Monday, December 1, 2014

Pilgrimage across the nation, and Pilgrimage at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

The pilgrimage of racing across the nation from Tue., Nov. 25, leaving Chapel Hill for Asheville, then Asheville to Jefferson City, TN, then off to Blue Springs, MO, to Rawlins, WY to Portland, OR...Phew!  Stories and pics coming!

Now a pilgrimage has begun at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Portland, OR.  Stories coming soon!

Step by step, day by day, and we're off!

Buen camino!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014


All right, pilgrims!  I'm moving.  It is time to move to Portland, Oregon!  I'm the new interim head of staff at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Portland, OR!  Come and visit.

Dean will stay here and tend to the home we own.  Adrianne and her husband, Scott, are moving to Weaverville, and Parker is finishing up at UNC-W.

The pilgrimage continues anon!

Buen camino!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Practicing Pilgrimage Prayers

That's me in the foreground.

I'm working VERY hard on my next book, Practicing Pilgrimage.

I'll post some of the chapters on this site!

Expect to be amazed!

Buen Camino!


Friday, June 6, 2014

Walking is falling forward.

In the series, "To Walk the World" in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (Dec. 2013), Paul Salopek gives us a there is a wonderful definition or description of walking:

Walking is falling forward.

Each step we take is an arrested plunge, a collapse averted, a disaster braked.  in this way, to walk becomes an act of faith.  We perform it daily: a two-beat miracle--an iambic teetering, a holding on and letting go


How cool is this!

Buen Camino!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Need to Walk

I have a need to walk.

Maybe becasue it's the end of the semester.

I think it has to do with the rhythm of life.

I need to walk.

Because we had to scrap the walk along St. Cuthbert's Way, there is still a need to walk.  I'm mostly going to walk part of the Camino to visit a friend and visit with pilgrims who come along the way.

I need to walk.

Buen camino!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Update on Spring Pilgrimage: Spain!

Because of the low numbers the pilgrimage along St. Cuthbert's Way was cancelled.

However, I'm going to walk parts of the Camino, going to a small Albergue outside of Leon, Spain to spend time with a co-hort of pilgrims.

Buen Camino!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Still Room for Pilgrims on St. Cuthbert's Way Pilgrimage!

Still room for more!

St. Cuthbert's Way Pilgrimage: May 24-31, 2014!

65 miles/5 days/6 nights.


Melrose Abbey, Scotland to Lindisfarne, England.

Trail Trekkers will be transporting equipment, preparing food and shelter.

Come for this time of communion with the saints above and right here on earth!

Buen Camino!


How Pilgrimage Teaches Us About Lent

From my article on

For Christians, Lent is a season that is almost synonymous with the word "journey". In preparation for Easter, for 40 days, many people choose either to give up something, as Jesus did when he practiced fasting in the wilderness, or to re-focus on a Christian spiritual practice with a renewed sense of purpose. Whether one relinquishes something favored or adopts new habits, such activity is meant to lead people to remember the pattern of the Last Supper that prefigures an act of Godly love, the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, culminating in the celebration of the divine resurrection of Christ.
While I am usually drawn either to surrender or take on new during Lent, my attention this year is on the high incidence of traveling metaphors commonly used by writers, speakers, pastors, and priests alike, when describing Lent. The intent of using this language is to assist believers in focusing on the progress or process of transformation in this hallowed season. As I read and hear from religious leaders, some of my favorite ways of traversing over the 40-day period of Lent is as follows: one goes on a mysterious journey as one follows Jesus; Lent is a sacred pilgrimage into the desert of our lives accompanied by Christ's spirit. Or it is a solemn trek into an unknown land requiring us to rely upon the Spirit to give us strength in our time of praying and fasting. Other teachers talk of wandering on the road of temptation and forgiveness, or maybe a trail of remembrances, reflecting upon what Jesus has done and is doing for us. A few seek to be on a quest for a deeper understanding of the mystery of forgiveness as we make our way along a pathway toward more meaningful faith, one step at a time.

Read more here:

Buen Camino!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Map of St. Cuthbert's Way

Here's a map of St. Cuthbert's Way.

There's still a place for you: six are signed up and six spots left!

Contact me ASAP!

Buen Camino!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pilgrimage and Story

I gave a talk on pilgrimage at Emory and Henry College, in which I pulled on the string of thought that pilgrimage is a trail we walk shadowed by a story.

I heard someone say or write something similar recently, and liked it in terms of putting our life journey into the context of a larger story that we are part of, and in which we find meaning.

The problem with it is linear: not all journeys are linear, and same with stories.

Also: how does  one understand the multiple levels of how a story, and a pilgrimage, affect us? 

Finally: is it my story that tells me who I am, or am I the writer of the story? Is it possible that the story is unfolding and not complete?

Buen camino!


Friday, February 21, 2014

Calling all pilgrims!

Come one and all!

Come with us on pilgrimage!

Hi Pilgrims! St. Cuthbert's Way calls you to come and walk to Lindisfarne on this holy trek. Six pilgrims have signed up! Six openings left! Come and walk the way of St. Cuthbert to Lindisfarne, England, a.k.a., "The Holy Isle!" Pilgrims will meet on the night of Sat., May 24, at Melrose Abbey, and end on Thursday, May May 31st on Lindisfarne. This is a 65 miles, or 13 miles a day. The cost for this pilgrimage, which includes tents (tents with cots, tables, chairs and lights!) and 3 meals a day, plus transportation of our materials is $990. Trail Trekkers will provide the tents and meals along the way. There is room for 6 more pilgrims! Any questions? Ask Brett Webb-Mitchell, Director of the School of the Pilgrim,, or visit:
Buen Camino!

Friday, February 7, 2014

St. Cuthbert's Pilgrimage! 5 Signed Up, and 7 Spots Left!

Five people have signed up to walk the way of St. Cuthbert to Lindisfarne!  7 spots left!

Here's the info again:

St. Cuthbert's Way Pilgrimage is happening! Half way towards being filled! Six more spaces open! The pilgrimage is from May 25-31, and is a pilgrimage between Melrose Abbey and Lindisfarne in England. 6 nights, five days walking, with an extra day to process the pilgrimage in Lindisfarne, a.k.a., the Holy Isle. If you are interested in just Melrose Abbey and Lindisfarne, and/or Melrose and Lindisfarne, along with Iona as well, let me know! Email me at:, or 919-444-9111.

Here's the schedule:
Night 1 (Sunday) - Melrose

Day 1 (Monday) - Three Abbeys in one day
Melrose to Jedburgh (passing Dryburgh Abbey - resting place of Sir Walter Scott - on the way)

Night 2 (Monday) - Jedburgh

Day 2 (Tuesday) - Jedburgh to Kirk Yetholm

Night 3 (Tuesday) - Kirk Yetholm

Day 3 (Wednesday) - Kirk Yetholm to Wooler

Night 4 (Wednesday) - Wooler

Day 4 (Thursday) Wooler to Beal (passing St Cuthbert's Cave en-route)

Night 5 (Thursday) - Beal

Day 5 (Friday) Beal to Holy Island (Lindisfarne)

Night 6 (Friday) - Beal

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snowy trails

It snowed in our patch of earth in NC last night.

This morning, it was smooth whiteness around our yard...until the dogs went out and left a trail of paw prints and more.  Criss crossing the yard were lots of paw prints and skid marks where the dogs flellt trying to get a toy out of the snowy yard, or urinated.

Likewise, earth is full of such criss crossing paths.  We just don't see it as prominently because of the ability of grass and dirt to quickly revive from our trampling.

Nothing like snow to remind us how we all leave our path upon terra firma.

Buen camino!


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Follow Me...again, and again, and again...

Gospel reading? Matthew 4:12-23.

The thrust of the passage? Jesus calls James and John to "follow me."  Forget the dad, Zebedee: the thrust is with the young sons.  Let dad go home with mom, though there is no doubt that soon or later he is going to a follower of Jesus.

Follow me.

32 times, the word "Follow" shows up in the Gospels.


That some times means going places we may not want to go, but must go.


That's the thrust of pilgrimage: Follow.

Buen Camino.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pilgrimage and the Oscars

Amid the announcements of the Oscar nominees this morning, I must say that "Philomena" had the most feel of a pilgrimage, among the "announced" nominees (though others NOT nominated also have the feel of pilgrimage). The pursuit of the mother who is looking for her child taken away from her while she was (almost) held "hostage" at a nunnery in Ireland had the feel of pilgrimage all over it.  As Philomena pursued the whereabouts of her son, the son did the same. The satisfaction (spoiler alert) is at the end, when Philomena finds the cemetery site of her now-deceased child...right at the nunnery.

See this film!

Buen camino!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014


This is Spanish for walking, hiking, or path-following.  It literally means walking on trails.

Peregrino is pilgrim.

Soon I will leave for a brief Spanish "senderismo" as a "peregrino" with other veteran pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela.  I can't wait!

Buen Camino!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Walking, and what it means to Philosophers and Writers.

Robert Macfarlane cites the following (p. 27 in "the Old Way"):

Jean-Jacques Rousseau writes that "I can only meditate when I am walking.  When I stop I caease to think; my mind only works with my legs."

Soren Kierkegaard speculates that the mind might function optimally at the pedestrian pace of 3 miles per hour.

Christopher Morley wrote of Wordsworth as "emplying his legs as an instrument of philosoph.

Wallace Stevens wrote: "Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake."

Solvitur Ambulando!

Buen Camino!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Found this quote in Macfarlane's book on walking:

Not a footsteps into the snow, or along the ground, but prints in characters more lasting, a map of its march.  The ground is all memoranda and signatures; and every object covered over with hints.  In nature, this self-registration is incessant, and the narrative is the print of the seal (1850).

I've always thought that we do not leave our imprint upon the land, and that's it: the land leaves its mark on us too.

Buen camino!


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Macfarlane and "The Old Ways"

One last quote from Robert Macfarlane from his interview on "The Old Ways":
All footpaths are “old ways” in that they’ve taken time to come into being, and have been formed by the passage of many feet. They’re communal landmarks in that sense. It’s tough, tending to impossible, to make a path on your own, save by walking it hundreds of times (as the land artist Richard Long has done). I chose to use the old ways partly because I was fascinated by this network of paths that joined with one another and covered much of the globe (a very different kind of worldwide web), and partly because they seemed to promise a way of walking deeply into, rather than just shallowly across, the landscape. That promise came good.

In Cook Park, near my mom's house in Tigard, OR, there are a mix of tarmac paved trails and trails of mulch/bark dust.  I must say that the difference is fascinating: on the tarmac, you kind of feel your joints and that you are walking in a modern day way, while on the trail of wood debris under the large Douglas Firs, there is a sense of nature surrounding you.

Where you walk, the context, matters.

I've also noted the same thing about paths criss-crossing England.  I am aware, especially in the northern parts up towards Scotland, that I am walking on paths that have been walked upon for ages.  Meanwhile, in the States, because of its vastness, there is still a thrill that I may have walked upon a place that is "virgin" territory.

Buen camino!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Robert Macfarlane understands pilgrimage

In the interview with Macfarlane, I smiled when he said many pilgrimage paths have a habit of re-adjusting our mental and physical, well, being. I would add spiritual as well:
Are there particular routes renowned for producing mental or emotional states?
Among the most powerful old ways I know are the ancient routes of pilgrimage: the roads leading to Santiago de Compostela, say, or the paths that circle the sacred peaks of the Himalayas (Kailash, Minya Konka) and along which Buddhist pilgrims perform their arduous koras.
How else do travelers respond to landscape?
Everywhere I walked — in the Hebrides, the West Bank, Sichuan, Spain, the chalk downs of southern England — I met people for whom walking was a means of making sense of themselves and of the world. Scottish islanders who instead of feeling culturally marginal walked their way into intimacy with their remarkable home landscapes; Palestinians who used path-following to discover direction and worth in a political context of disorientation and disturbance. Conservationists for whom the “foot-transect” was an indispensable means of data collection. 

Just smiling.

Buen Camino!


Monday, January 6, 2014

Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways

Great book by Robert Macfarlane, "The Old Ways" (NY: Viking, 2013).

This choice line about pilgrimage:

...many of Chaucer’s pilgrims traveled on horseback; while the hajj to Mecca now involves air travel for the majority of pilgrims. But there are two obvious differences between walking and vehicular travel. The first is that walking is a full-body experience; mind and body function inseparably, such that thought becomes both site-specific and motion-sensitive. The second is that on foot you are unshielded from the world. There is no sheltering glass or steel between you and the weather, and whoever or whatever you might encounter. Walking a path, you greet or chat with the people you meet: I can’t remember ever having flagged down a stranger’s car on the other side of the highway to talk things over.

Here's link to the book review of the book in NYT:

The road, friends: the road calls!

Buen camino!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What is a pilgrimage?

Happy New Year!

I asked "" what is a pilgrimage.

The answer?

A pilgrimage is a journey in which one travels a distance to pay their respects to a religious icon. Some people go on pilgrimages so they can be healed. A pilgrimage is often considered as a transformational journey during which significant changes takes place in one's life.

I believe "a transformational journey" with "significant changes" taking place in my life is about to happen in 2014.

The School of the Pilgrim will continue to grow this year in new and unexpected ways.



p.s., above is a symbol of/for balance.  I'll need it this year.