Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pledge Reminder

Dear Friend:

A few weeks ago I sent a letter announcing the winter pledge drive for the School of the Pilgrim. Many of you have responded kindly – some by sending in pledges, some by asking for prayers, while others have inquired about the upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land to be held November 12-22, 2011. For this I thank you!

Since we wrote you a few weeks ago, the Chapel Hill News has accepted for publication an essay about my most recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land (see attached). Last week I had a great lunchtime conversation with one of the campus ministries at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill about the School of the Pilgrim guiding their upcoming mission trip to a Navajo reservation in Arizona this May 2011. Opportunities to create pilgrimages with others groups are starting to percolate.

The School of the Pilgrim is becoming an exciting opportunity to provide an alternative way of educating and nurturing people of faith in a way that the world has either largely forgotten about or never considered before. But we cannot stop now; we need your continuing help to keep building upon the School of the Pilgrim’s progress.

Here's where you can help: please consider pledging $25, $50, $75, $100, or as much as you feel comfortable giving. You can contribute online at Simply go to the menu on the left of the website, click "Contribute" and follow the instructions. Or you can send a check with a contribution to: School of the Pilgrim, P.O. Box 572, Carrboro, NC 27510. Remember that the School of the Pilgrim is a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. Your contribution by December 31, 2010 is deductible this tax year.

If you cannot give at this time, please consider ways you can support us with volunteer efforts during the next year. Meanwhile, I will continue to post insights regarding the life of a pilgrim on You can look for new images from recent pilgrimages on our website

Thank you in advance for your support of the School of the Pilgrim! Through the kindness of you and others like you, we continue to make progress. Please feel free to forward this letter to others who might be interested!

Pilgrim Peace,

Brett Webb-Mitchell
P.O. Box 572
Carrboro, NC 27510

End of Year Report of the School of the Pilgrim

Greetings from the School of the Pilgrim!

On behalf of the School of the Pilgrim, I want to share with you the latest happenings within the School.
* I just returned from a pilgrimage in Israel and Egypt, in which the School of the Pilgrim participated in a pilgrimage-on-camel back led by our dear friend Dr. Henry Carse. This pilgrimage is the subject of the latest newsletter attached to this email.
* The School of the Pilgrim is working with East Caroline University's Presbyterian Campus Ministry program for a service pilgrimage in the Dominican Republic in March 2011, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Presbyterian Campus Ministry pilgrimage with the Navajo people in Arizona in May 2011;
* The School of the Pilgrim is leading a pilgrimage in the Holy Land the third week of November in 2011. We are going to spend three days in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, followed by four days in the Sinai wilderness, and a day at St. Catherine's of the Sinai Monastery. More news forthcoming of this pilgrimage.
* Desert Spirituality Pilgrimage: we are working on plans for a Desert Spirituality pilgrimage in Egypt in 2011. Plans are flying in and out of Cairo to St. Antony's Monastery; St. Markarios, and then five days on pilgrimage in the wilderness of the Sinai, ending with time at St. Catherine's;
* I am currently teaching world religions at North Carolina Central University for Spring 2011. This course is going to be framed as a pilgrimage among world religions;
* Pilgrimage to Chimayo, New Mexico: The first week of June, I will be joining the brothers and sisters who walk 120 miles in 6 days to the sacred chapel of Chimayo, New Mexico. The School of the Pilgrim will be hosting our Egyptian friend, Moussa Hanna, who leads our pilgrimages in Egypt through Abanoub Travel Company. Moussa is an Egyptian Coptic Christian, and this will be his first time visiting the United States.

As we head to fourth quarter of the calendar year, along with your prayers and other volunteer work on behalf of the School of the Pilgrim, please consider sending a tax deductible donation by December 31, 2010, so that this new and growing non-profit will have funds throughout 2011! There are two ways you can contribute: (1) go to and click on the word "Contribute" on the side bar, and follow the instructions on, or (2) simply mail a check School of the Pilgrim, c/o Brett Webb-Mitchell, P.O. Box 572, Carrboro, NC 27510.

Thank you, again, for your support that makes the School of the Pilgrim possible! We are dependent upon the generosity of you, kind donors, to sustain and grow the School of the Pilgrim. Keep us in your prayers, and we shall do the same!

Pilgrim peace,



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Homeward Bound

Above is my felafel. It was lunch for my return trip to Jerusalem. I got it at the bus station in Eilat, waiting for the 1:00 PM bus for Jerusalem. On this leg of the trip, I sat by Shookie Abo, an Israeli whose parents were from Jews from Morocco. Shookie ran a boat for scuba divers in Eilat, and was on his way to China to see about purchasing new boats for his business.

The most important part of this leg of the journey was the uneasy, unraveling truce between Israelis and Palestinians that erupted on the bus outside of Jerusalem as we neared the beginning of Sabbath. The article from that eruption, "The Bus Ride" will be linked later.

There is no doubt that I will be back in the area next year, third week of November. Come, one and all, for this pilgrimage!

Buen camino!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Day Five: Heading Home

This is a picture of the sun rising over the Sinai. On the left side of the pic you can see the Jeep of Abanoub travel agency. My camping equipment is in the foreground. The desert beauty of the Sinai surrounds me.

Yesterday we said good bye to our camels and Bedouin friends, promising to see each other in the new year, "God willing." The days in the desert seemed to fly by. It all ended so soon...too soon...I want more.

On this day I traveled in three cars simply getting to the border crossing in Taba. I was just ahead of the crowd of Muslims coming back from vacation. I caught a taxi and found myself on the Egged bus to Jerusalem. The experience on the bus as we neared Jerusalem is itself an article, which I will post soon. After a delicious dinner at the Jerusalem Hotel, I got on the Nesher to Tel Aviv, leaving early in the morning (12:30 AM) to JFK in NYC.

Buen camino!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day Four: Between Holy Mystery and Violence

What I have come to understand about this land--after four consecutive years in this part of the world--is that it is a holy land that embodies both mystery and violence. There is nothing about this landscape (picture above) that shouts "lush" and "verdant." It is a raw beauty that is saturated with holy mystery. And yet the landscape is also violent to the touch and even from the look. There is nothing in this landscape that necessarily speaks of peace. Thus the walls between this river of rock and sand is "holy mystery" and "violence."

Buen camino!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day Three in the Sinai: The Lunar Landscape

On day three in the Sinai: what I noticed most about this holy, mysterious land is how eerily it resembles what I think the moon or lunar landscape would look like. Now and then a brave acacia tree takes root and springs forth. Sandstone captures whatever water descends. How can one's mind, spirit, and imagination not soar, or descend, as one looks for a point of reference that is smooth and reassuring. Austere and wind-swept acreage surrounds me as far as the eye can see, or the ear hear.

In the season of Advent, I hear of new growth emerging from deserts. The pic is the desert. Hard to see, with the naked eye, how anything can grow.



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day Two in the Sinai: Imagination Station

The second day in the wilderness of the Sinai: we come to Imagination Station. This was no time to ride camels as the steep decline is enough for the camel to do by him or herself. Imagination Station received its name because the rock formation elicits all kinds of images. For example, above is Elephant Head Rock...of course! See the trunk? See the ears?

It is here where Henry Carse--friend and guide--challenges people to wonder about the word "miracle" and how the word "mirror" comes from the basic root of the same word.

In the desert, we can imagine anything we want, because the canvas is so wide and beautifully exposing our creative minds to dream dreams...just like brother Joseph from the Hebrew Texts, who was sold by his brothers in the land of Egypt.

Wonders of wonders...

Buen camino!


Monday, December 13, 2010

First Day in Egypt

The bus ride to Eilat was uneventful, and border crossing took just a little bit longer than usual because we found our way in the middle of the beginning of a Muslim holiday, which celebrates the safety of Ishmael (not sacrificed).

In Taba, we were met by the good people of Abanoub Travel, especially my/our friend Moussa Hanna. For a delicious lunch, we ate at a seaside resort, owned by a Christian family, in the seaside port/holiday spot of Nuweiba.

Ater our lunch, we drove out to the desert, taking a right off of the road, and drove miles into the desert to our Bedouin camp. The Egyptian government is starting to reduce the number of Bedouins (in a kind of way) by building them homes in the middle of (what feels like) nowhere.

Dusk greeted us as we neared the Bedouin tent, surrounded by our camels. The pilgrimage is engaged.

Buen camino!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Destination: Egypt!

On November 15th, we were on a small mini-van at 6:00 AM, in order to get onto a bus (government owned Egged bus) from Jerusalem to Eilat, Israel. It will take around 4 1/2 hours, going down the spine of Israel, passing sites like the Dead Sea and Masada.

Pic is of me FINALLY in Taba, Egypt. Only hours away from walking in the beauty of the desert.

Buen camino!


St. George's College, Jerusalem, Israel

The morning of the 14th of November was warm, almost sultry. Joined by Henry Carse--who was officially the leader of the pilgrimage to the Sinai--and his companion Carole, we helped ourselves to breakfast at St. George's Pilgrim Guest House. Then a small gropu of us joined the congregants who gather Sunday mornings at 9:30 for the Arabic-English worship in the Cathedral of St. George's. We listened to the lilting voice of the Anglican priest who spoke in Arabic, not understanding a word he was saying.

The rest of the day was busy with meeting of other pilgrims, and a quick dash through East Jerusalem, the Old City, and the refurbished Israel Museum. That evening, dinner was at my favorite place, Al Azahra's Restaurant for a great feast, getting the logistics down for the next day, in which we would officially begin the pilgrimage of the Sinai!

Buen camino!


The Damascus Gate: Day One

I left Raleigh-Durham Intl. Airport at 7:45 in the evening of Fri., Nov. 12th, 2010, arriving in Tel Aviv at 5:30 the next afternoon (Nov. 13). I took a minivan--Nesher van service--to St. George's College, Cathedral, and Guest House, where I began meeting with various members of the pilgrim group. We went to dinner that night at Pasha's Restaurant, feasting on dishes of hummus, olives, cucumbers, and roasted chicken, lamb, and tomatoes.

The pic above is the Damascus Gate, one of the entry ways into the Old City. At other times it is simply a bazaar of extraordinary proportions.

Buen camino!


Remembering Jerusalem

I'm going to be posting pics and narrative from this previous pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt. Reading and hearing all the Scriptural references to Sinai and Jerusalem in the readings of Advent, I can't help BUT think of these places.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Newsletter from the School of the Pilgrim

Here it is, folks! Some photos from the latest sojourn in Egypt!

Buen camino!


Friday, December 3, 2010


At North Carolina Central University, I was showing them all the various blogsites, and showed them this one (among many others). The students are coming to a resting place in their pilgrimage of life.


Buen Camino!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sinai Reflections

First Sunday of Advent was this previous Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. First hymn that we sang at United Church of Chapel Hill was "O come, O come, Emmanuel." Having sung this hymn too many times to count, I was suddenly smiling at the words in the fourth or fifth (depends on version) stanza. The words brought me back to the Sinai quickly:

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Having just been on pilgrimage on camel back in the middle of the Sinai, I quickly remembered that the Holy appeared not to scholars, scribes, or learned professors in seminaries and universities, but to average, ordinary, Bedouin-like the people who led me on camel back, who have never been to college, let alone finished any kind of formal schooling.

Pic above is from the latest trek!

Buen Camino!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Tethering and Un-Tethering

While out in the Sinai peninsula, I had a chance of living the untethered life. After all, there was nothing I could do in the arid wasteland of the Sinai desert. Nothing.

The gauntlet that I threw down to the "ordinary" life in going on this pilgrimage is living un-tethered, un-hooked from the daily obligations.

As I re-connect, I find that everyone survived and thrived without my being around.

It's all good.

Buen camino.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Wandering Aramean

Today's lectionary reading at United Church of Chapel Hill, NC touched upon the theme of pilgrimage in the land I just left. From Deuteronomy:

"A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and live as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression...bringing us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm."

Powerful when the Scripture points to where I just left, literally and figuratively, the last few days.

Buen camino!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Returning Home Yet the Pilgrimage Continues

Just returned to the States after a wondrous pilgrimage in the desert of the Sinai.

One of the things I learned was to be in awe of what is around the corner, or over the mountain, or through the gap we walked through in our time in the desert.

Next year: third week of November, we're going on pilgrimage in the Sinai again. More information forthcoming.

Buen Camino,


Friday, November 19, 2010

Back in Jerusalemn

The pilgrimage in the desert was wonderful, exotic, joyous, soul-ful, enchanting, and mystical. My camel's name was Aida, and I called her "Diva."

We traveled a part of the desert that I did not traverse last year, and that made all the difference. Warmer than last year as well, sleeping in t-shirt and boxers in the evening rather than long sleeve t-shirts and pants.

Next years pilgrimage in the desert is in the works: third week or so of November, flying in and out of Cairo, with focus on the Desert Fathers--like St. Antony--and Desert Mothers--like St. Catherine--and four nights/five days on camel in the Sinai.

More to come!

Buen Camino!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pilgrimage: Day One in Jerusalem

Greetings from Jerusalem. It has been a wonderful pilgrimage so far. I've met some wonderful people, and am eager to see what the Holy One is to reveal or is revealing.

Smooth flights from Raleigh-Durham to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Tel Aviv. I was picked up from the airport by a van--Nesher--and taken to St. George's Guest House, Cathedral, and College. Here, I met six of the other pilgrims, plus Jaqlynne, from the Netherlands (doing a documentary on German Jews who were refugees in the Netherlands during WWII). We all walked to Pasha's for dinner, with a table spread of food and wine. Delicious!

This morning (Sunday) there was a leisurely breakfast of meats, cheeses, tomatoes, cucumbers, pitas, eggs, hummus, grapes, olives, and other savory and delectible treats. Strong coffee helped me stay awak for the Arabic-English worded worship in the Cathedral this morning.

Soon we were off to see some sights: we walked the noisy and fascinating throngs of Palestinians in E. Jerusalem, walking through Damascus Gates toward Joffa St. We grabbed lunch at a small whole in the wall (more hummus), and then one of the other pilgrims (Debbie) and I made a bee-line for the Israel Museum. We toured the Shrine of the Book, housing the Dead Sea Scrolls, and looked at the model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. Then we ducked into the Modern Museum, which has recently been re-opened, and were fascinated by the modern and contemporary art, along with work by contemporary Jewish artists.

Dinner was back in E. Jerusalem, at a favorite restaurant, Al Azahras. Delicious. All the pilgrims were there. I'm one of the two youngest on the trek among the eleven of us.

Tomorrow is a bright and shine morning: meeting at 6 and on the bus to Eilat by 7. We cross the border into Taba, Egypt, and soon whisked into the desert-land of the Sinai Peninsula.

Buen Camino!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Leaving on Pilgrimage

Not sure what is ahead--which is the treat of being a pilgrim--but going to Egypt with the ease of grace to know all will be well; lives will be changed; and throwing down a challenge to the ordinariness of life, being open to the Spirit.

I leave tomorrow on Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, for Tel Aviv, arriving on Sat. afternoon, and then off to Jerusalem. From Jerusalem to Egypt on Monday morning. Then five days in the Sinai: two days in a jeep and walking, and three days on camel back.

Eager to see what the Spirit is opening me up to in the mystery of the desert.

Buen camino, wherever you may be,


p.s., pic of my friend Moussaa and Brett

Friday, November 5, 2010

Being on a Pilgrimage Versus Being a Traveler on a Trip

Found this fascinating comparison between pilgrimage and traveling on "Zero News." There is a difference between the two, though travel and pilgrimage overlap:

Of the three archaic reasons for travel - call them «war», «trade», and «pilgrimage» - which one gave birth to tourism? Some would automatically answer that it must be pilgrimage. The pilgrim goes «there» to see, the pilgrim normally brings back some souvenir; the pilgrim takes «time off» from daily life; the pilgrim has non-material goals. In this way, the pilgrim foreshadows the tourist.

But the pilgrim undergoes a shift of consciousness, and for the pilgrim that shift is real. Pilgrimage is a form of initiation, and initiation is an opening to other forms of cognition.

We can detect something of the real difference between pilgrim and tourist, however, by comparing their effects on the places they visit. Changes in a place-a city, a shrine, a forest-may be subtle, but at least they can be observed. The state of the soul may be a matter for conjecture, but perhaps we can say something about the state of the social.

As I get ready to go on a pilgrimage with School of the Pilgrim, these are good words to remember.


Buen Camino!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Countdown Begun for Pilgrimage on the Sinai Peninsula

I've begun the countdown to the next pilgrimage: the Sinai Peninsula! Leave on Nov. 12th, arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel on the evening of the 13th, and then on the morning of Nov. 15th, down to Eilat and then over the border to Taba! Walk for the day into the evening, find the camels, and the next three days: camels on pilgrimage!

This is a beautiful part of the world. There are no email connections, no computers, no electric wires...only a stray jet flies overhead now and then.

This desert land is the writing place of those who wrote the Hebrew sacred Scripture and the New Testament texts.



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Going on a camel pilgrimage

Leaving Nov. 12th for a 5 day "wilderness" pilgrimage in the middle of the Sinai desert.

It is time to go and be lost!



Monday, October 11, 2010

NT Wright on Piligrimage

NT Wright on pilgrimage, from The Holy Land Today:

When we go on pilgrimage today, then, we do not go in order to comment on or criticize other people for their inability to solve political problems. God knows we can’t solve our own, which are much smaller and less rooted in history. Of course, we will grieve over injustice, oppression and violence wherever it occurs and whoever instigates it; but in highly complex situations it behooves us to go with our eyes and ears open, ready to learn rather than to condemn. But as pilgrims we go, above all, to pray. In the same passage where Paul speaks of God’s intention to make the whole world his Holy Land, to renew and liberate the whole of creation, he also speaks of the whole creation at present groaning in travail; and then he declares that we who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we, too, wait for our final redemption (Romans 8.18-27). It is in that context that he says that all things work together for good to those who love God (8.28).

Pilgrimage is a teaching aid: at this level, it teaches us not only about the roots of our faith, but about the ways in which injustice still rampages through communities, some of them within our own family. It opens our eyes to see God’s world the way it is, rather than the way we would like to imagine it. Second, pilgrimage is a way of prayer: both a way of drinking in the presence and love of God in Christ, as we visit places particularly associated with him, and also now a way of standing at the place of pain, at the foot of the cross literally and metaphorically, holding on to that pain in the presence of God in Christ, not knowing what the solution will be but only that God is there, grieving with and in us, in a perpetual Holy Week at the heart of the Holy Land. Third, pilgrimage is a way of discipleship: both to be reinforced in our own daily life and work as Christians, and now also to be reinforced in thinking, working, speaking, writing and praying for justice and peace to be restored to the Middle East, to Northern Ireland, to the Sudan, to God’s entire creation.

We do not go on pilgrimage, then, because we have the answers and want to impose them. That would make us crusaders, not pilgrims; the world has had enough of that, and I dare say God has had enough of that. We go on the pilgrim way, we follow the way of the Lord, because he himself is the way – and, as he said himself, the truth and the life as well. We go to meet him afresh, to share his agony, and to pray and work for the victory he won on the cross to be implemented, and for his way to be followed, in Israel and Palestine, in our own countries, and in the whole world.

Pace, B

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Frederick Buechner on pilgrimage...again

Found this quote under "Religion" in Wishful Thinking by Frederick Buechner:

The word religion points to that area of human experience where one way or another we come upon Mystery as a summons to pilgrimage.

Way cool.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bedouin Blues

I enjoyed this clip of an article about snow in the Sinai mountains and Bedouin culture:

It is getting cool during the day and downright freezing at night. The mountains are at an altitude of over 2,400m (over 7,500 ft) and the tops receive snow during the winter season. Snow is good because it means water for the Bedouin gardens, but it also means fewer customers because nobody wants to spend a chilly night on a mountain and wake up to frozen pools of water. South Sinai is in Egypt and as every Westerner knows, Egypt is where the pyramids are and therefore it must be hot. Always. All the time.

Snowy SinaiExplaining to visiting Westerners that actually no, the pyramids are not next door and yes, that is real snow, takes some time. We have endless tales of visitors arriving from the coast, wanting to climb Jebel Mousa (Mt Sinai) and arriving in their best beach clothes only to find that the top of Jebel Mousa at 4am in the morning during winter with a high wind, is, shall we say, somewhat cold.

Click here for more.

Buen camino,


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pilgrimage Destination: Ein Gedi, Israel

Wonderful story about the oasis of Ein Gedi in Israel from the

Ein Gedi is a place whose burnt-red crags and incongruous pockets of greenery can make you feel as if you’ve landed, Charlton Heston-like, on some highly cinematic planet. In fact, you have. Ein Gedi is the planet of the epic Biblical past. The niches in the cliffs are where David hid from his enemy King Saul, and the rocky paths are where Saul hunted for him. The vineyards of Ein Gedi produced glorious henna flowers that the singer of the Song of Songs compares to his beloved.

Our plan was to spend two days exploring the Ein Gedi oasis with a guide who had once been the director of the field school there, which is run by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and one night camping in the desert nearby. It was June, and the guide had assured me that we’d cope with the desert’s incandescence by hiking in water and hiking by moonlight. Friends raised their eyebrows. I hoped he was right.

The drive to Ein Gedi from Jerusalem took us past the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, which has a bright and slightly creepy turquoise cast. This is partly because the water is framed in red by the surrounding mountains, partly because it is supercharged with salt and other minerals.

Click here for more.



Monday, September 13, 2010

Theologians on Pilgrimage: Karl Barth

Looking at other theologians and their take on pilgrimage.

This is Karl Barth:

Such men and women (like Abraham and Sarah) are pilgrims, prepared always for surrender and dissolution, decrease in honor, ever tireless in descending the ladder of renunciation and death. To be pilgrims means that we constantly return to a starting point of that naked humanity which is absolute poverty and utter insecurity...god is not found on the throne, but on the plain where men and women suffer and sin.

(From Barth's Commentary on Romans 3:22, 23)



Monday, September 6, 2010

Pilgrimage...East Coast Style

From the today, this article on the seven highest peaks on the East Coast:

THE world’s Seven Summits — the highest mountain on each continent — were in the news this year when the Alaskan climber Vern Tejas set a record by ascending them all in just 134 days. Inspired by him, I set out to climb a few peaks of my own. My challenge would be to hike what I call the Six Summits — the highest point in each New England state. I required no pack animals, porters or supplemental oxygen. Armed instead with a map, compass, hiking boots and a blue Honda, my journey lasted six days and brought me to six unique places. Below is a guide to my quest, presented in order from the point with the highest elevation to that with the lowest.

Click here for more.



Friday, September 3, 2010

East London: Great Place for a Pilgrimage

Found this in the about a part of London I love:

his is East London, a sprawling area known for its artists, anarchists and immigrants. Neighborhoods like Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Hackney Wick have long been where a creative class could afford to live and work. Now it’s also where they play, shop and eat.

Though the main arteries are often choked by traffic, the side streets of East London can be as tranquil and pleasant as parks. The area feels light years away from central London, and totally self-sufficient, thanks to a host of enticing restaurants, shops, markets and hotels.

As Clarise Faria, the curator of the Loft Project, a private club that invites acclaimed chefs to cook meals in an airy apartment for select guests, said: “There’s no reason to go to the rest of London.”

There’s certainly no reason to go elsewhere to eat. In 2005, a shed behind a former school that now contains an artists’ studio, where Rochelle Street meets the leafy traffic circle Arnold Circus, became Rochelle Canteen, a restaurant open only for lunch. The food is bright, direct and unapologetically English: fare includes dishes like a salad of fresh peas, favas and pea shoots, and a whole sole sautéed in butter and served with cucumber and fennel. The spot has a casual elegance, and it’s easy to linger over a midweek lunch, with dogs napping in the restaurant’s walled garden and neighbors catching up with one another.

On the other side of Arnold Circus is Leila’s Shop, a small specialty store with raw wood shelves, drying sausages and nougat imported from Isfahan, Iran. On a recent visit, I was browsing the shelves of house-made jams with the cookbook author Anissa Helou, who sometimes holds cooking classes in her nearby loft, and after we stepped outside, a perfectly silent electric car whipped around the corner. The driver and Ms. Helou knew each other, and as they said their hellos under a bank of trees four stories tall, I felt that I was looking into the future, to a time when cities are gentle and everybody is friendly.

Things are busier a few blocks to the south on Redchurch Street. There are boutiques like Caravan (tasteful bric-a-brac) and Hostem (sartorial concept designs for men), and there’s Boundary, a hotel and restaurant that the designer and hotelier Terence Conran opened last year. Shoreditch House, a branch of Soho House that opened as a hotel this spring, is nearby. So is Dirty House, a soot-gray private artists’ residence designed by the conceptual architect David Adjaye; the building’s cantilevered roof seems to hover at night, as the interior lights below give it a luminescent glow.

And then there’s Columbia Road, home to an open-air flower market on Sundays since the 19th century. More recently, it has welcomed dozens of tiny shops that bustle during the week.




Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Pilgrimages

There is something about Stieg Larrson and his books about Elisabeth Salander and Mikal Bloomkvist in the series of "The Girl..." set in Sweden. I've heard on blogsites and cable channels that there is a wonderful "pilgrimage" around the places and sights and sounds where the book took place around Stockholm and beyond.

In the, there is another idea of a pilgrimage where books are set. Context matters, according to Joe Queenan who wrote this interesting essay on a staycation, in which he visits places in which authors lived or set their books in:

Most staycations combine edification with retail: you visit a battlefield or a museum and then hit the amusement park and the outlet stores. This sounded too downscale for me. Instead, I planned a literary staycation in Pennsylvania. My destinations were Reading, where John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run” is set; Pottsville, where John O’Hara set dozens of his New Yorker stories; and Scranton, where Jason Miller, who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1973 for “That Championship Season,” grew up. All are within two hours’ drive of my home outside New York City. The idea was to combine local color and cuisine with a visit to the old stomping grounds of these three very different American writers. Throughout the trip, I would reread the works that made these men famous. I thought it sounded like great fun. But in the end, I had to go on my own because my wife and kids declined to accompany me. They preferred to just stay.



Friday, August 27, 2010


Interesting website...

A way to discover the footsteps of Buddha.



Saturday, August 21, 2010

God, guide our feet into the way of peace...even in troubled lands

I am at a conference on people with disabilities in Wilmington, NC. I gave a talk yesterday on the place and presence of people with disabilities in faith communities. What I have heard since I've been here has been numbing but not shocking:
* Parents of children with disabilities told not to come to a faith community by a pastor, priest, or other religious leaders;
* Death threats by members of faith communities if a group home of people with disabilities were to open up because it would decrease the value of homes nearby;
* Sequestering people with disabilities into parts of worship in which "they wouldn't disturb others," as if the Holy Spirit isn't the great disturber of life.

So: in the Canticle of Zechariah (NT, Luke), we pray "Guide out feet into the way of peace." This is poignant in lands and people's lives that are torn asunder by such violence.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hebrews 11, from the Good as New Version of the Bible!

Powerful reading today at Church from the Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures of Hebrews 11, which refers to the sojourners of yore:

Abraham trusted God too. He took God's advice and set out to find a permanent home for his family. He had no idea where he was going. He had to keep on trusting because, although he spent a long time in the land God had in mind for him, it didn't seem like home. He only had tents to live in. The same was true for Isaac his son, and Jacob his grandson. they shared Abraham's dream. He had a vision of a city built on firm foundations. God would be the architect and the builder.

Sarah, Abraham's wife, was able to have a baby, even though she was past the normal age of having children. That was because she trusted God to keep a promise. Although Sarah and Abraham were coming to the end of their lives, they had as many descendants as there were stars in the sky or pebbles on the beach.

Nice translation.

Very nice.

Pace! and Buen Camino!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Pilgrimage and Buddhists

There is an interesting exhibit of artwork of Buddhists on pilgrimage. Like pilgrims throughout time, Buddhists go on pilgrimage just like Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc.:

"Materially it's cornucopian, with all manner of painting and sculpture and a North Face supply of pilgrim travel gear: rucksacks, hiking staffs and fanny packs, not to mention charts and maps, some cosmic, some not."

Sounds like a pilgrimage to me!

Buen camino!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Journeying Stage

In Radical Grace, Richard Rohr posits that there are four ages of human life--well, he says men, but I'll say human life.

First is student time: learning from our elders. Second age is the "man/woman the bread winner," creating and living within a family unit. Rohr suggests that many people get "stuck" here in this age/stage/move/step, and sadly remain here for the rest of their life.

The third? Journeyer. Nomad. Accumulator of experiences from near and far. Pilgrim!

The fourth: the one who has gained experienced, only obtained through going through the other three ages.

Food for thought.


Buen camino!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Being a Pilgrim: A Matter of Life and Death

Reading in the today about the Shiites who were killed while on pilgrimage, visiting a holy shrine. From they

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims at a police checkpoint in Baghdad on Wednesday night, killing at least 28 people and wounding 81 others despite intensive efforts by Iraqi security forces to foil such attacks.

There is a price to paying homage at such holy sites in a dangerous world.



Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pilgrimage Text in Lectionary Reading's Gospel Choice

Herschel H. Sheets, from "The Protestant Hour" wrote this:

Jesus ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff, no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics." They were to travel light. When you are loaded down, the normal tendency is to think about your load. Too heavy a load distracts oru attention; it saps your strength, drains away your joy, and keeps you from accomplishing what you might otherwise accomplish.

As I read this this morning at United Church I thought: "Yep, been there, seen that, done that."

Lectionary Gospel account was Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, in which Jesus tells the "70 others" what they are to do as they go out into the world on their pilgrimage. While God's Spirit precedes them on the journey, they are in for the time of their lives...of our lives, actually. For we are the "70 others."



Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Dalai Lama on Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage is a part of the 5 major world religions.

I'm not the only one who sees it or knows it.

The Dalai Lama understands this as well:

Pilgrimages are a part of nearly every religion. The faithful set out in hopes of finding virtue and gaining merit. Among Buddhists, they visit places where a spiritual master once spent time meditating. His presence makes the place seem somehow blessed or charged, as if there is some kind of electricity around it. Pilgrims come to feel these mysterious vibrations. They try to share in the visions of the master. Along their road, they undertake hardship with no thought of material reward. Their every step, every movement, becomes filled with a sense of spiritual progress. Many intensify the sense of hardship along the way by going barefoot, or reciting prayers or mantras, and so increase the spiritual merit they gain.


Buen Camino!


Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Interior and the exterior journey

Richard Rohr writes that on pilgrimage, there is more than is going on in terms of the "outside" or exterior journey: there is an interior journey, in which there is a need for a deep listening and obeying to the movement of the Spirit.

At the beach today, listening to the Spirit while being on the journey of life.


Buen camino!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Peace in and is every step

Thich Nat Han posits that what made someone more mindful of our connection between inner and outer life, and our connection with the world in which we live, is in focusing on each and every step we take in this world.

I am mindful that I am not aware of each and every step I take in this world.

On this earthly pilgrimage, maybe we should be more mindful. Mindful of what? Of the peace and joy that is in each and every moment of the day.

I am so not there today.

Just perhaps I should be then.


Buen camino...B

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Romania: A Place of Pilgrimage Amid Monasteries

Fascinating article in the about monasteries built by Moldavian Prince Steven the Great, who, every time he won a battle he built a monastery.

What he left in his path is a treasure trove of monasteries.

From the article:

The result of his victories — 46 in all — was an unprecedented building spree within the densely forested terrain of the Bucovina region in modern Romania. The tradition was embraced by his son and successor, Petru Rares, and their vassals. Many of the mural-covered monasteries and churches survive, nestled in a valley, having withstood the withering summer sun and winter winds for centuries. What started out as Stephen the Great’s war trophies have become some of the world’s most stunning works of art.

They exist now as the present-day Monastery of Voronet, about three miles south of the Romanian village of Gura Humorului, and its sister sanctuaries, scattered within a radius of some 25 miles and collectively recognized as Unesco World Heritage sites.

Pinpointing the area that contains this trove is not easy. The region, which became the eastern outpost of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is now divided between southern Bucovina, in northeastern Romania, and Chernivtsi Province, in present-day Ukraine. To further complicate matters, some Romanians also refer to it as northern Moldavia, not to be confused with the independent Republic of Moldova, which borders northeastern Romania. But there is good reason to make the trek, geographic confusion and pothole-pocked roads notwithstanding, as I did last summer.

Click here for more...

Buen Camino!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Abraham Joshua Heschel on Pilgrimage

Quote of the day!

"Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart," by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Buen Camino!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thomas Lynch Hymn, My Faith, It Is an Oaken Staff

A fitting pilgrim/pilgrimage hymn by Thomas Lynch:

My faith, it is an oaken staff,
The traveler’s well loved aid;
My faith, it is a weapon stout,
The soldier’s trusty blade,
I’ll travel on, and still be stirred,
By silent thought or social word;
By all my perils undeterred,
A soldier pilgrim staid.

I have a Guide, and in His steps
When travelers have trod,
Whether beneath was flinty rock
Or yielding grassy sod,
They cared not, with force unspent,
Unmoved by pain, they onward went,
Unstayed by pleasures, still they bent
Their zealous course to God.

My faith, it is an oaken staff,
O let me on it lean!
My faith, it is a trusty sword,
May falsehood find it keen!
Thy Spirit, Lord, to me impart,
O make me what Thou ever art,
Of patient and courageous heart,
As all true saints have been.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Richard Rohr on Pilgrimage

Some thoughts of pilgrimage from Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest:

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.

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.

...We go on pilgrimage so we can go back home and know that we never need to go on pilgrimage again. Pilgrimage has achieved its purpose when we can see God in our everyday and ordinary lives.


Buen camino!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sucker for Sunrises and Sunsets

In OR, my mom and I watched carefully as the sun "set" over the western horizon, sinking below the tree line. Colors were rich and varied: pink, purple, yellow, orange, blue...and gray. Shades of those primary colors were everywhere splashed across the horizon.

In NC, I've enjoyed sunrises of pinks, yellows, and the light blue sky as the sun rises and peeks through the trees of our forested backyard.

Sunrise and sunsets: constants for a lively pilgrimage of life.



Monday, May 31, 2010

Holy Trinity: A Holy Community Accompanies Us

Today, in NM (Albuquerque), went to Catholic Mass and was brought up to date: today is Holy Trinity Sunday...aha! We are accompanied by the Holy Trinity! What a great accompaniment.

Off to a silent pilgrimage at/in/with the community at Christ in the Desert Monastery.


Buen camino!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wisdom Speaks

From this week's lectionary, and we better listen!



Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
"To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Henri Nouwen Day

Found this Nouwen quote today:

"I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn't be to know people by
name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories, and tell your

Henry Nouwen

Not a bad way to live each day.

Buen camino!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Century Club: Traveling to 100 Countries

Along with the theme of pilgrimage is travel. I bumped into the novel idea of traveling to 100 countries and becoming part of the Century Club: a group of traveling to 100 countries. It is fascinating to see so many people eager to see, taste, touch, smell, and be part of the world.

Click here to learn more about this experience.



Friday, May 7, 2010

Pilgrim Quotes for the Weekend.

On this Friday, there are some quotes that are going to rest on my soul for the least:

First is the Afghan saying, "The world is a traveler's inn."

Indeed: we find places in and around our lives to rest in and upon.

And the second is like it:

Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys, by Richard Reinhold Niebuhr. As I work on yet one more essay, I know that my creativity is fed by living and breathing and drinking deeply from life.



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Praying Pilgrimage Into Class

My friend John Jerry Anthony Parente sent me this article about himself, and how he begins class at Chabot College. It is a pilgrimage!

HAYWARD — Before John Parente enters his classroom, he places his hands together in front of his chest, palms facing each other and fingers pointed upward. As soon as he makes his first step through the door, he carefully takes his next step directly in front of his previous step.

That continues for about 30 seconds, until he reaches his desk, normally a five-second walk.
Parente's students soon follow, trickling in one by one, one tiny step at a time.
"Most of their lives, these students are rushing around multi-tasking and there is no silence in their lives," Parente said. "It is a way for them to draw attention into the moment."
The way Parente is walking comes from the practices of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist who focuses on bringing the mind and spirit together.


Got to try this...



Monday, May 3, 2010

Rumi on Pilgrimage

Broadening my source of inspirational work on pilgrimage, there is this poem by Rumi:

O You Who've gone on Pilgrimage

O you who've gone on pilgrimage -
where are you, where, oh where?
Here, here is the Beloved!
Oh come now, come, oh come!
Your friend, he is your neighbor,
he is next to your wall -
You, erring in the desert -
what air of love is this?
If you'd see the Beloved's
form without any form -
You are the house, the master,
You are the Kaaba, you! . . .
Where is a bunch of roses,
if you would be this garden?
Where, one soul's pearly essence
when you're the Sea of God?
That's true - and yet your troubles
may turn to treasures rich -
How sad that you yourself veil
the treasure that is yours!



Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Barbara Brown Taylor was talking about the meaning of old words yesterday, or words from other languages, which including the word "Flaneur." The meaning of the word: basic meanings of "stroller", "lounger", "saunterer", "loafer"—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means "to stroll" (From Wikipedia).

More or less kind of like a nomad.

Not quite another word for pilgrim, but a helpful word.

Today, the word is "Flaneur."

Buen camino,


Sunday, April 25, 2010


Nice, friendly gathering at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC for a reading from BEYOND ACCESSIBILITY.

Next stop? Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Movement of the Road...

Richard Rohr makes this point: the beauty of Catholicism--or catholicism--is the process theology of the Church. Take the stations of the cross: it moves along the route, from Gethsemane to Golgotha, with people who help Jesus along the way, e.g., Joseph of Arimethea, Veronica, Mary Magdalene.

In life, we move along the way with God bringing friends and associates along the way in unexpected places. Today was such a day. I kept on meeting I had appointments with, and people I had not seen for a long time.

It was a day to see, greet, and be with friends.


Buen camino!


Monday, April 19, 2010




Stay tuned...even more coming...



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Returning to a Well Known Land

It is incredibly weird being at Princeton Seminary.

I went here for my M.Div. degree from 1980-1983. I learned a lot in my time here. I was being fashioned and formed into a Presbyterian minister.

I am not the same person.

I've been here before and felt some sense of "Oh, I know this place!" But this time, it is a little bit less familiar.

It is new land on familiar terrain.

Buen Camino!



Monday, April 12, 2010

Embarking on a Journey

From Pema Chodron, a Buddhist Nun:
Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. With whole hearted practice comes inspiration, but sooner or later we will also encounter fear. For all we know, when we get to the horizon, we are going to drop off the edge of the world. Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what's waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.

Wise words for the pilgrimage of life.

Buen Camino!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Living in the Power of Resurrection: Easter Monday

The day after.

Or is the day that everything truly has changed?

Are we not living in the power of resurrection?

Richard Rohr suggests that the resurrection of Lazarus, which he needed the Christ to rise from the dead, is emblematic of what we are to do and be: we are to live in the power of resurrection, in which we are and are becoming the life of the resurrected Christ.

We live and are inspired by the resurrection event.

Feel it?

Trying to let go and feel in it...

Buen camino!


Sunday, April 4, 2010


and many Christians find themselves both living in the here and now, as well as living in the hope of tomorrow.

The hope of tomorrow is found today, in the mundane, the quotidian, the daily, in which the possibility of re-creation amid the revealing of the new and always new is discovered.

Easter wonder...

Buen camino...


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday

Richard Rohr writes this about Jesus' pilgrimage to death and the gates of hell on Holy Saturday:

So what was Jesus' plan to overcome evil? Attack it? no! Love it to death.

Practice love.

That is the answer to the openness of fear: practice love.

Pilgrimage to Easter continues.

Buen camino,


Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

It is finished.

The body of Jesus of Nazareth hung from the cross limp, lifeless, and presumed dead as a door nail.

This was the end of the story of his life...or so thought many people (pro- and con- alike).



Maundy Thursday

Feet being washed, with the words, "I give you an example," an example of loving one another.

Taking the bread, dipping it into the wine: "Take, eat, drink...This is my body...this is the cup of salvation."

The way of living out the Eucharist, of Holy Communion, is given flesh with the example of washing feet.

All part of the journey.

The Easter Triduum...mid-stride.

Buen camino,


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pilgrimage During Easter Triduum

Found this article today in the Raleigh News and Observer about the pilgrimages sprouting up in and around the area on Easter Triduum:

Each year in Raleigh, a group called the Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace holds a five-day pilgrimage across North Carolina. Carrying wooden crosses and placards, the crowd makes an annual stand to end war and the death penalty. It culminates in a 14-stop procession in downtown Raleigh.

Gail Phares, the leader of the group, said she got the idea for the pilgrimage, which begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Good Friday, from a Roman Catholic priest named Miguel d'Escoto, who during Holy Week walked throughout Nicaragua praying and fasting as a protest against U.S. policies in Latin America.

"For people of the Christian faith, it's the ultimate time we're thinking of the crucifixion of Jesus," said Phares, a former nun. "It's a way to connect people's struggle of justice with the story of Jesus."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Pilgrimage that is Passion Week

Richard Rohr writes this of Palm Sunday in Radical Grace:

The supreme irony of the whole crucifixion scene is this: He, who was everything, had everything taken away from him. He, who was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was crowned with thorns. He is the eternal sign of God to humans, yet his arms were nailed open because he said in his life three most dangerous words: “I love you.”

What is powerful is realizing that Jesus is entering into Jerusalem through one gate, entering as the Prince of Peace, while Pilate is entering through another gate, entering as the military man and power that he was: the Prince of War.

In the middle of Jerusalem these two would meet, head to head, heart to heart, body to body.

The pilgrimage is on...



Thursday, March 25, 2010

Learning to Walk with One Another

I'm re-learning an age old lesson of pilgrims who are on the same road: how we walk our stride, sometimes together, but more often alone.

In relationship, two people some times walk together, and some times we walk with others, meeting at various points to see what's going on.


Buen camino,


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day: A Pilgrim

In 2001, I went on a pilgrimage to St. Patrick's Purgatory on Lough Derg in northern Ireland. The legend was that Patrick came to this island and looked into a cave and saw the gates of Purgatory. The legend continues: if you go there three times in your life, you miss having to go to Purgatory when you die.

It is an incredible pilgrimage: 3 days of walking barefoot on an island, in which it gets to the 30s (F) degrees at night, and the first 24 hours on the island is an all night vigil.

I then went to Croagh Patrick, the mountain (hill) top which he drove off the vermin from the land of Ireland.

Here's to you, St. Patrick!

Happy pilgrimage!

Buen camino!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Culture Clash

There was a fascinating essay in the online edition by Maureen Dowd, who decried the religious culture clash, in which she was not allowed to enter Islam's holiest sites:

You don’t have to be a Catholic to go to the Vatican. You don’t have to be Jewish to go to the Western Wall (although if you’re a woman, you’re squeezed into a slice of it at the side). You don’t have to be Buddhist to hear the Dalai Lama speak — and have your picture snapped with him afterward.

A friend who often travels to Saudi Arabia for business said he thought that Medina, the site of Muhammad’s tomb, was beginning to “loosen up” for non-Muslims. (As the second holiest city in Islam, maybe they needed to try harder.) But the Saudis nixed a trip there.

I assumed I at least could go to a mosque at prayer time, as long as I wore an abaya and hijab, took off my shoes, and stayed in the back in a cramped, segregated women’s section. The magnificent Blue Mosque in Istanbul, once the center of one of the greatest Muslim empires, is a huge tourist draw.

But at the Jidda Hilton, I was told that non-Muslims could not visit mosques — not even the one on the hotel grounds.

A Saudi woman in Jidda told me that the best way to absorb Islam was to listen to the call for prayer while standing on the corniche by the Red Sea at sunset.

That was indeed moving, but I didn’t feel any better equipped to understand the complexities of Islam that even Saudis continually debate — and where radical Islam fits in. Or to get elucidation on how, as Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria put it, “the veil is not the same as the suicide belt.”

I too could not participate in going to Mecca or Medina because I am not a believer.

Such is pilgrimage!

Shalom and Salaam,


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Food for the Journey

Today, at United Church of Chapel Hill, we celebrated Holy Communion. Like many Protestant Churches, this Church has it once a month for the 11:00 worship, and every Sunday for 8:45 A.M.
It is literally and figuratively, food for the pilgrimage of the faithful.

Reading (and hopefully seeing soon) the movie "Alice in Wonderland," I am reminded of food for her journey that either shrinks her or makes her monstrous. Either way: food was always at the start of her next leg of her journey.

So it is for us: food is for the journey, making it possible for us to make it the next leg of the pilgrimage.

Buen camino!



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Buechner on Pilgrimage

"Religion points to that area of human experience where in one way or another a person comes upon mystery as a summons to pilgrimage." Frederick Buechner.

Where have you been called today to be on a pilgrimage?

Buen camino!



Pilgrimage: Walking in the Covenant with God

This upcoming lectionary reading is from Genesis 17:1-16, in which Abram and Sarai is being watched over by God on the journey that they are about to take. They are in God's hands.

Amazingly good news!

We are in a journey of a lifetime, in the palm of God's hands.

Buen camino!



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cheshire Cat and Alice: On a Pilgrimage

This morning's sermon at United Church of Chapel Hill, Rev. Rick Edens pulled on this story from the Cheshire Cat and Alice in talking about the people of Israel on pilgrimage, and people who wander to being a pilgrim people with a purpose:

From Alice in Wonderland:

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where----' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
'----so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk enough.'

We are a people on a pilgrimage, knowing which way we are going, unlike Alice. There are wanderers, like Alice, and there are people with a destination, like the people of Israel.

Buen camino!



Friday, February 19, 2010

First Sunday in Lent: Jesus in the Wilderness

It must've been cold in the early mornings of Jesus' trek in the wilderness.

I've been to Wadi Qelt, outside of Jerusalem, right before you get to Jericho, It is a hilly land, lacking in trees, dry, brown, only spotty vegetation around the areas where there may be a deposit of water after a quick rainfall.

In the distance, to the west, you can see the buildings of Jeruslaem, and new Israeli settlements in the land of the Palestinians.

This is the place where Jesus' experienced the torments of evil, temptation in the flesh, embodied voice, constant presence.

Like any pilgrimage, there is the constant torment of taking the easy road.

But we who are pilgrims know the limitless treasure of choosing a way that is slightly more arduous from the onset.

Buen Camino.



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Last night we had a big Dutch baby pancake, with sausage, berries banana slices, and yogurt!

Today we live with ashes.

Ash Wednesday: the starting point of our Lenten journey.

"Ash Wednesday" by T.S. Eliot

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

Buen Camino!



Friday, February 12, 2010

The Ganges: A Pilgrimage, Kumbh Mela

This from about Kumbh Mela, a huge religious pilgrimage gathering in the Ganges in India:

HARIDWAR, India — Thousands of Hindu holy men, some naked and smeared with ash, took dips in the chilly waters of the Ganges river while surrounded by cheering, dancing supporters Friday, one of the most auspicious days of a monthslong festival expected to attract more than 10 million people.

Throughout the day, nearly 2 million devout Hindus – including large groups of sadhus, or holy men – are expected to bathe in the waters, which they consider sacred, said Anand Vardhan, the government official supervising the Kumbh Mela, often described as the world's largest religious gathering.

The Hindu festival, which is celebrated every three years, rotates among four Indian cities.

On Jan. 13, it began in Haridwar, a temple-filled town at the foothills of the Himalayas where the Ganges river enters the sprawling plains of northern India. The festival ends April 28.

Thousands of pilgrims began taking dips before dawn on Friday with temperatures falling below 50 degrees (10 degrees Celsius). Devout Hindus believe bathing in the Ganges will cleanse them of their sins and free them from the cycle of life and rebirth.

"Because of the way the stars are aligned during the Kumbh, all the good things you do get multiplied and your sins are washed away," said Anil Sharma, a lawyer who had traveled to Haridwar from Jaipur in western India's Rajasthan state.

Click here for more.

The idea of celebrating the cycle of life, birth, death, and re-birth, reflects the mystery of Hinduism.

Buen camino!



Thursday, February 11, 2010

Errands, Deadlines, and Pilgrimage of Life

In these two weeks I am finding myself in the middle of many check points and due dates, all in a row. The destination? Completion of these assignments, self-imposed, but all important.

There is the application process for a new position: DONE!

There is the due date for an essay, due today: DONE!

There is a revision of the proposal for DIVINITY: getting done;

There is the review of the page proofs for BEYOND ACCESSIBILITY: getting done;

There is the ongoing teaching of the on-line Old Testament course for Durham Tech.: DONE!

One day at a time, one step at a time.

Moving forward.

Buen camino!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Shadow of Transfiguration Sunday

There is something about the shadow of the upcoming events or arriving at a destination that colors one's present day.

This is true with Transfiguration. I've been reading a great deal of Mt. Sinai and Moses for my on-line course, Intro to the Old Testament. The relationship of God and the people of Israel is thick as blood, and just as ornery sometimes.

Yet there is something of Moses' pilgrimage to the top of Mt. Sinai, shrouded in the mist and light of God, that is echoed in the Lucan account of Transfiguration. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, all bathed in the light of God. It mimics Moses and Elijah's account of meeting the Holy on the top of Mt. Sinai.

This story already pulls me forward toward not only toward Transfiguration Sunday, but Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday: the beginning of Lent.

Buen Camino!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Pilgrim God: The Journey Begins in Earnest

Today's reading from Gospel of Luke 5:1-11, Jesus is by the Sea of Galilee watching fishermen coming to the shore line, their boats empty. Jesus suggests to them that they should push out further into the Sea of Galilee and drop their nets again. When they did so, the nets themselves began to break because the haul of fish was so heavy. Astonished by the catch, Jesus says to them: "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch people." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

In this miracle tale from Luke, Jesus has begun moving among us. The Pilgrim God moves among the people of God.



Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nepal: Pilgrimage Site and More

There are times when my life interests intersect. This is one of them.


I want to go there for pilgrimage.

It is also a progressive country.

2010 top places to visit from has Nepal:

31. Nepal
San Francisco, Amsterdam and Provincetown? Been there. Mykonos and Ibiza? Done that. Looking for the next gay destination? How about the Himalayan country of Nepal? Yes, Nepal.

In the roughly two years since the nation’s supreme court ordered that gay, lesbians and transgendered people be afforded equal rights, this conservative, mostly-Hindu country appears to be moving ahead full throttle.

Gay friendly clubs now dot its capital. (Go to for listings.) A “third gender” category is an option on national I.D. cards. Recently, a transgender beauty queen even got a photo op with the prime minister. And now there’s a tourist agency in Katmandu that is promoting gay tourism to Nepal.

Started by Sunil Babu Pant, an openly-gay legislator, Pink Mountain Travels and Tours ( promises to marry adventure travel with gay weddings. With talk that Nepal may legalize same-sex marriage this year as the country hammers out a new constitution (and, perhaps more importantly, deals with recent bouts of civil unrest), Mr. Pant is offering to hold nuptials at the Mount Everest base camp, jungle safari honeymoons and bridal processions on elephant back. — Aric Chen.




Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Church Becomes a Museum

In the, there was a small, fascinating article on the De Nieuwe Kerk, or the New Church, that is titled as the "former church" that is now a museum, hosting an exhibit on the Middle East country of Oman.

From the
With a long coastline on the southeast part of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman competed as a seafaring power for centuries; it once thrived as a trading partner with European nations — including the Netherlands — in its golden age. (Today its power lies more in its oil wealth than its naval commerce.) This exhibition, which runs through April 18, unlocks some of the country’s history with relics from the vaults of Oman’s leading cultural institutions.

Click here for more.

I am intrigued by the notion of what happens in and to a church, a mosque, a synagogue, when the building hosts something totally different than the audience it was built for in the first place. As Eliade writes about, many of these very places embody a "thin membrane," where the Holy One and humanity may almost touch one another.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Be Where Your Feet Are Planted

When I was in the Sinai a few months ago (sigh), there were times that my mind would race to the future, to where I am today, even though my body was in Egypt. The mantra I had to use to call myself to be present in the moment where I was at the time and place was "Be where your feet are planted."

Reading Richard Rohr's Radical Grace, he also gives me these good words to help out in the middle of a day of hassle and headache: "This moment is as perfect as it can be."

Both are excellent to chant on a pilgrimage of life.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aleppo, Syria: PIlgrimage Site

There was this intriguing article on Aleppo, Syria, a pilgrimage site indeed, from the

What makes Aleppo unique is its blend of Ottoman, Armenian, Jewish and French influences, owing to its historic position at the crossroads of empires. Bright-green domed mosques rub shoulders with Armenian cathedrals, Maronite churches and even a synagogue. Its setting amid rolling plains dotted with olive groves and the ruins of dead cities calls to mind a scene out of “One Thousand and One Nights.”

Aleppo may also boast the Arab world’s most impressive souk, a sprawling network of noisy corridors and cramped stalls where, for the past seven centuries, every kind of spice, sweet, soap, silk, dried fruit, carpet, metal, jewelry and water pipe imaginable has been sold. If you’ve ever wondered what a slab of camel meat looks or smells like, just wander through the butcher section. And unlike bazaars in Istanbul or Cairo, Aleppo’s functions as an actual market, not a tourist trap.

The souk is a city unto itself. Old looms turn yarn into splashy-colored textiles, parrots squawk in cages and deific pictures of Presidents Bashar (current) and Hafez (former) al-Assad are everywhere. A buffet of scents — the sweet perfume of smoke, the laurel-like smell of olive soap — follows visitors. Sure, the incessant barking of “Welcome!” and “Where you from?” gets old quickly, but a few shopkeepers at least throw in some humor. “Very expensive. Very bad quality,” one beckoned to me with a wink.

The best time to visit Aleppo’s Old City may be in early morning, when the stalls are shuttered and their inlaid, ornately carved wooden doors become visible. At this hour, the city’s ruddy cobblestone streets go silent, save for the Arabic pop music blaring from a nearby barbershop, and the floral patterns of the enclosed balconies come into focus.

After the obligatory visit to the Grand Mosque, peek into any of the black-and-white stone archways to check out the courtyards of Aleppo’s khans (inns), full of jasmine and citrus trees. Or climb the stone bridge to the citadel, an imposing hilltop fortress completed in the 13th century. Buried within its ruins are a palace, hammam (bathhouse), temple, dungeon and two mosques. But the best reason to visit is the view of Aleppo’s minaret-dotted skyline.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Martin Luther King's Jr., "Pilgrimage to Non-Violence"

Martin Luther King, Jr., understood that he was on a pilgrimage. He knew that justice was not an event, but a process; it is a journey.

Non-violence is a journey, a process, it is a movement in time, of time, before its time.

And what undergirds non-violence is love: agape love.

From King's "Pilgrimage to Non-Violence," in honor of his birthday, originally printed in Christian Century in 1958, Pace, Brett:

Another basic point about agape is that it springs from the need of the other person - his need for belonging to the best of the human family. The Samaritan who helped the Jew in the Jericho Road was "good" because he responded to the human need that he was presented with. God's love is eternal and fails not because man needs his love. St. Paul assures us that the loving act of redemption was done "while we were yet sinners" - that is, at the point of our greatest need for love. Since the white man's personality is greatly distorted by segregation, and his soul is greatly scarred, he needs the love of the Negro. The Negro must love the white man, because the white man needs his love to remove his tensions, insecurities and fears. Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in action. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is insistence on community even when one seeks to break it. Agape is a willingness to sacrifice in the interest of mutuality. Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community. It doesn't stop at the first mile, but goes the second mile to restore community. The cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The resurrection is a symbol of God's triumph over all the forces that that seek to block community. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history. He who works against community is working against the whole of creation. Therefore, if I respond to hate with a reciprocal hate I do nothing but intensify the cleavage in broken community. I can only close the gap in broken community by meeting hate with love. If I meet hate with hate, I become depersonalized, because creation is so designed that my personality can only be fulfilled in the context of community. Booker T. Washington was right:"Let no man pull you so low that he makes you hate him." When he pulls you that low he brings you to the point of working against community; he drags you to the point of defying creation, and thereby becoming depersonalized.

In the final analysis, agape means recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated. All humanity is involved in a single process, and all men are brothers. To the degree that I harm my brother, no matter what he is doing to me, to that extent I am harming myself. For example, white men often refuse federal aid to education in order to avoid giving the Negro his rights; but because all men are brothers they cannot deny Negro children without harming their own. They end, all efforts to the contrary, by hurting themselves. Why is this? Because men are brothers. If you harm me, you harm yourself.

Love, agape, is the only cement that can hold this broken community together. When I am commanded to love, I am commanded to restore community, to resist injustice, to meet the needs of my brothers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Camino Calm: The Diary; a Pilgrim's Tale by Jaqui Tutt

It arrived today: Camino Calm; the Diary...A Pilgrim's Tale. My friend Jaqui Tutt went on-line to a self-publishing house and published her diary in book form.

It is exquisite!

I love it!

There is something about pilgrimage, and for Jaqui this pilgrimage, that brings about a new sense of calm, while for veteran pilgrims it restores a calmness in life long gone. Pilgrimage, even with all its trials and tribulations, is restorative. I find the balance of life restored after I've been on pilgrimage.

But then again, the real work of the pilgrimage takes place upon our return home.

Pace, B

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I've spent a great deal of time in the Dominican Republic with student groups because we couldn't get into Haiti because of the unstable governments.

Praying for the people of Haiti, and the world.

Link here for PCUSA connection to help others by clicking here.



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim

Saw this poem in the Church of Reconciliation (Chapel Hill, NC) newsletter by Edward Hays and his "A Psalm of New Wine Skins":

"Come, O you who are ever-new,
wrap my heart in new skin,
ever flexible to be reformed by your Spirit.
Set my feet ot fresh paths this day:
inspire me to speak original and life giving words
and to creatively give shape to the new.

Come and teach me how to dance with delight
Whenever your send a new melody my way."


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Epiphany, Eastern Orthodox Church Style

On, I found this nugget of info on Epiphany in the Eastern Orthodox Church:

The observance had its origins in the Eastern Christian Churches, and was a general celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of: his birth; the visit of the Magi ("Wise Men", as Magi were Persian priests) to Bethlehem; all of Jesus' childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist; and even the miracle at the Wedding of Cana in Galilee.[3]

It seems that baptism is big in the understanding of Epiphany. The photo above is one I took of people being baptized in the Jordan.

What connects Epiphany with pilgrimage is this: for the Church, Jesus baptism is truly his first step toward crucifixion; it is the first step of his earthly pilgrimage, God's pilgrimage, among us.