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!