pilgrimage in MS!
* Creation of a School of the Pilgrim Zine!
* Creation of a resource listing of books, periodicals, music, art, movies, plays, and other websites connecting us to the greater world of pilgrims;
* Creation of a pilot for a television series based on pilgrimages around the world.

We invite your prayers, volunteer assistance, and contributions throughout the year!

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim Peace,