Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Pilgrimage that is Advent and Christmastide

We are in a season of pilgrimages in the Christian tradition. Advent is a season of pilgrimage as we draw closer to Christmas, the birth of Christ. All the readings focus on the coming of the gift of Christ.

Christmastide is also a season, 12 days long, between Christmas day and Epiphany=12 days. The move this time is toward the coming of the Maji, the "We Three Kings of Orient Are." In her new book--a Jewish take on the New Testament by Amy Jill Levine--she reminds us that the Maji weren't necessarily wise men per se, but nonetheless players in this unfolding drama.

Soon, Jesus, Mary and Joseph would be taking off for Egypt on a pilgrimage. In fact, the Egyptian Coptic Christians in northern Egypt know of the wells where the family may have stopped by.

The pilgrimage is afoot!

Pace, B

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dreidel, Menorah, Check!

Hanukkah is upon us. Second night. Another candle lit. The simple beauty of this story resonates again around the world.

I sat by a menorah at the Chapel Hill/Carrboro YMCA, and smiled. I helped make that menorah possible. It was small in relationship with the size of the Christmas tree in the lobby (huge). But it is there!




Monday, November 28, 2011

First Sunday of Advent: The Pilgrimage of Advent to Christmas Hath Begun

Yesterday, Nov. 27, 2011, was the first Sunday of Advent.

The pilgrimage toward Christmas has begun.

We are on our way.

The waiting, which takes discipline, has begun.

Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Buen Camino!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

"The Way" by Emilio Estevez

The Way" by Emilio Estevez

Wonderful review of a new film on the Camino de Santiago de Compestelo.

“The Way” takes place on the Camino de Santiago, a thousand-year-old pilgrimage route across France and Spain. Sheen’s character, Tom, is a doctor living a comfortable life in California who decides to make the trek after his son is killed in a freak storm while on the pilgrimage.

“I think that the film is a reflection of where I’m at on my spiritual path,” said Estevez, who wrote, directed, and co-produced the film, and makes a few cameos as Tom’s unlucky son, Daniel.

Sheen described himself as a “declared Catholic,” but he and his wife did not raise their children Catholic, and have let Estevez take “his own personal quest.”

Estevez said he grew up hearing arguments about religion, but never about spirituality. “It’s religion that divides us,” he said in an interview with his father, “and spirituality ultimately brings us closer together.”

In the film, Tom starts out as a lapsed Catholic. Along the pilgrimage, he meets others who slowly draw him out of his tight-lipped despair and help renew his sense of spirituality. None of these main characters is overtly religious and all have their own issues with God, but by the end each seems to have made some kind of pilgrim’s progress.

Estevez said he intentionally avoided “bludgeoning the audience over the head” with a religious message, although the film is filled with shots of churches and crucifixes.

“You couldn’t point a camera anywhere without seeing religious iconography, Catholic iconography,” Estevez said. “We highlighted it when we needed to.”

Read the review and enjoy: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/sheen-estevez-find-the-way-to-make-a-non-preachy-religious-film/2011/10/07/gIQAYdJMTL_story.html.



Sunday, October 2, 2011

Happy Rosh Hashana (late)!

I'm late on this celebration, but Happy Rosh Hashana! I was in Jerusalem three years ago, watching, listening, tasting food celebrating this occasion. It was also the very end of Ramadan the night before, and another point of celebration.




Sunday, September 25, 2011

Divinity: A Memoir

OK, no more apologies about it: DIVINITY is a pilgrimage tale.


Monday, September 19, 2011

A Pilgrimage Story

My story in Chapel Hill News yesterday:

As I pondered coming out of my lamentable self-constructed gay closet in the 1990s, I was drawn to gay-friendly Chapel Hill and Carrboro, oases in a desert of homophobic shrillness.

My closet - built by me but well fortified by the Church, the place of higher education where I worked, and the American South - was slowly coming apart as I began to live more honestly and openly. I was heartened by the simple fact that out-gay men such as Mike Nelson was Carrboro's mayor and Joe Herzenberg was on the Chapel Hill Town Council, and by advocates at Binkley Memorial Baptist Church, United Church of Chapel Hill, and Church of Reconciliation.

For many of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ), such a public witness provides us a general sense of what the cultural "temperature" is in terms of knowing whether we can live honest and open lives, or if we need to be on our guard for our very survival.

In 2011, I am rid of the closet. I speak and write about the current hot button political, religious, and cultural issue of LGBTQ equality as an out-gay dad and Presbyterian pastor. As a board member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA I raised a ruckus about the Y sponsoring the Boy Scout troop, pointing out the anti-LGBTQ policies of the Scouts. I'm heartened by the presence of more out LGBTQ people and straight allies in public office and pulpits in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Municipalities have passed laws that provide LGBTQ couples civil unions. More private industries offer benefit packages that cover health care and retirement for same-sex couples.

Yet there are businesses and nonprofit groups, such as the YMCA of the Triangle, who do not offer LGBTQ employees the same benefit plans as they do straight employees. And the Republican-led legislature of North Carolina succeeded this week in putting a referendum on the May ballot to amend the state's constitution banning equal rights to marriage for LGBTQ couples.

Spreading misinformation around the state, some political and religious leaders stir up fear of the "Other," inspired by hate and institutionalizing injustice. While metropolitan parts may be LGBTQ-friendly, much work must be done in educating and advocating for LGBTQ people in the state's small towns and rural hamlets.

Like the prophet Amos, who declared that justice will roll on like a river over oppression, and Jesus' message of all-encompassing, inclusive love, especially for those oppressed, I write these strong words knowing that I'm not the first Presbyterian pastor - nor last - who has stood up against intolerance and bigotry.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, I watched as the Peace and Justice Plaza marker placed in front of Chapel Hill's Post Office revealed four new names. The one that stood out was Presbyterian pastor, the Rev. Charles M. Jones. In the footsteps of Amos and Jesus, Jones exemplified the virtues of justice, courage, and hospitality by welcoming African Americans to University Presbyterian Church.

For his actions, he was removed from that prestigious pulpit by our regional body of authority, the Presbytery, in hindsight an act of injustice and cowardliness. Nevertheless, the Rev. Jones with the support of others began the Community Church where all were welcome, regardless of one's ethnicity or national heritage.

Personally and vocationally I draw succor from the Rev. Jones' story. As he faced the hostility of racism in his day, naming the hideous nature of racist bigotry, it is his story that is honored to this very day and not those who opposed him trying to delay the inevitable day of justice.

Like my forbears, I too name and call out those who purposefully spread misinformation, fear, and maliciousness toward LGBTQ people, denying us equal rights in the arena of public, religious, and private life.

Working toward being and becoming a more just society is a constant, for immorality is insidious, forever changing in its mutant form. Working for justice is, for me, a sacred duty done with love. I draw hope for a brighter day from those who were successful in showing us a better way of living at peace with one another.

Brett Webb-Mitchell lives in Chapel Hill. Contact him at brettwebbmitchell@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Passover: A Pilgrimage

Exodus 12:1-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Above is the Scripture reading for this upcoming Sunday, Sept. 4th, 2011. I am struck by how the people are to eat the lamb: with girded loins, sandals on feet, staff, hand, and eat it hurriedly. Sounds like a pilgrimage to me!

No real surprise, since God's people have been on pilgrimage from the word "Go."



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pilgrimage of Teaching

I've finished grading my first batch of English Composition papers, and the students wrote well.

I'm trying to place the course in the context of a pilgrimage of learning.

Learning is a pilgrimage.

Education is a pilgrimage.

Life is a pilgrimage.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NCCU...a pilgrimage of education continues

I'm teaching English composition and Ethics at NCCU. For both courses, I've set the syllabus in the form of a pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage continues in all aspects of life.



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Then there's this clip too

I used to teach this kind of pathway to education at Duke Divinity School. REAL education involves moving people in a certain context, in a certain way, directed by the goal of what we are educating a person toward.

I'm so Aristotelian/Dewey.

Anyway: Pilgrimage is a way of teaching people the practice of being Christian/Muslim/Jew/Hindu/ Buddhist on the road of life.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.




Saw this vimeo movie, and thought of pilgrimage.


MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Turn Right at Machu Picchu

Last night there was an interview with Mark Adams over his book "Turn Right at Machu Picchu," which is a story of the discovery of Machu Picchu. This ancient Incan capital of the nation of Cusco has gone through an amazing history in and of itself, and is today a favorite among pilgrims.

This from the historybookclub.com:

On July 24, 1911, the young Yale professor Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and encountered an ancient city in the clouds: the now famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Nearly a century later, news reports have recast the explorer as a villain who smuggled out priceless artifacts and stole credit for finding one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites.

In Turn Right at Machu Picchu, adventure and travel magazine editor Mark Adams recounts his attempts to investigate the allegations against Bingham by retracing the explorer’s perilous path to Machu Picchu. Given Adams’ career, it isn’t an entirely far-fetched notion, even if it does require him to sleep in a tent for the first time. With a crusty Australian survivalist and Quechua-speaking, coca-chewing mule tenders as his guides, Adams takes us through some of the most gorgeous and historic landscapes in Peru, from the ancient Inca capital of Cusco to the enigmatic ruins of Vitcos and Vilcabamba.

Along the way, he finds a still-undiscovered country populated with brilliant and eccentric characters, as well as an answer to the question that has nagged scientists since Hiram Bingham’s time: Just what was Machu Picchu?

Think I'm going to read it...you?

Buen Camino!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Small world of pilgrimage

My friend, Lisa, has a son who is visiting New Zealand. Over Facebook she put out a blurb asking if anyone has a friend in Wellington, NZ.

I do!

I wrote to Jaqui, my friend in Wellington, and so they are trying to hook Lisa's son with Jaqui.

The beauty? Jaqui is my pilgrim compadre. She gets pilgrimage.

This is beautiful.

Love it!

Buen camino!


Ramadan has begun...and where was I?

I'm aware that I failed to designate the beginning of Ramadan! It is an incredible holy time for my friends who are Muslim.

It is involves a rhythm of praying, fasting, and feasting that is incredible.

For me, having been in Jerusalem at the end of Ramadan with the beginning of Rosh Hashana I remember to crossing over the 2 world religions that vie for attention in the Old City.

To my Muslim friends, blessings in this season of Ramadan.

Buen Camino!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Gospel: It's all about walking

The Gospel is all about walking.

Today's passage from Matthew 14:22-33 is all about walking. First, you have Jesus walking on the water, and the disciples thinking it was a ghost. "It is I; don't be scared" was his response.

Peter then says "Lord, if it is you (as if), command me to come to you on the water."

Jesus: "Come."

Peter started walking on the water...and then he sank.

Jesus says to us all: Walk! Follow me.

Jesus doesn't say how far, where, or when we can stop, or if we ever really stop.

Just said "Come" and "Follow me."

The rest is history...or story.

Buen Camino!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

God Walk

My late friend and colleague at Duke Divinity School wrote this in "God Walk":

Christian life originated in God walk, on the road, int eh marketplace, by the seaside, and outside a city wall in a criminal's death on a cross. 'Disciple' is a word we use for someone who joins in the walk. Discipleship is the first and decisive word for God-walk in Christianity. It covers a way of life...in other words, God-walk means willingness to immerse oneself as a whole and to stand where Jesus stands in all walks of life, especially with those who society turns out: the invisible women,and men, also the injured creation. That is why the eucharist is so central. Only here do we touch--as it were, bodily--the real presence of God in history in terms of Christian community. So it is not activity in general that is called for when we reflect on our social location. It is first of all participation in the justice mission of Jesus. It is eucharistic immersion in conflict because Jesus is still caught up in conflict. Jesus' life has not come to an end as yet. It is still going on."

From God-Walk: Liberation Shaping Dogmatics.

Buen camino!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Trinity Sunday: Accompanied by the Pilgrim God

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday: a wonderful reminder that the pilgrimage we're on is in the host of, accompanied by the Lover, the Beloved, and the Enabler of Love.

The song that we sang at United Church that reminded me that Trinity Sunday is a day of pilgrimage too is "My Life Flows on in Endless Song," and the third verse speaks of pilgrimage:

I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smoothes
Since first I learned to love it:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing:
All things are mine since I am His—
How can I keep from singing?



Friday, June 17, 2011

Pilgrimage of Recovery

My mom recently had open heart surgery.

I was supposed to be on a pilgrimage in the desert of New Mexico (120 miles/6 days), but this surgery took place instead.

In its own way, the recovery is itself a pilgrimage.

Buen camino,


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pilgrimage of a different kind

I was supposed to be on a pilgrimage to Chimayo, NM, but God had different plans. I was re-directed to a pilgrimage to taking care of my mom who had open heart surgery (successfully) in Portland, OR. She now has a cow valve helping her heart work far better. I was with her in the hospital and in her home.

Then I raced home to watch my son take his role in the ritual of high school graduation...another pilgrimage.

Life IS a pilgrimage.

Buen camino...


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ascension of Jesus: Now THAT'S a Pilgrimage!

Today is Ascension of the Lord Day...June 2, 2011!

I've been to the place, the very chapel, and seen the very stones in which are a set of foot prints, which, supposedly, is the last place, or the place, where Jesus stood before he literally "took off" and ascended into the heavens.

Luke writes: While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

And so he ascends.

And we ascend with him as well.

Buen Camino!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Tibetan Buddhist Sand Mandalas in Chapel Hill

It was an incredible sight, watching Tibetan monks take first what looked like a shaver, and then a brush, and brush away the intricately wrought sand mandala in Chapel Hill, NC this afternoon. The rituals before hand were fascinating: chanting, playing of loud horns, drums, cymbals; and then an explanation of the mandala, followed by the de-construction of the mandala, representing the ideal of Buddhism.

And the point? The impermanence of us all, of everything, of totality.

On pilgrimage, everything is, equally impermanent. I've learned and am learning to enjoy the moment, "be where my feet are planted" (12 step works), and living for today.

On this Memorial Day, we honor the impermanence of it all.

Buen camino!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Song, "My Shpherd Will Supply My Need"

This was sung on Sunday at United Church of Chapel Hill, and the last line stuck out as true and daring, based on Ps. 23 arranged by Mack Wilberg:

"O may they house be mine abode and all my work be praise! There would I find a settled rest while others go and come, no more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home. No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home."

This is the hope of a pilgrim on a journey.

Buen camino!


In the Holy Land (from Raleigh's News and Observer)

Found this in Raleigh's News and Observer, about the Holy Land (continued source of fascination to me)...

About Jesus:

The leafy green region of Galilee in northern Israel is the place where Jesus spent most of his life. There, we found his hometown of Nazareth, now a Palestinian city, with its lovely Church of the Annunciation, a Catholic church finished in 1969 and said to be the largest Christian sanctuary in the Middle East. The art collection is wonderful, with a gallery of religious art contributed by nations around the world and a front door depicting events in the life of Christ.

Standing on the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, it is impossible not to be awed by the place where many of the guiding principles of Christian life were pronounced.

It was packed with pilgrims absorbing the meaning of this place, gathered in meditation and enjoying the pleasantness of its intense, colorful landscaping. We heard many languages, which gave the impression of a gathering of many nations united in common purpose. At the Jordan River, we swished our hands in the water. We also observed dozens of white-robed people being baptized as they stood in the shallow water.

The Journey, by Mary Oliver

I heard this read the other night and thought this too good, and must share!

The Journey:

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Life's Pilgrimage: DIVINITY

I recently sent my agent the revised revised revision of the proposal of my memoir DIVINITY. It takes my life story from birth to my time in a certain Divinity School.

What happened in this latest re-write is that I wove in and based the book upon the framework of pilgrimage, with verses of "Amazing Grace" throughout.

My sudden awareness? Life IS a pilgrimage! I embrace what I've written about.

Imagine that!

A writer who lives what he writes.

Buen Camino!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Emmaus: Today's Lectionary Reading (Luke 24:13-35).

Two disciples, way to the Emmaus, meeting the stranger, and the rest is, well, a heck of a story of transformation. They met the Christ, unaware that it WAS the Christ. They finally warmed up to the stranger, sharing some bread along the journey.

Maybe it was the bread.

Maybe it was the act of sharing the bread.

Maybe it was a little bit of both.

The rest is a heck of a story.

These things continue to happen today. Sitting down with a stranger, meeting the stranger where she or he is, whomever it may be, and the rest is a heck of a story.

There, there is the Spirit of Christ, in both guest and stranger.



Sunday, April 24, 2011



He is risen!

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

Buen Camino!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pilgrimage to Easter

The trek began with Palm Sunday at United Church of Chapel Hill, with palm branches swaying;
next step, moving onward to Maundy Thursday and the upper room at United Church of Chapel Hill; then to Good Friday stations of the cross at Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill; and tomorrow, Easter pulls us forward to Eastertide.

Soon, the words will drip off my lips, "He is risen! He is risen! He is risen, indeed!"

Buen Camino!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pilgrimage in Israel-Egypt, 2011

Just got confirmation from Egypt: all is well in the Sinai part of Egypt.

Pilgrimage in the Wilderness 2011: Nov. 10-22, 2011, $2,500!

Come one and all!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why We Travel (with thanks to Paul Theroux)

This from the nyt.com by Paul Theroux:

The earth is often perceived as a foolproof Google map — not very large, easily accessible and knowable by any finger-drumming geek with a computer. In some respects this is true. Distance is no longer a problem. You can nip over to Hong Kong or spend a weekend in Dubai, or Rio. But as some countries open up, others shut down. And some countries have yet to earn their place on the traveler’s map, such as Turkmenistan and Sudan. But I’ve been to both not long ago — one of very few sightseers. And along with oppression and human rights violations, I found hospitality, marvels and a sense of discovery.

In my own “Tao of Travel,” the fact that a place is out of fashion, forgotten or not yet on the map doesn’t make it less interesting, just more itself, and any visit perhaps more of a challenge. But travel maps have always been provisional and penciled in, continually updated. The map of the possible world being redrawn right now — parts of it in tragic and unsettling ways — might soon mean new opportunities for the traveler who dares to try it. Travel, especially of the old laborious kind, has never seemed to me of greater importance, more essential, more enlightening.

What makes pilgrimage even more important is that it takes you to a deeper place, because pilgrimage is like making love to the world.

Click here for more!

Buen camino!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Buechner on Faith's Pilgrimage...again

Frederick Buechner wrote that "faith is the word that describes the direction our feet start moving when we find we are loved. Faith is stepping out into the unknown with nothing to guide us but a hand just beyond our grasp." From Magnificent Defeat

Buen Camino!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Pilgrimage

We have begun Lent. Shrove Tuesday set it all off, because it was followed by Ash Wed. So for me, Lent is a spring pilgrimage.

Well, imagine my surprise to find out that spring pilgrimage can also mean something about playwrights. Consider this from the nyt.com:

“DO you know what Spring Pilgrimage is?” asked Brenda Caradine, the chairwoman of the Tennessee Williams Birthday Celebration in Columbus, Miss. “It’s when you Yankees come down South to see our antebellum homes and we take back your money.”

Happy Birthday Tennessee Williams!

Buen Camino!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Zen Buddhist Retreat Center (Chapel Hill) and Hindu Temple (Cary/Morrisville)

I took students from my world religion class to the Zen Buddhist Retreat Center in Chapel Hill last month, and this month we went to the Hindu Temple in Cary/Morrisville, NC. IT is fantastic to talk, read, and then immerse ourselves in the faith traditions we are exploring.

Buen Camino!


Injustice: Israel Refuses Anglican Bishop Residency

Having spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I was very concerned about the latest news out of Israel, in which the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Dawani, has been refused residency because he is Palestinian. From Religious News Service:

By Judith Sudilovsky
Religion News Service

JERUSALEM (RNS/ENInews) Israel has declined to renew a residency permit for Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem, according to the leader of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center (ICC).

The action took place several weeks ago but the bishop's office was trying to resolve the issue without media attention, said ICC Executive Secretary Yusef Daher. Subsequent appeals and inquiries from Western diplomats have failed.

The ICC is an umbrella group sponsored by Jerusalem churches, the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches.

Born in Nablus, Dawani, like all West Bank Palestinians, must have a special residency permit to stay in East Jerusalem, where St. George Anglican Cathedral and the bishop's offices are located.

"There is a feeling among church leaders that Israel has no respect for Christians or Christian leaders," Daher said Tuesday (March 1). "There is no respect for the request of the issuing of residency visas."

Israel's Interior Ministry revoked the residency permit after accusing the bishop of selling property to a Palestinian, according to Daher.

In a written response to a question from ENInews, the Ministry of the Interior responded, "We are talking about a sensitive issue that was presented in front of the Interior Minister and our detailed answer will be delivered in the court, in the frame of the petition that was served."

Church leaders are following the case with concern, Daher said, because many bishops and clergy serving come from abroad, including Arab countries, and must renew Israeli permits every two years to remain in Jerusalem and enter Israel to reach the West Bank.

This is a injustice.



Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: Victory Day

Wanted to post that on this day, Feb. 11, 2011, the Egyptian people celebrated a milestone in the country's life as it lurched toward a more democratic nation. The politics and cultural issues are thick and knotty. Nonetheless, with President Mubarak becoming the "former President" of Egypt, the people, who gathered in Tahrir Square (literally meaning Liberation Square) brought forth what terrorists and anarchists could not do: true(r) liberation.

To the people I've met in Egypt on many pilgrimages, congrats!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Argument for Pilgrimage ( by Dennis Praeger)

This is sheer eloquence!

Saw it on anderwsullivan.com, by Dennis Praeger: a reason to be on pilgrimage (my paraphrase):



It is major because all this travel has been life-changing and life-enhancing. For many years, I have urged young people to take a year off after high school to work and to take time off while in college to travel abroad, ideally alone for at least some of the time.

Nearly everyone grows up insular. The problem is that vast numbers of people never leave the cloistered world of their childhood. This is as true for those who grow up in Manhattan as it is for those who grow up in Fargo. And as for college, there are few places as insular and cloistered as the university.

Insularity is bad because at the very least it prevents questioning oneself and thinking through important ideas and convictions. And at worst, it facilitates the groupthink that enables most great evils. Although one can hold onto insular and bad ideas even after interacting with others, it is much harder to do so, especially when one interacts on the others’ terms, as must be done when traveling to other cultures (and especially when traveling alone).

It is therefore one of the most maturing things a person can do. It is also one of the most humbling. I will never forget the effect of hosting a weekly radio show in which I was the moderator among clergy of every religion. After five years, I announced this conclusion: “The moment you meet people of other faiths whom you consider to be at least as decent, as least as religious, and at least as intelligent as you think you are, you will never be the same.”

This is not to suggest that the inevitable consequence of international travel is multicultural relativism — the belief that every culture is equal, that no culture is morally or culturally superior. On the contrary, my going abroad every year for 42 years has strengthened my appreciation of both Western culture and America’s unique value system (what I call the American Trinity: liberty, in God we trust, e pluribus unum).

But there is one benefit to international travel that probably cannot be gained in any other way: Other nations and other peoples become real.


Buen Camino!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rilke and Pilgrimage

Rilke wrote on pilgrimage, there is only one journey: going inside yourself.



Sunday, February 6, 2011

Desert Pilgrimage 2011

I had a great session of welcoming people to the Desert Pilgrimage, 2011, at United Church of Chapel Hill (NC) this morning, and wanted to share it broadly:


This pilgrimage explores the wandering nature of the Pilgrim God. We will begin with our sojourn in Jerusalem, visiting the Holy Sites, then to the town of Bethlehem to work with Palestinian Christians. We will then strike out to the desert of the Sinai for 5 days and 4 nights on pilgrimage with Bedouins, followed by a day and night at St. Catherine's Monastery o, and a night at a resort on the Red Sea.

Dates: Nov. 10-22, 2011

Cost: Around $2,500 (depending upon everyone coming, meaning at least 15 people).

Write me at Brett@schoolofthepilgrim.com



Saturday, January 29, 2011

DIVINITY and pilgrimage

The language of pilgrimage and the song "Amazing Grace" are now woven throughout DIVINITY.

It is helpful in pulling it all together.

What I've learned is that while I wrote a book about actual pilgrimages (FOLLOW ME), gave a theology of pilgrimage (SCHOOL OF THE PILGRIM), and how to do pilgrimage (PRACTICING PILGRIMAGE), this is a book that puts "meat" on the "bones" of pilgrimage. I'm now providing a living example of life as pilgrimage.



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hindus on pilgrimage

I've been teaching world religions at NC Central University. Hindus (as I have learned and taught) go on pilgrimage in order to rid themselves of bad karma as well as to be closer to their gods and goddesses.

It is amazing that all these world religions, like Hinduism, based in India, practice the ancient act of walking toward wholeness, healing, and devotion.



Monday, January 24, 2011

DIVINITY: a long journey

Lao Tzu said that the longest journey begins with the initial first, single step.

My proposal to DIVINITY feels just like that.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beer Pilgrimage in Belgium

Gotta love this.

A pilgrimage is calling: Belgium, beer, and Trappists. What I love about Benedictines are the choices that they make to support their communities. St. John's and St. Ben's in MN support themselves by colleges and other crafts. Other Benedictine/Trappist communities do things like coffins, and in this case, beer.

From NYT.com: a pilgrimage is afoot:

Nestled in this province’s verdant farmlands, the St. Sixtus Abbey houses one of six official Trappist breweries in Belgium. The monks have perfected their craft over more than 160 years, and despite closing the brewery to visitors, shunning advertising, retail outlets and even labels, their beer has taken top honors from enthusiast sites like RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com. (The only sure way to bring home the brew — save the black market — is by calling the Abbey’s “beerphone” to reserve a case for pick-up. And even then the monks will supply only one case a person, a month; no resales allowed.)



Friday, January 14, 2011

A Pilgrimage Continues: A Service of Witness to the Resurrection

Pilgrimage not only takes place on this earth, but in the context of the Christian community--and other faith communities--it continues beyond into the life to come.

My father Donald P. Mitchell, is now on a pilgrimage in a land I know little to nothing about. He follows the Pilgrim God. He died on 1-11-11, at 88 years old, in Tigard, OR. He died just like he wanted: in his sleep, with no alarm, no emergency treatments...he simply slid and passed away.

A Service of Witness to the Resurrection is at Valley Community Presbyterian Church, Portland, OR, at 2 PM on Sunday, Jan. 16th, reception following.

The journey continues!



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bus Ride in Israel

Attached is a guest column article in Chapel Hill News from the latest pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

Click here for the original: http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2011/01/09/61786/mideast-conflict-plays-out-on.html

And here it is below:

Anger is expressed with sharply honed words.We use ferocious gestures to accompany angry words. Indignation caused by powerlessness can rip into placid lives, leaving long-lasting scars.

I experienced such toxic anger on a bus ride in Israel the week before Thanksgiving.

As part of my Carrboro-based non-profit, the School of the Pilgrim, I was on a pilgrimage in Egypt's Sinai desert. Before the pilgrimage, I followed news of the uneasy cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians.

It is a transitory truce contingent on the building or freezing of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. And while Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas engaged in the erratic dance of diplomacy internationally, on an Israeli bus I witnessed the perceived absence of peace and sense of injustice underneath the appearance of the general public's civility.

I experienced unbridled rage, conjured up by decades of hostility. I remembered that I am not only a Chapel Hillian: It is important to take my place as a world citizen.

I sat in the front seat on the bus from Eilat, Israel's southernmost city, to Jerusalem. The first four hours were calm. I smiled as an Israeli assumed I was a citizen, talking to me in fluent Hebrew. Sitting next to me was Shookie, an Israeli. We shared photos of our familes and swapped stories of our careers.

The easy-going environment was shattered as we neared Jerusalem. It was nearly 6 p.m. on Friday, the beginning of Shabbat, the sacred Sabbath for observant Jews.

This means that all businesses and public employees - including the driver of the government-owned bus - must cease work by 6, or face a fine.

It also meant that military buses and armed Israeli security would be routinely posted to block passage from Jerusalem into the Palestinian territories of the West Bank. This made it difficult for the Palestinians riding on our bus to get home.

Not knowing the bus stops around Jerusalem, I was unaware we passed the one stop that most of the Palestinian passengers used to go home. Seeing that we skipped his stop, a young Palestinian man stormed to the front of the bus, his hands banging the overhead rack, yelling, "Stop" to the driver.

The bus driver yelled back angrily. With Shookie translating, I understood what was happening: The Palestinian loudly asserted his right to get off the bus to go home.

In vulgar language, the driver explained that he couldn't stop at the usual stops. Shabbat was approaching, and he would be fined if his bus were on the road after 6. Hoping to quell any violence, the driver promised to stop soon.

The young Palestinian seemed placated, but then the bus driver drove by another stop where the Palestinians might have gotten off. This stop was blocked by another bus, and armed Israeli soldiers.

Angrier, with more Palestinians enraged at the driver's action, the young man ran to the front of the bus, demanding the driver stop immediately, "or else!"

Shaken by this aggression, the driver brought the bus to a jolting stop, farther from the Palestinian homes.

Tension between Israeli and Palestinians, evident for generations on the world stage, enveloped that bus.

Feeling a great wrong had been done to them, the Palestinian crowd on the bus let go with a fierce barrage of menacing words. Shouting at the top of their voices, bodily gestures engaged in swearing at all Israelis, the Palestinians stomped off the bus, rocking the vehicle, yelling threats at the driver for his insensitivity.

The driver wasn't innocent either, verbally engaged in this war of acrimonious words.

I was scared for my own well-being as I listened and watched. I worried that the violence would escalate rapidly in the tight confines of the bus.

Israeli citizens huddled next to the window, wanting to avoid the rupture of peace. I felt helpless as the crowd stepped off the bus, banging their fists on the bus' side as it departed.

Then Shookie leaned over and said: "The land belongs to the Jews! It's in the Bible. They'll have to learn to live with it."

I was scarred by brittle barbs of hate and distrust.

In hindsight I realize that what happens there - from international diplomacy games to the exposed, savage wound on a bus - affects us here. I witnessed people in the Holy Land demand equal measures of respect and justice, which is necessary in order for peace to exist.

Until justice comes as a prelude to peace, all peoples will be in constant turmoil. Until justice comes, we will continue to witness repeatedly an unraveling of every tentative truce between warring human souls.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Egyptian Coptic Christians: Under Attack

Coptic Christians are under siege in Egypt.

What is weird and sad? This is nothing new. The bias against Christians in Egypt has been long running.

This is from the NYT.com:

CAIRO — The worshipers erupted, hundreds of them, loudly chanting “No! No! No!” and drowning out the priest, making it impossible for him to continue offering thanks to President Hosni Mubarak.

It was two days after a suicide bomber killed at least 21 people as a New Year’s Eve Mass was ending in Alexandria, and the Coptic Christian church leadership had assumed its standard posture as ally of the president, loyal institution of the state. “We direct our thanks to the president,” the priest said during a Mass.

But this time the parishioners would have none of it: “No! No! No!” “We want our rights!” and “Remove the governor!” they shouted during the ceremony.

The bomb attack exposed a troubling sectarian divide between Egypt’s Christian minority and its Muslim majority. But it also revealed disagreements within the Christian population, and within the church, too. An increasingly conservative and restive segment of the population expressed frustration with the church leadership’s nonconfrontational approach to the state and its reluctance to aggressively challenge practices seen as discriminatory, churchgoers, politicians and political scientists said.

Prayers for our Coptic brothers and sisters.



Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year on the Pilgrimage...

Working hard on the book DIVINITY, which has become a story of a pilgrimage of coming out. This will most likely become the theme for the book, and for my life this year.

Blessings on your journeys in 2011!

Buen camino!