Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fund Raising Appeal

'Tis the end of the season for giving to non-profits, and like all good non-profits, we are asking for your support as well!

Please consider supporting the School of the Pilgrim in 2010! Please go to, and go to the link on the left hand side that says "Contribute," and follow those easy directions.

Many thanks for those who gave.

Many thanks for those who work with us.

Many thanks for those who keep us in their prayers.

And many thanks for those about to give.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holy Family Sunday

Starting right off the bat, the Holy Family is about to take off for Egypt on the first of many pilgrimages in the young Jesus' life.

This today in the book review on Peter Ackroyd's book, THE CANTERBURY TALES: A RETELLING (Viking, 2009):

"Ackroy'ds vision of The Canterbury Tales could be read to imply we are all on a pilgrimage to our final destination, seeking to derive pleasure on our journeys by telling and listening to stories of love, deceit, sensuality, triumph. It is this belief in story as a way to connect us, to help us form and understand our culture."

We are all on our pilgrimage!

Celebrate the place where you, where we, are on our pilgrimage, and tell and listen to the stories.


Friday, December 25, 2009

The Birth of the Pilgrim God

We begin the season of re-tracing the movements of the divine pilgrimage of the creating God on earth again.

For those of us who are caught on a cusp of doing and being something new in this world, we draw great succor from this story of Jesus' birth. Because God was present with us in not only human form, but the form of a helpless, powerless infant.

Soon, the story takes the unexpected turn into an actual pilgrimage as the sojourn of the holy family into Egypt soon takes place.

Did God have any idea this was going to happen?

We hope to offer a pilgrimage of the Holy Family in Egypt in 2011...

With the School of the Pilgrim, we hope that all who read this blog have a blessed Christmas season.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

John the Baptizer: A Man on a Vision Quest

in his book Radical Grace, Richard Rohr suggests that John the Baptizer was a wild man who went on a vision quest into the desert where he faced his aloneness, boredom, and naked self. He returned with a message, a clarity, a surety of heart that reveals a totally surrendered man.

In other words, John was a pilgrim, following the Pilgrim God.

Happy Advent.


Monday, December 21, 2009

St. Nicholas of Myra

I am being followed by the spirit of St. Nicholas.

First I heard of my home church in Oregon--Presbyterian no less--celebrating St. Nicholas in an Advent pageant; second, I am on the plane going out to OR, and the National Geographic special on tv on the plane: St. Nicholas of Myra, and the re-discovery of his bones; third: heard St. Nicholas of Myra's story by and through the music of Benjamin Britten, a favorite composer of mine.

St. Nicholas was patron saint of sailors, of people with disabilities, and children.

Fourteen hundred year old saint.

Happy birthday, or anniversary, or feast day, St. Nick!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Walking the Wrong Way is OK Sometimes

While I would like to think I'm always going the right direction in life, or headed the right way, I know that there are times on pilgrimage and life-as-pilgrimage in which I was headed the wrong way and had to finally ask for help and turn and re-trace my steps to go the right way.

Richard Rohr (from Radical Grace) affirms my frustrating ways:

The Scriptures very clarly have a "bias toward action." Simply put, the word of God tells us that i you don't do it, you in face have not heard it and do not believe it (James 1:22-25).

Faith: when we cross a line for a new way based on what we believe the Kingdom values are, walking is probably a lot more important than talking, even if we walk the wrong way for a while."

Thanks, Richard!




Though I couldn't get a decent picture of a starry night in the Sinai, I got this photo on the top of Mt. Sinai as the sun was setting.

I am amazed at the play of light in this holiday season, with Hanukkah and Advent/Christmas celebrating the importance of light, with Muslim's celebrating Eid and the warmth of light in family love.

A celebration of light.



Thursday, December 17, 2009

Talking About the School of the Pilgrim

On a recent trip to OR, I had a great opportunity to share about the School of the Pilgrim in coincidental meetings with friends and complete strangers who soon became friends.

There is a story to tell about pilgrimage!

Peace, B

Sunday, December 13, 2009


In the Sinai pilgrimage, we read The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane, in which Belden writes about the experience of the desert in the Negev, Sinai, and Ghost Ranch, comparing it to his mother's dying in a care facility. She is in her own desert, unable to communicate, and the family is in its own fierce landscape.

In my family, we've entered that fierce landscape with my father's slowing down in his 87th year of life. He is slowly drifting into his new landscape, while we watch, unable to arouse him from his sleepy stupor.

We are in a new and strange land.

We are waiting.



Pace, B

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Being Surprised by What We Find Ahead of Us

What I've learned and keep re-learning on pilgrimage---both an actual pilgrimage and the pilgrimage of life--is that I am always surprised by what is ahead of us. While there are moments that I think I know what is ahead, hope I know what is ahead, plan on what I think I will find, I am always surprised by the unexpected that greets me, whether I'm ready or not.

It is learning to live in the ambiguity of the present of what could be, and the "what if," and being at peace with such ambivalence, being open to the journey that is, and that is ahead.

In the Sinai, I could see the outline of mountain ranges ahead and behind, not knowing what was in those valleys and peaks, but knowing it would be incredible nonetheless.

The same is true in life's pilgrimage.

My hope is to always keep the unexpected and the surprise ever before me in the Spirit led path I am on currently.



Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In the middle of today's and tonight's rain in NC, I dream of the Sinai

Here's another image of the Sinai!

What is amazing is that camels followed after one another with little encouragement. And they are incredibly well, um, built or created: they drink very little and eating is a fascinating phenomenon: eat, regurgitate, eat some infinitum.



Monday, December 7, 2009

Finally, My Camel

Musha Mush, or Apricot in Arabic...B

Yet one more camel...

And another camel...

A Moment with the Camels

Saw a painting of a camel by my friend Shannon Bueker and thought about camels on the pilgrimage.



Sunday, December 6, 2009

O Come O Come Emmanuel!

It was fascinating to be sitting in worship today, participating in Eucharist, remembering that I was on the top of Mt. Sinai with a bottle of Omar Khayyam red wine and flat bread at sunset.

The verse that sprung out at me in singing "O Come O Come Emmanuel" was this:

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel!



Our Pilgrimages Under the School of the Pilgrim!

Here is the unique part of our pilgrimages, such as the ones we are offering in 2010:

* we will be asking people to prepare intellectually, spiritually, and intellectually before the pilgrimage begins. We will send a book for everyone to read before hand, and then discuss the readings on pilgrimage. We will continue to ask you to consider praying certain prayers. And we would like people to train physically, walking a mile or two a day for two weeks before hand;

* we will asking people to continue to stay connected with us for four weeks via on-line, wifi connections after everyone returns. Month one we will be on-line together once a week; month two, three times a month; month three, two times a month; and month four, one time. This last month, if people are close by geographically, we may all get together for a retreat. The idea behind this gathering and on-line connection is helping/assisting people to stay connected as they try to discern the pilgrimage path they are currently on, right where we live;

* we will include a hands on service project along and within the pilgrimage itself. We are in the process of making those connections currently. This last part about the School of the Pilgrim important: service is intrinsic to all pilgrimages because we are welcomed as strangers, embodying within us the Holy One and likewise, in working with and meeting other strangers, we meet the Holy One within them. And it makes School of the Pilgrim pilgrimages a tax free pilgrimage.

Come one, come all!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

PIlgrimages 2010

There are two of them!

1. April 10-21, 2010: From Sinai to Tabor: wandering along the trail of beauty from the Negev following the traces of Abraham and Sarah, to Mt. Sinai and Moses and Elijah, to Mt. Tabor--Mount of Transfiguration--to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. All for the price of $2,500!

2. Nov. 13-23, 2010: Wilderness Wanderings in the Sinai, spending a few days walking, riding in a jeep, and a few days on camel back, along with a trip to St. Catherine's Monastery of the Sinai.






Friday, November 27, 2009

The Hajj

Amid Thanksgiving--American-style religion--there was news abroad of the hajj beginning in Mecca.

What is the hajj?

The Hajj consists of a five-day excursion, required by all physically and financially able Muslims, to Mecca and the nearby holy sites of Arafat, Mina, and Muzdalifah. Once there, pilgrims perform a series of rituals to unify themselves with other believers, absolve themselves of their sins and pay tribute to God.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Home Again

After a very roundabout way of returning home from pilgrimage--I stayed in Newark last night longer than I thought I would--I am sitting in the School of the Pilgrim office in a haze, reflecting upon the amazing experience of hiking in the desert on foot, on camel, and in the back of a jeep.


More to come!

Buen Camino!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Living What I Write

So I left NC in a bit of a flurry of business, and now realize I am living what I write: pilgrimage is a way to confront and get out ahead of the religion of rush. I was in the middle of the religion of rush as I begin this pilgrimage to the Negev and Sinai, connecting with the God of the desert, and the wisdom of the desert.

From Jerusalem, Brett

Friday, November 13, 2009

Buen Camino!

This is my last posting before I leave for Egypt.

I leave on Sat., 1:06, flying to Newark, and then flying out of Newark to Tel Aviv at 4.

I'll arrive on Sun. morning at 9.

And then on Monday morning, it is down to Eilat, and then to Taba and the experience of sleeping out in the desert, riding camels, and being on pilgrimage in the Sinai desert.

Prayers are welcome, and I will be taking prayers with me.

Buen Camino!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Dee Family

Found this on the Dee Family, who are travelers, well, almost pilgrims. Go to They are traveling around the world, in their 50s, with their daughter who is 9 years old, living on $25,000 a year. They started in L.A., and are now in Amsterdam, flying one way, one direction around the world.

I found this wonderful quote on their webpage:

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.”


Or this:

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving”


or this:

“Earth's crammed with heaven.”

I found these quotes quite beautiful, and something to think about in re: to pilgrimage. A pilgrim reads the road as a text too, sees heaven crammed into earth, and truly has no fixed plans in getting to the destination.

Click here.



Pouring Rain

It is pouring rain in NC, remnants of tropical storm Ida.

I am thinking of the hot sands of the Sinai where I will be on pilgrimage next week.

I also had a great lunch with my friend Rick Edens who, along with the Board and friends of the School of the Pilgrim, are shaping how to think about the long term strategy of the School of the Pilgrim.

For example: like Earth Watch, which works with service projects around the world for people who want to be on vacation while working for a project benefiting the world like counting sea turtles in Costa Rica, we can offer a service project per pilgrimage, e.g., work in a Palestinian refugee camp ( This will enable people to go on pilgrimage, do a good deed for and with others, and also write this pilgrimage off on their taxes. The hope with the School of the Pilgrim is that we can keep costs down on future pilgrimages so it is affordable to the many, and not just to a few people.

Rick suggested a clergy renewal set of pilgrimages, in which both pastors, priests, and lay leaders go on pilgrimage.



Monday, November 9, 2009

Shoes and more

The Merrell walking/hiking shoes I bought fit my feet better than the Vasque walking/hiking shoes that I've walked in for several pilgrimages. I've also bought a flash light with a strap around my head, and I believe have everything else that is needed.

I am ready to hang out in the desert, to sleep long hours under the stars, to see sites that I'vve not seen before.

The pilgrimage at home continues to be a challenge as well: trying to finish some parts of a new book "Beyond Accessibility," and the proposal for "Divinity." And I continue to find out interest in the School of the Pilgrim with artists I visited this past weekend.

Salaam and shalom,


Friday, November 6, 2009


Bought a pair of Merrell walking shoes after the pilgrimage to Chimayo last Nue, and I finally took them out of the box, and I walked in them today. After walking in the other pair of shoes that gave me bad blisters, I knew I had to walk in these new shoes.

Glad to report that I think they are going to do the trick!

A week until I leave for Israel and Egypt.

Salaam and Shalom,


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teaching the Old Testament at Durham Technical Community College

I am back in the classroom...sort of.

I'll be teaching an on-line course on the Old Testament at Durham Technical Community College during the Spring of 2010.

It will have a decidedly pilgrimage tone and theme to it.



Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Hallow's Eve and All Saints Day: A 24-hour Pilgrimage

I noticed that in the hymn "For All the Saints" there is much about pilgrimage that is being sung:

For the apostles' glorious company,
who bearing forth the cross o'er land and sea,
shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the apostles' glorious company,
who bearing forth the cross o'er land and sea,
shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

What is amazing in this twenty-four hour period, from All Hallow's Eve to All Saints' Day, is that we recognize that the life we live today, and the life that is to come, is part of the pilgrimage of life.

And tomorrow: All Souls' Day



Friday, October 30, 2009

There Are Santiago People, There Are Holy Land People, There Are...

I was reading this story by Jan Benzel in the about the kind of people we are:

THERE are beach people, and there are mountain people. The first long to be barefoot on a wide stretch of sand by an ocean; the second live to wake up with the sun, pull on thick socks and lace up mud-crusted hiking boots. My daughter Becca is the second.

The article was about hiking mountains along and among the Adirondacks. Some people groove hitting the open trails of mountainscapes; others love the ocean and bare feet, the sound of the shushing waves.

I'm pretty certain the same is true with pilgrimage: there are those who are Santiago de Compostela-type pilgrims, and there are Holy Land-pilgrims; Celtic-pilgrim people; Nepal-pilgrim people; Machu Pichu-pilgrim people...we tend to find our groove, our group, our place along a certain pilgrim path and stay on this for some time.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

An America's Journey to Mecca!

Fascinating article from the Financial Times on an American's pilgrimage to Mecca!

Get a load of this:

Mecca has been home to a pilgrimage in one way or another since before Mohammed’s birth – as far back as the second millennium BC. Pilgrims face myriad obstacles and small triumphs as they complete the rites, which swallow you in ancient stories that link Islam and the ancient struggle for survival in this desiccated country: Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son; Hagar’s desperate search for water; Abraham’s confrontation with the Devil. As it is now performed, hajj dates from Mohammed’s farewell pilgrimage to Mecca, three months before his death in 632AD in Medina.

I neared our gated compound and ran into Wessam, our tour group’s guide. An Australian of Lebanese descent, the 25-year-old had come to the kingdom to become an imam. Like all effective preachers I’ve heard, Wessam had a plaintive tone to his voice. In his serious way, he told me that he hadn’t seen Abel in quite a while. He then scuttled off to plan our night in Muzdalifah, where we would sleep under the stars.

Click here for more.



Friday, October 23, 2009

Bicycyling as Pilgrimage

Read this interesting article in the about bicycling through West Virginia, and was struck by the language used in the article, because it sounds like, well pilgrimage:

"Soon afterward we came face to face with the 3,294-foot-long Big Savage Tunnel. Inside, the tunnel was dreamlike, like a Roman catacomb or a secret passageway between the Great Pyramids. Every hundred feet or so a pale yellow light hanging from the ceiling showed the way."

I know on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela you can bike along the way, along with horse riding, though the walkers who walk (and don't ride on buses or put their luggage on buses going before us) sneer at these folks.

Can there be a pilgrimage by bike?

Click here for the article.



Monday, October 19, 2009

Abraham Path: The Israel Link

News from Israle: the Abraham Path--tracing the steps of Abraham--has made it to Israel!

Go to the link by clicking here.

From the website:

Our staff in Israel has identified a 60 km route from Be'er Sheva to Arad City. The route includes Abrahamanic sites such as Tel Sheva, Tel Arad, the Bedouin village of Rahat, the Falahin village of Drijat, and Abraham's Well in the city of Be'er Sheva. We are planning to open this section of the path by the close of 2009.

This trail follows the steps, the path of Abraham and Sarah.



"Where Would You Wish to Wake Up?"

This is from, via, and the simple question (and a pertinent question to pilgrimage) is "Where would you wish to wake up?" This is a question that is a great pilgrimage question in determining if one is a wanderer, a pilgrim, who wants to hit the open roads of life, or someone whose pilgrimage is at home.




Fifty People, One Question: Brooklyn from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Another Bedouin proverb or two

"In the desert of life, the wise one travels with a caravan...the fool travels alone."

"Whoever walks in the desert is never the same person he was."

"When bad things happen to us, write it in sand. When good things happen to us, carve it in marble."

"Planning is half of living."

"Do good to people, and you'll enslave their hearts."

"He is a good storyteller who turns a person's ears into eyes."

"Leading by example is better than advice."

Pace, B

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trust in God...

...but tie your camel up first.

This is a Bedouin proverb that was handed to me today through Dean;

It has stuck with me throughout the day.

Then there is this one: there are three classes of human kind: those who are immovable, those who are movable, and those who move.

Or: ask the experienced over the learned;

Or: what the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

More to come!



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A T.S. Eliot Moment

Read this verse from T. S. Eliot's "The Four Quartets":

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Everyday, as I set my foot down on the floor from the bed in sleepy steps, grind the coffee, feed the dogs, take the dogs out for our morning pilgrimage, I am aware that the pilgrimage is "on."

When I go on an actual pilgrimage, and come home, I realize that I am more alive, recognizing anew parts of life that I missed before.

And this is the focus of the School of the Pilgrim: to aid people to know the place they come from "for the first time."

Bravo to Eliot!



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Are We There Yet?

I was reading about a personal journey made by Gbenga Akinnagbe of the New York Times, in which the writer tells of his journey to Nepal.

There is a poignant moment that captures a common experience of pilgrimage--both an actual and metaphorical--of life:

The worst thing about the mountain was not the stinging cold or the steep climb in the thinning oxygen and on the patches of dense ice. Those things were physical; they were real. One can come to terms with the real and compensate.

No, the worst thing about that frozen beast was its false horizons. There is nothing as cruel as false hope, and this mountain handed it out in liberal dosages. Every 10 minutes it seemed as if the summit was only minutes away. The path ahead would crown, and there seemed to be nothing beyond it but blue sky. In my brain, I knew it was not the end, but my heart could not be reasoned with. Again and again, I cast my eyes down in order to move on.

Brown and gray tundra abounded, and a bleak feeling overtook me like the cold daylight washing over the mountains. As I reached the point I could not continue, we arrived at a teahouse.

I know that moment, that feeling, of "are we there yet?"

And yet the place where we are going to is just around the corner, around the bend int he road, over the horizon, almost there...and I am always glad when I reach the finish line, the tea house, the hostel, the hotel, the pub, with a deeper "AHHH!" and a lowering of the body into a chair, a stool, a bed, a sofa, a cushion.


Click here for more.



Monday, September 28, 2009

Yom Kippur

This is the highest and holiest of days among our Jewish sisters and brothers: Yom Kippur. It is a day of atonement and repentance.

In the series of sermons we've received from the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the idea of there being a sea of forgetfulness that we pour all those things that we wish to forget sounds mighty good. We forgive but don't forget, nursing those things we like to hold on to, with hopes of bringing a grudge against someone in the future.

Holding things that should be forgotten holds us back on the journey of life.

The sea of forgetfulness may need stocking soon.

Peace, B

Friday, September 25, 2009


Booked my flight today for Israel.

I will be on pilrimage from Nov. 15-22, going four days on camel, four days by jeep, and four days walking.




Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hadrian's Wall

From Bowness-on-Solway to Walls-end, there is pilgrimage trail for those who follow the historical wall commonly known as "Hadrian's Wall." This is a wall that comes from Roman times, in which Emperor Hadrian created a wall that was to keep the wild Scots safely enclosed in their part of the world and far away from Roman England. 265,000 hikers/pilgrims walk this wall every year.

Perhaps it is time to go for a walk.

Pick up the latest edition of the Smithsonian magazine.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

End of Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, and the Pilgrimage of Time and Seasons

Last year around this time I was in the Holy Land, observing the pilgrimage of time, of seasons, in the life of two major world religions: Ramadan among my friends who are Muslim, and Rosh Hashanah for my Jewish friends. What I especially remember is being caught up in the sweep of women racing to the Dome of the Rock toward the end of Ramadan. Because many women have a major role, traditionally, in preparing the house and food for the occasion, they were streaming through the Damascus Gate of Old Jerusalem toward the Western Wall area.

The next day was Rosh Hashanah: Again, standing near the Damascus gate, I was not ready for the influx of men racing to the Western Wall, some with children on either hand running quickly, trying to keep up with their fathers.

'Tis the pilgrimage of seasons in the religious community that establishes many of the rituals of our lives.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The evening pilgrimage

The mystery of our 4 acres is how much changes--as do all properties--with the change of light. I am aware of the difference in our land and how well I know it between the full moon, and the times when there is no moon to be seen. For a pilgrim dare, I put one of our dog's on his leash and, in the pitch black, let him guide me through the ups and downs of the backyard, stumbling over brush and finding an unexpected hole from time to time.

This is how life is as a pilgrim: we need and search for points of reference all the time, with our footsteps being guided in an unknown land by the friends, associates, acquaintances, and complete strangers that the Spirit brings our way.

Grateful for those who accompany me, us, on this journey.

Buen camino!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Morning Pilgrimage

Every morning, right after I step out of bed, make the coffee and/or feed the dogs (depends upon the hunger of the dogs or the need for coffee), I put their leashes on, and off we go down the long "S" shaped driveway to the front of the property where the newspaper is tossed.

Each morning, the dogs find a new place to sniff and relieve themselves. Nothing is the same. There is a tree down now and then (we've got lots of them), a turn in the color of the leaves, a new smell where a deer left its mark, a stone overturned, a few leaves moved from where they were yesterday.

This is my morning pilgrimage. I am instantly reminded that nothing is the same day after day. Something in my environment, out of my control, has changed and is simply to be experienced.

The same is true with the pilgrimage of life.

Buen camino!

Pace, B

Friday, September 4, 2009

Croatia and pilgrimage!

I love reading the travel section, learning and re-learning about places and people I've long forgotten.

Today, the highlited Croatia, which reminded me of this famous pilgrimage site, with help from Medugorje, on the border with Croatia.

Međugorje ([ˈmɛdʑu.ɡɔːrjɛ], roughly Pronunciation respelling key) is a town located in western Herzegovina in Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 25 km southwest of Mostar and close to the border of Croatia. Today the town is best known due to reported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary which appeared to six Herzegovinian Croats since 24 June 1981, and is now visited by pilgrims from around the entire world as a shrine.

The name Međugorje literally means an "area between mountains". At an altitude of 200 metres above sea level, it has a mild Mediterranean climate. The town consists of an ethnically-homogeneous Croat population of over 4000, and the Roman Catholic Parish (local administrative and religious area) consists of five neighbouring villages (Međugorje, Bijakovići, Vionica, Miletina and Šurmanci).

It would be a fascinating pilgrimage experience!



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gates of Cristo

In the book VISUAL THEOLOGY (Edited by Robin Jensen and Kim Vrundy, Liturgical Press, 2009), Doug Adams wrote an essay on Cristo and Jeanne-Claude's draping. The one draping was in Central Park with "The Gates" project. This is what I found novel:

The word gate originally meant "a path" or " the way." Passage ways are central images as thresholds of transcendence in religions such as Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism every door helps us remember the Exodus through which God brought us out of Egypt from slavery to freedom, and in Christian, Christ is the doorway, or the one who suggests followers ought to knock at the door, or the one who sits in the doorway as our way to freedom from death to resurrection. (The gate) is a threshold to cross: to transcend what is known and to pilgrimage into new territory. But the very ability to transcend the familiar and venture into the unknown implies freedom (p. 110-111).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ramadan Has Begun!

A year ago I was in Jerusalem in the middle of Ramadan celebrations. I'll never forget the multi-cultural experience of being in Jerusalem on pilgrimage in the close of Ramadan and the beginning of Rosh Hashana. As a Christian, it was fascinating to see and remember that our faiths come from this land of desert and hot sun. Jerusalem is indeed a crucible of sorts, and there is nothing easy about it.

I am in Minnesota on a writing sabbatical. It is very good to be away in order to write. It is here that I met Sr. Stef who later took me on a pilgrimage to Esquipulas, Guatemala, going on pilgrimage to see and venerate El Cristo Negro: the Black Christ.




Sunday, August 16, 2009

Storm Chasers

One of the visions on each and every pilgrimage I've been on is the sky. I try to be a reader of the skies. In NM, the sky was like a large shallow bowl that covered the desert. In Santiago, the sky was as twisted and turning as was the Camino itself. In England, the greyness of the sky was omnipresent.

There is a phenomenon in the States of people on pilgrimage, searching for the pathway of tornadoes.

Click here for more.



Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Barefoot or Shoes on Pilgrimage...That is the Question!

One of the sites I like reading is the Frugal Traveler blog on the New York Times. I especially liked the last Frugal Traveler about bare feet versus shoes in traveling or pilgrimage.

This instantly threw me back to memories of St. Patrick's Purgatory, which was three days of walking barefoot on a cold little island--Lough Derg--in northern Ireland. I was amazed at this "outward bound" practice. This was the same possible experience in walking up the mount where St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland.

Then there were the people who wore shoes to Chimayo and Santiago de Compestela who wore shoes, but also allowed themselves to get blisters. The idea of obtaining blisters? Feeling the same suffering that Jesus did upon the cross.

Click here for the Frugal Traveler and shoes!



Two Year Anniversary of the School of the Pilgrim as a Non-Profit

Two years, the IRS sent me the letter with the good news that the School of the Pilgrim is a non-profit, 501(c)3!

Then a year ago, the School of the Pilgrim became a validated ministry of the Presbytery of New Hope of the Presbyterian Church (USA)!

We want to thank you for the kind support of prayers, voluntary efforts, and financial support as we seek to provide a new way of understanding spiritual growth and development in the framework of the ancient practices of pilgrimage!



Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Moveable Feast

Ernest Hemingway first used this term (to my recollection), and it seemed appropriate to talk about it as well as I first celebrated Holy Communion at First Presbyterian Church-Henderson, then went three blocks north and celebrated Holy Communion with our sister Church, Cotton Memorial Presbyterian Church.

And what was beautiful was that bread was central to both sermon and feast: John 6 this morning (vs. 35): I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry...nor thirsty.

On pilgrimage, I always look for the places where I will be fed next, literally and figuratively. That was true today as I took the bread of life two two different Presbyterian Churches who both are reliant upon the bread of life.



Monday, July 27, 2009

Groups on Pilgrimage

Starting to think of and plan for pilgrimage with various groups of people who are interested in the life of a pilgrim.

For example, taking a pilgrimage with people gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer identifying or questioning. The idea is this: many people who are LGBTQ use the metaphor of coming "out of the closet." Another metaphor may be being on a journey, a pilgrimage of coming out of the closet.

Other groups?



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Motion of the Pilgrimage: To Iona

Yesterday at a Presbytery meeting, someone mentioned to me the possibility of going on a pilgrimage to Iona.

One of my friends on "Facebook" recently got back from a pilgrimage to Iona.

Iona may be calling.

It is a place of pilgrimage for lots of Protestants. We seem to feel safe going to a place that isn't "too Catholic." It is a place of deep beauty, quiet rest, and a jumping off place as well for other pilgrimage. Saints Cuthbert and Aidan both were sent from the community of Iona to the other side of England, to Lindisfarne, the Holy Isle.

Perhaps it is time to go and simply "be" on Iona's quiet land.

Buen Camino!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Richard Rohr on Pilgrimage

In the book, "Radical Grace," the Catholic writer Richard Rohr has some keen insights into pilgrimage that are part and parcel of what I am hoping to infuse in the very nature of the School of the pilgrim:

First: be where your feet are, and live in that moment. It is easy in life and on pilgrimage to expect that there is something more fantastic or awesome around the curve. Writes Rohr: "As long as we think happiness is around the corner, we have not grasped happiness. Happiness is given in this moment. Everything is right here, right now, the total mystery of Christ; totally hidden and yet perfectly revealed.

Second: though pilgrimages are good for the spirit, if you can't find Jesus in your hometown, you probably aren't going to find him in Jerusalem. If you haven't already entered into a relationship with Mary before you probably won't find her at Lourdes. Pilgrimage has achieved its purpose when we can see God in our everyday and ordinary lives.

Third: a pilgrim must be a child who can approach everything with an attitude of wonder, awe, and faith. Pray for wonder, awe, desire. Ask God to take away your sophistication and cynicism. Ask God to take away the restless, anxious heart of the tourist, which always needs to find the new, the more, the curious. Recognize yourself as a pilgrim, as one who has already been found by God.

Shalom and Salaam,


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pop Pilgrimage


This is interesting: they are describing the upcoming funeral of Michael Jackson as a "Pop Pilgrimage" after the "King of Pop" death.




Thursday, July 2, 2009

Birthday Pilgrimage

I am here in NYC, the city of my birth.

Today I went to Ellis Island: a pilgrimage took place. This is the place that my grandmother (mom's side) would play the piano and her friend would play the violin for the recent immigrants every Sunday afternoon after Church.

I was following in my grandmother's footsteps, looking for her good spirit in all the right places.




Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Living in the Shadow of Chimayo

There is a lingering sense of peace that comes upon me in the most turbulent days of interim ministry. I see interim ministry as a pilgrimage, in which the interim pastor saddles up to a congregation and walks with them a good piece of their pilgrimage before handing them off to the called pastor. In between, with the interim pastor, there is a time for questioning, thinking, re-considering, re-thinking, and kvetching in the middle of some changes in how the congregation moved together down the road of life.

That peace that I feel in the most tense moments is what I've learned to call "pilgrim peace." It is a peace that came over me the first time going to Chimayo, later in Israel, on the way to Santiago, and most recently Chimayo again.

It is a peace that says to my tired bones and addled mind: "Everything will be well. Breathe in and take in the Spirit. Everything will be well."

I tasted that peace on the hot days of walking to Chimayo, usually between mile markers on barren dirty empty roads.

And so I taste that peace this day at my interim post.




Friday, June 12, 2009


I am still writing in my journal from the Chimayo pilgrimage, trying to remember what happened and when.

Right now, this quote from Merton helps explain where I am:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"



Thursday, June 11, 2009


Made it!

120 miles, from Estancia in southern (northern) NM, to El Santuario de Chimayo.


More to come!



Saturday, May 30, 2009

Off to Chimayo I Go

Off to Chimayo later today.

Can't wait to see what will open up on the journey.

Your prayers are welcome.

Buen Camino!



Thursday, May 28, 2009

Feelin' Good About the Shoes

Silly: I've fretted about the shoes and walking 100 miles, and I think I found what works: double socks...or triple. I bought a pair of double socks at REI, and along with another pair of socks over it (3), voila!

Though I must say that after walking in sandals most of the spring months it is hard to put on the shoes. I'll bring the Keene and Chaco sandals too.

I also bought a pounder (1 pound) sleeping bag (Marmot) today. This is my one big purchase for this trip. Salesman Rob, who has become a kind of friend over this bag at Townsend Bertram and Co. in Carrboro, and I had a great conversation: turns out he is a Presbyterian from Charlotte. We had a great conversation about pilgrimage and the School of the Pilgrim. He thanked me for buying the bag: times have been hard for the store, especially April. We talked about ways that his Co. and the School of the Pilgrim could work together.

Getting ready to be lost in the pilgrimage.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Creating a Happy Median: The School of the Pilgrim Learns from Chimayo and Santiago

I am getting myself internally prepped for the one-hundred plus mile pilgrimage I am taking next week to Chimayo with my brothers from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. I've done this pilgrimage. I walked it successfully in 1999. I look forward to this well run pilgrimage that allows me to rest in the knowledge that all will be well, that food is taken care of; that the housing is taken care of; that leadership is taken care of; that prayers, songs, rituals, and other practices are taken care of; that water is taken care of, as is health care. I will fall right into the practices as they instruct. It was a pilgrimage of "we."

This is so not like Santiago, where I was on my own, back pack and all. Along with my friend Jaqui and others I had to negotiate food, housing, health care, prayers, rituals, practices, length of walk, etc. By the end, it was a pilgrimage that was more dependent on the "I" than the "we" though Jaqui was great.

For the School of the Pilgrim I look forward to carving out our "niche" between the two of "we" and "I." My hope is that we will give a little bit more freedom and responsibility to the pilgrim per se than the organizers.

And unlike these two pilgrimages, my hope is we follow folks up for 6 months as they learn to be a pilgrim right where they are.

Buen camino!

Pace, B

p.s., putting on my walking shoes now for the rest of the day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A week away: Pilgrimage to Chimayo, NM

I am a week away from my pilgrimage to Chimayo.

I've been wearing my Vasque walking shoes daily, toughening the feet (so far so good) from blisters, wearing double socks.

My heart, mind, and body are ready to be elsewhere.

Buen camino!

Pace, B

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Getting ready for Pilgrimage

I put on my Vasque walking shoes today in preparation for my pilgrimage to Chimayo, NM. I will walk 100 miles to Chimayo from Escandia June 1st-6th.

Get ready....set...go...

Buen camino!



Monday, May 4, 2009

On a Vacation

Going on a vacation for a week!

See you soon!

Buen camino!

Pace, B

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Seeing the School of the Pilgrim Today

I walked along the route of the School of the Pilgrim today.

It was exciting.

I keep getting glimpses of it along the way of life, and today, another chunk came into place.

It was at a sculpture garden show at the home of Tinka Jordy and her husband, between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill, NC. They have 16 acres that they open up to sculptors to show their work in beautiful surroundings in the middle of forested land.

Outside of the usual bits of glorious sculpture work in a well-built and well-maintained garden was a wild and woolly "Sculpture Trail," and we walked down that path, and that made all the difference. At certain bends of the woodsy trail were pieces of sculpture that caused one to stand, sit, and meditate. The trail went down toward a pond that was still and silent. Walking by small white arrows leading the way (like yellow arrows from Santiago), we walked deeper into the woods, and life became quieter, more peaceful, restful, amid God's sculptured woods.

This is it! This is what I needed to see, walk, feel, smell: the sculptured garden and then the wood trail.

So architecturally the School of the Pilgrim will have a "Meeting House," which will house a kitchen with a large table in the middle of it for people to gather around, a small chapel (round), and main offices. There will be a square table, with sand in the middle, a butane torch keeping a kettle of water hot for tea and conversation.

Dotted around the property will be a studio for art, a studio for music, a studio for writing...

And a labyrinth...

And a place for pilgrims to stay and be at home...

And a woodsy trail with sculptures placed at points for reflection.

What we are in need of is the land. This garden was on 16 acres, with pond access. A body of water is necessary.

And money.

But I saw the School today, from which we will venture forth into the world to traipse around the world, coming back to discover the trail we walk on in our very lives.

Buen camino!



Saturday, May 2, 2009

I Saw the School of the Pilgrim Today!

I saw the School of the Pilgrim today!

On 16 acres outside of Chapel Hill, NC, nearer to Hillsborough, there was a sculpture garden show at the home of artist Tinka Jordy and Mark Donley. What was incredible was not only the scupture, but the sculpture trail: we could walk in the forest amid the acreage, and here and there were statues planted in just the right space that would inspire one to meditate. The trail didn't have too many sculptures. They were poignantly placed, near trees and a large pond.

The idea of the School of the Pilgrim includes a chapel for worship; a meeting house with kitchen and meeting area for meals, coffee, and tea, and trails around the acreage for walking, giving people space to breathe and sit, talk with the Spirit and meditate, in God's sculptured forest/garden.

Here's a tid-bit behind the garden:

Tinka Jordy and her husband, Mark Donley, bought their cottage on 16 acres between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill in 1987. Jordy grew up in New Orleans, Donley in Massachusetts. "The climate here appealed to us both, and I needed more room to build a studio and kiln," Jordy said. She's been a professional artist for 32 years, working in high-fired stoneware clay.

Their garden has evolved slowly. "Mark had a very different concept of gardening than mine," Jordy said. She was used to the small, controllable patio gardens of New Orleans. He had more experience with large spaces and believes in developing the "bones" of the garden first. The bones of most gardens consist of the evergreens, trees and shrubs that form the basic structure and serve to enhance and showcase seasonal plants.

As her garden's bones developed, Jordy used open spaces for sculptures that could be moved once the space was needed.

Time to get this place up and running.

Click here for more.

Buen Camino!



Friday, May 1, 2009

Catholic/Orthodox Churches Get Pilgrimage, While We Protestants Struggle

In reading a bit by Richard Rohr this morning in the book, Radical Grace, I was stopped in my tracks when reading this line:

On the walls of our Catholic churches we have fourteen stations...It's movement, stages, and phrases: First this hast to happen, then you have to go through that; you have to remain on the path in all its stages and relationships. The path itself will be your teacher.

That's process theology. It's not the static theology some of us unfortunately grew up with.

Of course, I was taught static theology, and not the kind of process theology, which I equate with pilgrimage or pilgrim theology.

Rohr ends with the affirmation that God will always give us friends who will support us on the journey.

The line that stuck out and is in me is: "the path itself will be your teacher."

So this is what I must write and be about: a pilgrim theology, in which the path is the teacher as we follow the Pilgrim God.

Buen camino!



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Profound Absence of Walking on Pilgrimage

In this season of Eastertide, I am surprised at the sense of coming to an end of a journey within the Church. During Holy Week (Eastern and Western Churches), we are surrounded by many images and stories of people on pilgrimage, from the peace and justice pilgrimages in Raleigh, to the Via Dolorosa pilgrimages in Jerusalem.

Everyone is on their feet, in their wheel chair, and moving forward.

But now in the season of Eastertide, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero momentum. Inertia.

I know that I tried to teach my Duke students about the seasons of the Church year, and the sense of movement within each Season. But this is hard to translate to the Church itself.

Time to get moving.

Buen Camino!

Peace, Brett

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two Disciples Were on a Pilgrimage from Jerusalem, When...

Fill in the blank.

I've decided to take a step back from this week's lectionary reading and focus on the disciples going to Emmaus.

After all, they are the New Testament progenitors of pilgrimage. If there was a card or icon with their effigy I would buy it and keep it close by as a reminder: we are on a pilgrimage!

The journey is the thing in this week's reading from Luke 24. The journey.

Jesus is showing us his hands, his feet, his side, marred and bloodied by our nails as he hung on the tree of his own creation.

Jesus shows us that on life's pilgrimage we cannot go around our destiny, but must go through what is in front of us.

Reminds me of the Quaker saying: That which is in the way is the way.

Following Jesus today...and every day.

Buen camino!



Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Jesus and George Washington Have in Common

Last night I was showing the slides via lap top of my latest foray into the Holy Land. This was a "first" for me. Except for the audio and computer glitch right in the middle of the show (AAUUGGHH!) it went pretty well.

What was funny to me was telling people about where Jesus MIGHT have been, or walked, or slept. As anyone who has been to the Holy Land, there are all the places where Jesus might have walked (e.g., the Via Dolorosa or was it from the south near Caiaphas palace?), ate the last supper (which upper room?), and probably slept.

And after watching the slides, I am ready to go back to the land of my forbears.

Buen Camino!



Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eastertide's Pilgrimage

Today we sang "At the font we start our Easter journey," hymn #2115 in SING THE FAITH. I love the last line in the hymn about "Easter work has just begun."

The Easter pilgrimage has just begun.

50 days, and we're only 7, now 8 days into the journey.


Buen camino!



Friday, April 17, 2009

The Pilgrimage Continues: Eastertide's 50 Days

I am struck by how much I now embrace the sense of pilgrimage during Lent. Having arrived at Easter's doorstep on a fantastic morning (6:30 A.M.! in Henderson, NC), celebrating Eucharist in the midst of the Church's Columbarium, and singing with great heart and soul, "Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!" I felt like I did a week after I first wedded: now what!?

So this is Eastertide: a season. This is more than a day. This is 50 days to Pentecost, our next stop on our Church's pilgrimage.

The question I've asked my congregation: what are the marks of faith that shape and mold us? What are the truths that we embody and carry with us in our journey of faith? Let's reflect upon these things on our pilgrimage to Pentecost!

Buen camino!



Monday, April 13, 2009

To be a pilgrim in Jerusalem

While I was hoping to be on a plane soon to join the throng of Eastern Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem for the coming Holy Week, I am amazed at the photos I am seeing on various websites. Our Easter Monday (Western Church) is followed soon by our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Church.

Buen Camino, Peregrinos!

Peace, Brett

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our Easter, Our Palm Sunday

A convergence of sorts happened today: It was the Western Church's Easter celebration, and it was the Eastern Church's Palm Sunday celebration.

It was like the convergence of our Maundy Thursday (Western Church) and Passover on Thursday.

I am amazed and try to take in all the creative spiritual and religious tension of these days.

Nevertheless, it is the same Pilgrim God who leads us forward, onward, toward the coming reign of Godly love.

Buen camino!



Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Eve of Easter

It is Holy Saturday evening.

I am aware of so many different images of pilgrimage in the last few days, from labyrinths to a pilgrimage for justice and peace in the Raleigh-Durham, NC area on Good Friday. There are images of Jesus being crucified in a pilgrimage in Germany, and the holy procession in the old city of Jerusalem.

I reflected upon the power of the cross all day, now and then finding myself humming "Jesus Christ is risen today." I am caught between Good Friday and Easter.

Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Pilgrimage to Franklin St. and Celebration of Tar Heel Champs

Strange but true: I made a pilgrimage to Franklin St. and S. Columbia Sts. in Chapel Hill, NC when the men's basketball team won the NCAA championship.

Why is it a pilgrimage? I went to a "holy site," on foot, and met the throng of well-wishers that night. Like my time in every religious holy site around the world, the sense of purposefulness, hopefulness, celebration, a moment that is serendipitous and ethereal, fleeting at best, was the experience of this night. Like reaching Santiago, sitting with the masses in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, traipsing around the adobe structure at Chimayo, this was a holy night.

O.K.: it was a celebratory night.

But was it a pilgrimage of nationalistic fervor?

Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jesus Trail Update

Last year, a group of School of the Pilgrim pilgrims met with David Landis and his girlfriend who were on the "road", on pilgrimage, talking about the 65 km Jesus Trail. It is a trail that is found by using something akin to a GPS system currently, without any marked trail, places to stay per se, ala Santiago de Compostela.

Nonetheless, Matt Norvell sent me a snippet from Haaretz about the trail's completion by the time the Pope arrives in the coming weeks.

Click here for more.

Buen Camino!


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jeremiah's New Covenant

The idea of Jesus being the Pilgrim God came into sharp focus this past week in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scripture reading of Jeremiah 31, where Jeremiah speaks of the New Covenant amid the debris and wreckage left from the Old Covenant.

Jesus is the embodiment of the New Covenant.

Jesus is the Pilgrim God, who walks among us even today.

Buen camino!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Iona Pilgrimage

Maybe because it is raining today I've had Iona and Scotland on my mind.

Having been to Iona but as a tourist, and having been to Lindisfarne, England--one of the places where pilgrims like Cuthbert and Aidan dwelled, sent to this remote location by their brothers as pilgrim-missionaries from the isle of Iona--I've inquired about doing a pilgrimage there for 6 nights, 7 days.

This is a unique way of seeing who is reading this blog: would anyone be interested in going on pilgrimage to Iona in September for an entire week?

Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

Monday, March 23, 2009

Toward Easter: Looking Up Matters

I am more aware of the pull of the holy days to Easter.

The idea of the snake on the top of the stick, and Jesus upon the cross, was a symmetry that boggles the imagination.

We are in the midst of creating a crucifix for our Church, to be carried for Easter Sunday as we hold worship out at the Columbarium of the Church. As I told the friend making the cross: we needed something to look up to as we worship the risen Christ on Easter morning.

I look up and forward on pilgrimage nowadays.

It makes all the world of difference.

Buen camino!



Friday, March 20, 2009

Rick Steves! Tourist Vs. Traveler

On, there is an interesting interview with that travel-guru, Rick Steves, in which he has a wonderful response to the interviewer in re: to travel vs. tourism, citing Don DeLillo's work, "The Names":

I always remember this line from it: "Tourism is the march of stupidity."

That's a great line. And that's my challenge. I write somewhere in one of my books that my kind of travel fits the industry like a snowshoe in Mazatlán. That's our challenge: to offer Americans, who are thoughtful and curious, a way to be thoughtful in their travels.

Rick Steves' way of understanding "travel" is not too far from how many people I know understand "pilgrimage."

Click here for more of this interesting interview.

Buen camino!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Change on Website


Wanted to point out some of the changes on the website:

1. There are new images from my latest pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jaqui Tutt took these photos. Wonderful two pages in the "Gallery" section;

2. Postponing the pilgrimage to Israel in April. The violence scares the people in the States. Hope to do another one soon.

Buen camino!



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Feeling the Pull

We're beyond "half way there" to our Jerusalem moment as a church, and I've felt the pull of Jerusalem since Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent. I looked at the calendar of events, and the plotting and planning that has to go into the next few weeks to make our Holy Week meaningful and Easter a true celebration of new life.

It is interesting to see a church in "pilgrim-mode."

Buen camino!



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Bracelet!

It was interesting: I was walking into the Chapel Hill, NC Lowe's Hardware when what should I notice but a young man walking out of the store with the bracelet from Santiago de Compostela. It was fun! Novel! Unique! I couldn't help but notice it.

Memories of Santiago came flooding over me.

Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sent into the Wilderness: Jesus' Pilgrimage as an Adult Begins in Earnest

I am reflecting upon the sermon I preached today, based on Mark 1:9-15, where Jesus is sent into the wilderness "by the Spirit."

I was struck by that line, "By the Spirit."

For several years I've felt like I was in the wilderness and need to remember that I was "sent by the Spirit" into this wilderness.

On the pilgrimage of life, there are periods that are long stretches of desert.

But I have hope tonight because the desert is a place of  re-learning, again, once more, what it is to be a follower of the Pilgrim God.

Ah! the good news, of course, is that Jesus is surrounded by angels and the wild beasts, created by none other than God!

Buen camino!



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Transfiguration Sunday, Ash Wednesday: We're Off and Running

Epiphany is now officially over. 

We're moving onward!

Transfiguration was a celebration of light in our congregation (so is Michaelmas), and we are moving into the season of Lent today with ashes on foreheads and the mark of Christ deep into our life.

It is a time of repentance for what we've done and not done.

It is time for reflection.

It is time for re-birth.

And all of this is a process, a pilgrimage.

Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Pull of Holy Days

Today was the last Ordinary Day in this break, the breath, between Epiphany and Transfiguration Sunday. I'll hang up the green stoles for awhile and get ready to wear the white stole of Transfiguration, and the purple stole of Lent.

The Holy Days have a pull of their own on this earthly pilgrimage. It is magnetic, this pull, this tug, that seems to center our lives as people of the Christian faith.

Today's lectionary reading from Mark--the healing of the leper--was powerful, as always. Being asked by the one with leprosy if he would choose to make him whole, I am enthralled with this reaction by Jesus: "I choose."

On pilgrimage, we "choose" daily to be on a pilgrimage that is life.



Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Various Modes of Pilgrimage

I read a lot of books on pilgrimage. I am moved by watching t.v. shows, like Discovery and National Geographic, and all the kinds of places they take us to in showing us religious sites.

I understand the power of walking in pilgrimage.

But why not a train, car, boat, wheel chair, or plane for pilgrimage?

Buen camino!


Friday, February 6, 2009

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: April 15-24, 2009

In talking with my pilgrim friend, Henry Carse, we are still set to offer people an opportunity to go to the Holy Land from April 15-24, 2009. Understanding the war along the Gaza Strip area--that has died down recently--has sent many people off of the list of potential pilgrims. But the opportunity to be in Jerusalem during the Eastern Orthodox Church's celebration of Passion Week and Easter is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Contact us if interested in going!

And airfares are far less than they have been!

Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

One Step at a Time

Throughout the years that I've known people in 12-step programs, one of the common phrases is "one day at a time." In other words, to borrow Jesus' words, tomorrow has enough to keep us busy, so why worry about tomorrow and missing living today to its fullest?

In lunch with my friend Paul Fukui--a pilgrim--in Portland, OR, he simply said, "well, why not live one step at a time?" Living the pilgrim life where we are means living one step at a time, rather than running the full gamut, or going the full distance in one day.

Here's to trying to live one step at a time.

Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Church in the Trunk of the Car: A Pilgrimage

On, there was a great story on rural churches that are simply dying off.  They are dying because no one goes to these churches any more.  This is especially the situation in the Midwest, e.g., Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc.  Some churches are becoming yoked parishes--a practice that all Christian churches are used to be now--and they resemble a kind of pilgrimage, as people go from place to place to worship.  I remember when I was beginning a parish--Davis Dr. in Cary, now Cornerstone--and we talked about church in the trunk: cross, amp, microphone, and hymnals.  That model still works.  It is a model of the pilgrim: putting all our earthly cares in the back-pack, and off we go.

Click here for more.

Buen Camino!

Peace, Brett

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Day Pilgrimage: Part II (The End)

One of the most wonderful parts of the parade were the bands.  They played extraordinarily well in bone chilling cold.  Amazing and breathless!  There were the Colonial-dressed fifes and drums, along with bands of large tubas; bands with lawn mowers; and baton twirlers and pom-pom cheerleaders as far as the eye could see.

After the Obamas and Bidens finished walking the route, a lot of people left the bleachers, but not us!  We looked behind us, at the White House, and we watched the Obamas go into the White House to retrieve the children.  The Bidens walked to the Presidential reviewing stand (above).  Suddenly, the Obamas and their children were running down the blue carpeted walk way to the reviewing stand: and we could see it all!

We inched closer to the stand and higher among the bleachers.  Soon we were seeing the north side of the White House over the fence.  We were so close we could've jumped over the fence quite easily, only to be caught by security details.  We could see the Obamas and Bidens in the stand.  Suddenly, Malia and Sasha dashed out of the stand, followed by their grandmother, Ms. Robinson, playing on the front lawn of the White House, going to their new home!


We were frozen in our places, not by the cold but by the excitement of it all, and we didn't want to leave or miss anything.  But by 6:00 P.M. we were tired and ready to head home.


Buen Camino!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Bidens!

Here is a photo of the Bidens!

Inauguration Day Pilgrimage: Part II (Continued)

Mark, Dean, and I walked around the campus of George Washington Univ. (GWU), searching for a place for lunch.  We were on "cloud 9" after watching the inauguration, surprised that we got onto the mall so easily, the great view of the jumbo-tron television, the incredible sense of "good vibrations" from so many people: young and old, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight. Flags were everywhere, along with Obama buttons, scarves, and hats...even a coat with an image of Obama on it in silver sequins.

After a great lunch at Country Cupboard, and coffee, we were amazed at all the people strolling the streets, avenues, and boulevards.  1.9 million people were there and were now spread among the streets.  We were not allowed down certain streets, and motorcades were already taking people hither and yon.  Buses blocked some streets, along with armed guards.  But even with a chill in the air, there were smiles most everywhere.

I took a photo down Penn. Ave., toward the White House, seeing white tents at the end of the street.  Mark and I knew the White House was located down the street.  With coffee in hand, we strolled down the street and came upon lines of people waiting at both ends of the street before a white tent, where Secret Service were vetting people to go to the parade route.  I suggested we get in line, Mark asked if the line was for getting into the area of the parade, "yes" was the answer, and we waited in line for 30 minutes, creeping slowly toward the tent.  We didn't have a ticket.  We simply inched up.  Volunteers told us there was a chance we would get in.  We waited.  The three of us, along with a young girl, were at the head of the line when a Secret Service agent stopped us and said, "It is full.  You can go."  My mouth hung wide open.  So close!  Yet so far away.  But then, seeing a group of children behind us, he said, "Oh, children, well, let this small group in," and soon we were being screened by Secret Service personnel.

We got into the parade route!

We got bleacher seats next to the Presidential Review stand!

We got seats right in front of the White House, three rows from the barricade, across from the Blair House.

We were amazed!

Soon the announcer remarked that the President and First Lady were just up the street and they had just gotten out of the car, "The Beast," the new Cadillac with thicker plates of armor, etc.

After the motorcycles, the honor guard, and the marching bands, there they were!  Barack and Michelle walked only a few yards from us, waving AT US!  Amazing!  

They were followed by Joe and Jill Biden, with Joe dancing down the road.  One young woman fumbled getting her camera together and Joe stopped, posed, she took the picture, her life ever changed.


Buen Camino!


Part III coming...  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day Pilgrimage: Part II

To begin: a photo of Barack and Michelle Obama, walking right in front of us in the Inaugural parade.  Dean took this with his iphone.  Barack walked closer to us, along with Michelle, only a few yards a way.  I'll try to get all the images up in the days to come.  We were seated in the bleachers near the Presidential reviewing stand.  After the Obamas, we then saw the Bidens, with Joe doing an almost-jig.

More to come!

Buen Camino!


Inauguration Day Pilgrimage: Part I

After many years I've come to understand that pilgrimage does not necessarily happen only abroad but right where we live, right under our noses. And I know that pilgrimages don't always seem to be religious or sacred in a theological sense, but can even take a nationalistic bent, e.g., 911 site, Gettysburg, and the old Yankee Stadium.

Such was this case of going to Washington, DC for the inaugural festivities for the 44th President of the USA, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden. While there were elements of religion in the rituals, it was still more secular and nationalistic...and powerful.

Along with our friend Mark, we left his home in Arlington, VA (Clarendon) around 10:30 A.M., getting on two different Metro lines to Arlington Cemetery. It was chilly! I dressed in several layers of clothes above and below. The sky was blue. No crowd walking to the Mall yet. DC was closed for the day: a Federal holiday. We had water bottles and energy bars, just like a pilgrimage. The trains were fairly full, but not too crowded. When we got off the train, a young man said his friends said that the Mall was now closed-off: all full. Nevertheless, we walked in frigid temps across Memorial Bridge from the cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial. We made it around the Memorial and then walked right onto the Mall by the edge of the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, right in front of a Jumbo-tron television, watching the last thirty minutes of Bush's administration: 11:30. In front of us were Brynn (a Republican) and her friend (a Democrat), who tried to rationalize what was happening. Brynn was pro-life and hoped that Obama would be all right with issues around abortion. Brynn was from Delaware, so she shouted loudly when Biden became Vice President. I shouted too because it was the end of Cheney's reign. Then there was the bungling of Obama's oath of office, screwed up by Chief Justice Roberts. It was a comedy of errors in this case, but Obama was smooth.

What was amazing was the sense of joy that swept over the people who gathered at the Mall, conservative and liberal alike, along with independent people. People were friendly, talking and laughing with each other, we were sharing food and drinks, and there was a wonderful warmth over the crowd. There were shouts of joy when Biden and Obama took the oath of office, along with pictures of the Obama girls. The music of the quartet, playing an air on "Tis a gift to be simple" was beautiful, and the words of the poet, um, interesting. I was surprised at the non-offensive nature of the invocation by Warren, and laughed at Lowery's closing prayer, e.g., "If your brown, stick around." Aretha Franklin sang the National Anthem with her own jazzy bravado.

We walked over to one of the porta-potties, and soon were off and running for lunch, along with ALL of the 1.9 to 2 million people. Incredible! We walked around George Washington University's campus in search of food: a hot sandwich, with a hot drink. Hot.
It was an amazing day to be there. No crimes were committed in D.C. that day in or around the inaugural events. 1.8 to 2 million people were there, more than any before. There were a few less people watching it than Reagan's first inauguration on television.
We were a people. We were the United States "is" versus "are." We were united for a moment, sensing that something new was happening. To be at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial where so much history has taken place, like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech, "I have a dream" on August 28, 1963, while at the other end of the mall Obama was giving his speech seemed to be most fitting.
A chill went up our spines.
We were all kissing one another after he took the pledge.
Stay tuned for Part II!

Buen camino!


Friday, January 16, 2009

Pilgrimage and Social Consciousness

One of the aspects of pilgrimage I've not written much about is pilgrimage and social activism and consciousness.  I know that some pilgrimages are also marches of one kind or another, promoting a social issue.  For example, every Good Friday there is a pilgrimage from Fayetteville to Raleigh, focusing on those who have died in Central and South America because of American politics and military forces, carrying small crosses with names of those who had died.  Meanwhile, the marches for civil rights were pilgrimages.  Those who are against or for a lot of causes usually drum up support for their cause by marching and moving en masse, e.g., Selma with King, Chavez and the farm workers, and the list goes on.  On the pilgrimage to Chimayo there is the opportunity to stop at a United Methodist Church where there is a soup kitchen: pilgrimage with social action.

I am especially struck by the violence in the Holy Land, in which the Palestinian people and the other people of Israel are clearly divided, with violence ripping through the land.

I am struck by the reminder of violence of the Basque area of Spain, evident even during a pilgrimage to Santiago.

When I've been on pilgrimage in Ireland, the violence between northern Ireland and the Republican of Ireland is everywhere.

I am hoping that in 2009 a social consciousness will be a part of the pilgrimages I go on throughout the year.

Buen camino!

Peace, B

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In Between: Advent and Lent, Christmas and Easter

The time in-between Christmas and Easter, Advent and Lent: this is where we are between seasons, a lull of sorts. Christmas and Easter are high points of the Christian year. We are now in the ordinary days before Lent, and the Church continues to grow in its waiting. The pilgrimage continues.

Buen camino!

Peace, Brett

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I don't know why I'm so drawn to celebrating this holy day. Perhaps it is because of the three Wisemen (Matt. 2:1-11) who finally made it to the point of their pilgrimage.

And what did they feel when they arrived to his cradle bed? What were there impressions? Why did they give him gifts of material possessions and not their very lives?

We are also asked the questions as pilgrims: do we bring things with us, or our very lives?

Salaam and shalom!

Buen camino!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Epiphany and Our Pilgrimage

It is the morning of Sunday, Jan. 4th, and I am preaching a sermon on the Epiphany...a few days earlier than the actual celebration on Jan. 6th. I truly am intrigued by this story, perhaps because of an excellent production of Amahl and the Night Visitor that I saw at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC.

What is wonderful about this story is the gathering at the destination point: the star, the Magi, the shepherds, Joseph and Mary, and Jesus. All have finally made it to their destination point: adoration of the Christ child, our Redeemer.

Happy Epiphany, pilgrims today!

Salaam and shalom!

Buen camino!