Today was something of a Baptism of fire. It is the first time that we have tried to walk such a distance on the first day, 21.1kms. We were joined by a number of people on the trail and one, Lennie, walked with us all the way from Brown’s Yard to Harcourt. It was great to have him because he kept up a steady stream of jokes along the way, which helped me take my mind off my aching limbs.
I was very pleased to celebrate Evening Prayer in St. Matthew’s, Harcourt. It is a little gem of a church on the side of the Rogersville Road. The parking lot is well known to me as it was the place where, if I was travelling from the North-Shore to Saint John, I would pull off the road to sleep. Having said that I have not been in the building before.
Part way along the road we stopped at the Fire Hall in Beersville. It is a beautiful new facility and we received a warm welcome from the volunteer firefighters. In addition, we had a great potluck lunch there, being joined by people from the parish of Kent. It was also a privilege to “bless the fleet”, the fire trucks and other vehicles belonging to the department.
The other exciting thing which happened was being able to climb into the number 1 fire truck to sound the siren and flash the lights. As one lady said, “Boys just never grow up”. Thanks to Vance, who let me sit in his seat on the truck.
All in all it is good to be walking again. Today I was reminded of the importance of our Christian witness as we work in our communities for the good of everyone. Chris Ketch, the Priest in Charge of the Parish of Kent is a volunteer firefighter and the Rev’d Sandy Sutherland, the local Presbyterian minister, serves as Chaplain to the department and is a firefighter.
Part of our task as Christians is to be witnesses as we volunteer with organizations in our communities. In our readings today we were reminded that Jesus calls us to be his witnesses wherever we are.
It is a damp Friday morning as I write this. I am about to go to ACPO to speak to the people who will be assessing potential clergy for the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada. It is a difficult task, because we live in such changing times, where it is hard to know the skills and abilities which people will need in future ministry. There is a baseline and without that we might as well not even begin. Those who minister need to love Jesus and love people. That much I know.
One of the reasons I undertake these annual pilgrimages is to meet people from all walks of life. People are a fascination to me. We are all so different with different joys and sorrows. Our life experiences have shaped us and made us who we are. The image of God shines through, but often for many of us it has become clouded by the events of our lives.
These life shaping inputs, both positive and negative, can affect the way we respond to God’s call for us to come home to him. He is constantly working through his Holy Spirit to draw people to him. The role of the Church is to listen to God, to notice where he is active and then to join in his ministry. A major part of this pilgrimage will be about trying to do this.
I hope that many of you will be able to join Trevor and me as we walk through the Moncton Archdeaconry during the next two weeks. I am coming to this pilgrimage rushed by the ministry God has called me to in our Diocese. It is my hope that we all can find pools of God’s peace amongst the waves of life.
All-powerful God, you always show mercy toward those who you love and you are never far away for those who seek you. Be with your servants on this pilgrimage and guide their way in accord with your will. Be a companion for them along their journey, a guide at crossroads, strength in their weariness, defense before dangers, shelter on the way, shade against the heat, light in the darkness, a comforter in their discouragements, and firmness in their intentions, in order that, through your guidance, they might arrive unscathed at the end of their journey and, enriched with graces and virtues, they might return safely home; through Jesus Christ Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
We arrived back in Saint John at 7.00pm after leaving Campbellton at 2.00pm. It was a long hard drive for Trevor as the rain was torrential most of the way. Deep streams of water lay in the travel ruts along the road, hence there was a constant danger of our aquaplaning. Thankfully that did not happen. I want to take this opportunity to thank Trevor for his hard work and dedication to the pilgrimages we have undertaken so far. He has not only accompanied me every step of the way, but has worked with people on the ground planning the routes. It has been a real act of service on his part.
There are many other people I have to express my gratitude to who have put themselves out to ensure that the walks have gone without a hitch. If I were to begin naming them, it is inevitable that I would miss someone. Therefore, may I just say a blanket thank you to everyone who has been involved in making this year’s venture a success. The contributions you have all made mean that all I had to do was to show up and walk.
Today we celebrated Holy Communion in Christ Church Campbellton. It was a fitting end to the journey, because the Eucharist is about thanksgiving. Primarily we give thanks for God’s love for us and his actions in sending Jesus to give a way back to Him. There has been no greater act in the history of the world than this. Jesus’ death and resurrection mean that we can find our true, intended identities as children of God. We are able to go beyond what we have known towards what was meant to be.
Without God’s action in Jesus there would be no Church and no pilgrimage. It is because of God’s gracious work through His Son that we can be thankful for the blessings we receive in this life. This morning as I celebrated the sacrament I was grateful to God for all he has achieved over the last two weeks of walking. It has been a great privilege for me to have a glimpse of how God is working his purpose out among us.
It is with thanksgiving that I end this series of blogs. I look forward to the journey continuing during the next year as we continue to walk the walk God has called us to as a Diocese. I also hope that, God willing, I will be on the road again walking with and meeting many others from another part of our Province in 12 months from now.
We conquered Sugarloaf Mountain today. I have to say that for me it was hard work. Although it is only a walk of 0.9 kms, it is very steep and rugged. I was reminded of a song we used to sing in Sunday School, “When the road is rough and steep fix your eyes upon Jesus”. There were a couple of times climbing that I thought I might be doing that rather more quickly than anticipated. Once at the top it was well worth the climb, a beautiful vista opened up in front of us. It must look amazing in the Fall.
Throughout this pilgrimage the hospitality has been fantastic. This evening after the great climb we had a scallop and ham supper. About 40 people attended and we were able to join together for Evening Prayer afterwards. It has been tremendous to worship with so many different people over the last 2 weeks. There has been a real sense of the Holy Spirit working among his people. I am very encouraged about our church, but also aware of the trials we face.
Tonight will be the final time for a while that I will sleep in a church or hall. Strangely it has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this year’s pilgrimage. I can honestly say I have slept well in every place. It has been a discipline to sort out sleeping space in some places and generally have to be packed and ready to go to the next venue.
The road we have travelled this year has amounted to about 170 kms, somewhat less than last year’s 210. Having said that there was nothing like Sugarloaf in our Charlotte County walk last year. Today’s journey reminded me that in our Christian walk we always face paths of relative ease and also steep sections which require all that we can give in order to get over them.
There were times on the mountain today when I thought I would not make it. Oddly the worst of these was coming down. As I left the summit I lost my footing on the steep, worn rocks there. Suddenly I was falling forward towards jagged stones. I struggled to have my walking stick get a grip. At the third attempt, when I was sure I was going to come crashing down, it locked against a rock and I steadied myself.
During the next few years as a Diocese we will continue to face the rough and the smooth. There will be times when we think we are not going to make it and there will be times of joy as we look back to where we have come from. We can rely upon Jesus if we are willing to risk the mountain. In the light of that I finish where I began today remembering a line of a hymn from childhood, this time, from school, “My faith it is an oaken staff, oh let me on it lean”.
I am able to report that it can be sunny on this part of the North Shore. I cannot say that it has been bright all day, but for most of it the sun has shone. We have had an excellent day touring around different parts of the area and walking about 16 kms in total. There was also a good crowd of people with us and this evening, in fact St. Andrew’s Church was nearly full.
The river, as predicted yesterday is extremely full and fast flowing, it would definitely be a dangerous place to fall in. In fact, all the waterways in the region have much more water in them at much higher levels than would usually be expected at this time of year.
During our pilgrimage we were joined by an unusual pilgrim today, a small kitten. He appeared out of the hedgerow as we walked along the road and insisted that he travel with us for several kms. He appeared to be lost, perhaps even dumped by the side of the road. We could see no obvious reason for his being out there and nowhere where he obviously belonged. It also seemed to us that he was slightly injured with a cut on his lip and not able to drink easily.
Eventually we arrived at the church in Robinsonville with the cat. Then the truth of living in the country came into play. We asked the letter carrier if she knew where the kitten might have come from, she had a suggestion and headed off to see if she was correct. About an hour later the real home was discovered and the little animal returned to its Mother.
There was also a salutary event today. Don Thompson drove us out onto an almost deserted country road. We stopped by a culvert crossed the roadside ditch and then forged our way into the woods. Amongst the brush and trees we found the foundation of St. James’ Church. Apparently it was deconsecrated during the late 1950s and some years later burned down.
The kitten and his return is a reminder of hope. He could have easily ended up miles away from home, but was returned and is now happily with the rest of his litter. We are all homeless until we find our rest in Christ. The ruined church points to the fact that Christianity can disappear from an area very quickly. We are to take our mission responsibility seriously in order that hope is restored.
We made it, a walk of 25kms, longer than anything I walked last year. It shows that training makes a difference. We travelled from Dalhousie to Campbellton. For most of the way it remained dry, but as we entered the city it began to rain steadily, not as much as much as yesterday, but enough. Sadly, the plans for tomorrow’s trip along the river have had to be shelved, as the water is too high for us to be safe. The result is we will walk further than anticipated, but be are promised better weather.
Today we were joined by several people on the way, it was great to be with them. About one third of the way along a car pulled in front of us and a quite excited man emerged. He had a ball cap on bearing the logo of El Camino, the pilgrimage route in Spain which Trevor walked a couple of years ago. He had just returned from his walk in Europe and was very excited to hear what we are doing.
We were also joined for part of the way by David a fellow Brit’. It was good to be able to talk to him about Football and Rugby. He is also a trained singer and has recently moved into the area.
Today was also a time of farewells. Cathy Laskey and Sandy Craft left us part way to Campbellton. Cathy has to be in Saint John early in the morning. It was sad to see them go, but I am really pleased that they were able to join us for a day.
One of things which has become clear today is that things can move quickly and it is necessary to respond to them as best we can. The plan to travel the river is impossible, hence something had to be done. We now have a new tomorrow which will bring us things we had not anticipated.
In our following of Jesus, it is easy to become complacent or unprepared to accept a fluid situation. In the Bible we see great fluidity when people have real encounters with Jesus. Some of the disciples were minding their own business when Jesus appeared on Galilee’s shore and said “Follow me”. Saul was heading for Damascus to persecute the followers of The Way, when Jesus accosted him on the road and changed his plans forever.
Our Christian lives have become very reliant upon institutional ways of doing things. We do not respond well to the changing circumstances in which we find ourselves. If we cannot learn to be quicker on our feet we will miss the possibilities which a changed situation will bring.
Colin was today. Apparently we walked through the end of Tropical Storm Colin. When we arrived this fact was mentioned, someone thought we were speaking about Colin Ranson. Today was really wet, there was no respite. We began in the rain and we ended in the rain, in fact water is still falling from the skies.
It was great to be greeted by a good group of people from the Parish of Restigouche. I am very grateful for their coming out. In total 11 of us walked the whole distance from Eel River Bar to Dalhousie. In one sense not a great deal happened today as we dug in deeply to walk in the downpour. Yet the truth is we had a really good time. There was a chance to talk to each other and to learn many things about the region. Sandie Craft, the Lay Vice Chair of Synod, joined us and was given a guided tour of the area by Gale MacKinnon.
As we sit in the Rectory with some of the members of the walking group there is an animated conversation about how we can get dry for tomorrow, many of us have very damp gear. Sandy has developed a way of keeping her foot dry as you can see illustrated in the picture beside.
This evening we prayed together in the Church of St. Mary. There were 25 of us altogether and it was a very uplifting experience. As I reflect on the pilgrimage so far the most encouraging aspect has been the quality of worship we have shared along the way. There has been a very real sense of the Holy Spirit being present among us in the various venues where we have come together.
I truly believe that God is speaking to us as we travel and speaking into the communities we are visiting. It is difficult to discern what is being said and I imagine it will take some time after the journey is finished to really hear what is being said.
My initial thought is that he is saying “Fear not”. The ways in which he has broken into our worship on the road suggests that he wants to deepen our relationship with him in order that we can trust him and step out in faith for him. I cannot be sure of this, but I am finding myself looking forward to worshipping together as we go along.
Tomorrow rain is threatened again, but not such a deluge. It is our longest walking day from Dalhousie to Campbellton at a distance of about 25 kms.
As I sit here now the fog is hanging over the bay, the wind is blowing and a light rain is falling. I am glad to say it has not been like this all day. Despite the weather forecast it has been mostly dry and the sun even broke through on a couple of occasions. There was an early morning mist, which nearly put paid to a trip out on the water, but it lifted at about 10.00 am.
The day began at 7.30 am when we met with the men’s Bible Study Group. They meet every week. There is a mix of denominations and they discuss the readings for the forthcoming Sunday. Canon Richard McConnell is serving here as Interim and he says he finds it very helpful for his sermons. Maybe I will find it so this week.
Just as we were about to set out on our walk Sherwood, a local farmer and lobster fisherman, arrived at the church door. He said “The fog has lifted; do want to come for a run”? This meant going out into the bay on his lobster boat. He and a crewman had done the hard work earlier, but a whole group of us got onto the boat and went out to sea. Remarkably, although he had already been out and cleared the traps, there were more lobsters in them. Apparently this has been a year of relative plenty.
I made one profound discovery, I am not cut out to be a lobster fisherman. I missed the buoy three times with the gaff, Trevor on the other hand did it in one. It was a great experience and I am grateful to Sherwood for providing it.
Then it was back on land and off for a walk. We visited a seniors centre where the ladies fed us with snacks and drinks. Then another highlight, I was able to climb into the driver’s seat of the local volunteer fire department’s truck. I did not get a chance to sound the siren or flash the lights though.
The great thing about today is that I have been able to see some of the things which make rural New Brunswick tick. The fishing industry and also the volunteer fire department. We are very fortunate to have these things in our Province and it will be a sad day for us if they are ever no longer here.
Such things make me realize that God has provided for us in many ways and through many different people. It is possible that both we and they fail to appreciate his part in these things. Let us thank the Lord for his goodness.
The good news for today is that the weather was not as bad as forecast. Although we were thoroughly wet when we arrived in Salmon Beach we were not as drenched as we had anticipated. Again it was another amazing day.
Some of the folks from Bathurst walked with us pretty much until the city limit. We anticipated that we would be walking alone for the rest of the way to St. Alban’s Church, but no, we were met by people from the Parish of New Bandon, just before the Bathurst crew left us. Walking with people from the parishes has been one of the joys of this journey.
In addition, as we travelled towards Salmon Beach two people in a silver car hooted and waved as they headed for Bathurst. About 20 minutes later the same car passed us going the other way, turned around and came back in our direction. The window opened and a tray of Tim Horton’s hot chocolate was handed out to us. With all the rain walking had been chilly, so this was very welcome.
As you head from Bathurst to Salmon Beach on the old road a point is reached where there is a 90 degree turn and suddenly from walking in the relative shelter of the woods you are exposed to the winds off the bay. It was not too bad today, but there were times when it was necessary to dig in as we walked along. Whilst on that stretch it was suggested that we should visit the oldest parishioner in the congregation. We stopped and spent a delightful 20 minutes with Margaret.
With any journey there are always things which arise to take a person back into reality. We can walk with Jesus, but sometimes, as with wind off the bay, the everyday world cuts in. This afternoon as I checked my email I realized that there are things going on which had to be dealt with. In this case a few emails and calls have somewhat met the needs. That said we all have to face things which distract from our ideal life.
In truth we have to try to recognize that the bumpy aspects of life have to be attended to. There is no promise from Jesus that the wind will not rise trying to blow us away from him. What we need to see is that he blows in parallel with us. It may be that the clouds obscure our view of him, but he is still there as we grow into our new situation. That is his promise.