It has possibly been the hottest day we have walked on in the 4 pilgrimages so far. This afternoon it was 30c with a humidex of 36c. I am grateful that we only walked about 15kms rather than the 26 of yesterday. Had we had to do so I am not sure we would have made it. The route followed the old Trans-Canada Highway from Perth-Andover to Bairdsville. It is 10 years since the new highway was opened and it is easy to see and hear about the economic impact on the area. We passed two former motels on the way.
At either end of the walk people from the churches walked with us. Today we were also joined for the whole journey by Cathy Laskey, Cheryl Jacobs and Bob LeBlanc. Despite the heat the kilometers passed fairly quickly as we chatted along the road and met new people. I also personally met many black flies and mosquitoes, so I am pretty itchy this evening.
When we arrived in Bairdsville we passed the home of Ray and Carol Andersen, where we are staying and travelled on to St. George’s Church, which is a gem. It is one of the earliest churches consecrated by Bishop Medley in 1847. It was renovated in 1911 with a chancel being added and beautiful woodwork lining the walls and the ceiling. Entering the building from the heat of the day led to a cool refreshing sensation for us all.
We then walked back to the Andersen’s for a beautiful supper with people from the community. I had been told that Carol’s sticky buns are the best. I have to say I was not disappointed. Afterwards we returned to the church for a service, with others joining us from elsewhere in the Archdeaconry.
Last night I expressed my sense of frustration with regard to how we sustain our Christian, Anglican presence in this region. Throughout the walk today I have been returning to the subject in my prayers and thoughts. This evening I was given an insight into a way forward. It is not profound or rocket science, neither is it the whole picture, but it has to do with faithfulness.
Not faithfulness to buildings but faithfulness to presence. Knowing that Jesus is the reason why we gather and that he is profoundly and personally interested in us and others. It is these nodes of faithfulness which need to be encouraged and nurtured in order that God’s love can be known in a community.
The next question to wrestle with is how are such gatherings supported and encouraged? It may be that we have to look to our forebears for clues. The early clergy and lay leaders often travelled the rivers in order to provide ministry to the disparate communities on their banks. What does that look like today? I do not really know. It may mean that we have to have different expectations of ministry.
Tomorrow we travel to Jackson’s Falls and thence to Richmond Corner. I am not sure as to the distance we are to walk. In the evening we consecrate St. John’s, Richmond Corner. It is the first building to be consecrated in our Diocese since 2004. It will be a signal event.