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.



Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The photo above is where the manger was supposedly located.

The area in which one bows the head and kisses the place of the Christ-child's manger is nearby.

It is a cramped spot.

It is tight.

It is holy.

Something happened there, here, in the world, that changed the axis of the world.

Wise men, the Magi, "Three Kings," however you want to call them, the ultimate Outsiders, got the gist of what was happening: a new day was and has dawned. A new day in which we now live between heaven and earth, with glimpses of earth all over the place.


Happy Epiphany!


Monday, January 4, 2010

Moving From Labyrinth to Pilgrimage

There was a nice article on a labyrinth at Millbrook Baptist Church in Raleigh, and how intrinsic it has become to the community of faith, and others who are interested in this peculiar spiritual practice.

From the News and Observer and Yonat Shimron:

A journey made easier

In ancient times, the labyrinth was used as a substitute for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

When political upheavals made travel to the Middle East dangerous, the Roman Catholic Church created seven "pilgrimage" cathedrals where people used the labyrinth to make spiritual instead of physical journeys. France's Chartres Cathedral, 50 miles southwest of Paris, is the only one where a labyrinth remains.

Millbrook Baptist's labyrinth is modeled on the Chartres pattern, which was built in 1174.

Judy Homer, a Raleigh spiritual director who has been leading workshops on labyrinths for 15 years, said she hopes Millbrook's example will serve as a prototype for other churches.

"If enough people are working toward peace, it raises the vibration level," she said.

To her, the labyrinth is a path of illumination that can transform and change people's brain chemistry. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has no tricks or dead ends. A single path winds from the outside of the circle to its center, shaped like a flower.

The path has three parts: walking into the center, resting in the heart of the labyrinth, and walking out.

"It's the soul's need to draw within, to circle into center," Homer said.

The beauty of the labyrinth is that there are no formulas or rituals to learn. People walk at their own pace and meditate on their own thoughts.

That's one reason Jones thinks it might be a tool for peacemaking. People of faith as well as people without faith can participate.

"There's something about the space that offers people a sanctuary for solitary meditation," Jones said. "It builds on itself and seems to have a contagious effect."

Click here for more.

My hope? That people will walk from labyrinth to pilgrimage. My other hope? To be able to convince people of this move!


Buen Camino!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Magi Pilgrimage

Closing in on Epiphany: celebration of the Magi coming to visit the Christ child.

It is all about pilgrimage!