Day 14

Ready to leave St. Clement’s in Dumfries
Well, Pilgrimage 2018 in the Archdeaconry of Woodstock is over, apart from my writing this blog. I am sitting at home in my office for the first time in nearly two weeks. The grass on my lawn has grown very long whilst I have been away and will need to be cut tomorrow. I am asking myself what are the main things I have learnt in these last few days?

Final midday prayers at St. Mark’s at Kings Landing Historical Settlement
Before I go there I want to mention that this morning we walked from the Church of St. Clement to the church at King’s Landing. We were able to say our final Midday Prayers in that old building, which is now a witness to our Christian heritage for all who visit the historical settlement. I must say thank you to those who made this possible at such short notice. In addition, thank you to everyone who has been involved in the Pilgrimage this year in any way. I greatly appreciate your ministry to Trevor and me.

During the last two weeks I have met many wonderful people who are committed to the extension of a Christian Anglican witness in the Woodstock area. I am grateful for the ministry which is being done there by so many. I know that it is very difficult and some feel that they are hanging on by their fingernails. What I can say is that God knows and as a result of my walk I have a greater understanding of the situation on the ground. I have few answers, but I will continue to think, pray and consult.

In addition to the position of Anglicanism in the region, I have been greatly impacted by the economic effect of change over the last 50 years. I am not going to reiterate what I said last night. I may be ignorant on this issue, but I do not hear much from the Provincial Government about rural regeneration. Again, as far as I am aware none of the churches have been asked to contribute to any ongoing discussions. In some cases, church members are the holders of the memory for parts of New Brunswick.

God does not leave us comfortless, but how do we comfort our brothers and sisters as they face major obstacles in their communities? Jesus’ love is for all and he seeks to bring wholeness to the broken. The Spirit empowers us for the work of ministry, which has to reach beyond maintenance to mission.

Next year the hope is to walk in the Archdeaconries of Kingston and the Kennebecasis and Saint John. Once again thank you for your support in this ministry.


Day 13

Things are beginning to wind down, Trevor and I are starting to look forward to tomorrow and our last walk, even though we are likely to get wet. Thus far we have travelled about 174 kms on foot. Thankfully neither of us is the worse for wear; hopefully the last lap to King’s Landing will not cause any trouble. We are now in St. Clement’s church in Prince William/Dumfries. Any who know it will be aware that it is very well appointed, a beautiful facility alongside the St. John River.

Today began at the Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi near Canterbury. It was a great walk but as we walked with Charles Bell, a man with significant local knowledge, a sense of sadness overwhelmed me. When passing along the road Charles pointed out where farmsteads used to be. Now they are merely clearings, perhaps with an old wellhead visible. We could also see flat areas of grass with new growth trees in them, these were former cow pastures. Then there was the derelict machinery and the great barns which had once been at the heart of productive farms, but today are slowly decaying. In addition to all this were the sites of the old lumber mills.

What I was observing was less than a skeleton of a former way of life in our province. It was more like bone fragments of an economic model which collapsed from the 1970s onwards for many and varied reasons. Its demise has left much of our countryside denuded of people, employment and even hope.

Peggy keeps showing up!
I have found myself asking what is the Church’s role in our present situation? There are at least two of the Marks of Mission which imply that we should be involved: challenging the unjust structures of society and caring for the creation. Is there a role for the Church as entrepreneurial catalyst in our rural communities? What might that even look like? Can we furnish micro-loans to people with ideas? I genuinely do not know, but there must be something we can do.

From Canterbury went moved on to Temperance Vale for midday prayers. We had a good crowd in attendance. We walked to Nackawic and paid a visit to the Town Hall. The parish here is saddened due to the recent death of one of their beloved older members, so we are grateful that they are still able to receive us.

This brings me back full circle to my first blog of this year. As you may recall I dedicated this year’s pilgrimage to the memory of Marshall Curtis, who was killed in an accident three weeks ago. The event was a great shock to me and to many. I have prayed for Carson and Liz (Marshall’s parents) daily as I have walked. I have also thought about Marshall and meaning. I have no great revelation which will ease anyone’s pain; what I know is God is to be trusted and God is love.


Day 12

There are many questions that we might like to ask God, but I think one of the most valid is, Why the Mosquito? Followed closely by, Why the Black fly? Both of these insects have been both numerous and voracious today, especially in the Canterbury area. I am told this is a particularly bad year. I hope it is for the people who live here, because to face this each spring and summer would be unbearable. Those who have taken up the recent fashion for eating insect-based food could have a feast.

Confirmation in Woodstock
Our day began at St. Luke’s, Woodstock, with Confirmation. It was a joyous service in which I was able to confirm Dalton. He was baptized last week and later in the summer he is going to the CLAY conference in Ontario. He, another young man, Adam, and the parishioners have been busily and successfully raising funds for the trip, which is great to see. I trust they will have a tremendous time.

After a fine lunch we set out on the trail from St. Luke’s to Christ Church, Lower Woodstock. There was a good number of us and Murdoch the dog. It was a relatively short walk in a reasonable temperature and it ended our pilgrimage in that part of the diocese. We said our farewells and headed to Canterbury where we worshipped, ate and walked.

It was inspiring to read about the ministry of Mr. Hartin, the first rector of the parish. He was described as a pioneer along with other pioneers who established the community here. Hartin was both a schoolteacher and cleric. He established both a church and a school in the community, as well as another church at Skiff Lake. His belief was that education was the way forward for people in the community and he was committed to that goal.

Having said that it is sad to see Canterbury today. As with many of our rural communities much of what was here has gone, along with the people. At the centre of the village there used to be two places which provided accommodation for travellers, a railway station and at least four stores. Today the only thing remaining is a store/garage/café, which sells everything from milk to plumbing supplies. We received a great welcome from the owner as we passed by. She had been told. that the Bishop was coming through. It was good to meet her and have the privilege of praying in the store.

Prayer has made a significant impact on me today. I have been asked to pray for several people who have matters they wish to see brought before God. We too easily forget the importance and the power of prayer. We need to be imaginative in creating ways to enable people to more easily ask for and receive prayer as they need it in their lives. When I was in parish ministry I was often stopped in the street and asked for prayer. How do we make this more obvious?

Tomorrow we head for Temperance Vale and Prince William. The Pilgrimage for this year is drawing to an end. I wonder what lies in store for us in the next 2 days?


Day 11

Morning Prayer at St. Paul’s, Kirkland
Another day has passed on our pilgrimage. Thankfully the weather cooled for our walks. We drove from Richmond Corner to Kirkland and were met at the church by a group of parishioners, who joined us for Morning Prayer and a short walk to the Presbyterian church. Then we got into the car and drove to Benton, where we had midday prayers and lunch before setting out on a 10 km hike to the Maliseet Trail. We were met at the entrance to the Falls walk by others from Woodstock and walked through the woods together. Then it was back to Woodstock for a wonderful supper and Evening Prayer at Christ Church, Lower Woodstock.

Hays Falls
The Falls at the end of the Maliseet Trail are high and often have a large volume of water passing over them. Today the recent dry weather meant that this was not the case, but it is easy to imagine how spectacular things would be were the stream in full spate. One thing I would note is that once again the mosquitoes and black flies were in evidence around the Falls, but it was worth the effort to see them.

I was impressed again today by the dedication of a few people to maintaining their church buildings. There are three churches in the parish of Canterbury and we visit the final one tomorrow; for Holy Communion. It is strange how knowledge and reality sometimes come together to challenge. Canon Jim Irvine provides Eucharistic ministry in the area, alternating between the church buildings. It is tremendous that he and many other retired clergy undertake this ministry. That is the knowledge, but the reality is that when Jim cannot come then there is no service. This raises many questions, which have to be considered.


At St. Mary the Virgin, Benton
The church in Benton is a true resurrection story. In 1980 the building was completely gutted by fire. The parishioners were told that it was beyond salvaging. Local tradesmen worked hard to restore the structure and it stands to this day as a monument to their dedication.

On the Maliseet Trail
The visit to the Falls was poignant because of a story I was told when we were standing at the bottom looking up. A few years ago, some young people were camping at the top of the Falls and three of them fell to their deaths. It was a great tragedy. It made me think about how the beauty of God’s creation can be juxtaposed with such a terrible thing, yet the presence of God is within both.

Evening Prayer at Christ Church, Lower Woodstock
Finally, we look forward to tomorrow. In the morning it is Confirmation at St. Luke’s, then a walk to Christ Church Afterwards we hit the Canterbury Trail to celebrate Holy Communion there in the evening.


Day 10

Morning Prayer in Bairdsville

What a day. I have to say that this was probably the hardest walking day, but perhaps the most fascinating. This morning we prayed in Bairdsville and then headed south for Jacksons Falls.

After arriving at St. Mark’s Church we visited Andy and Louise Bell’s farm to see how potatoes are washed and processed for market. I had the opportunity to participate in the process; I do not think I am likely to be taken on anytime soon. It was very interesting to learn how the crop is stored through the year.

Then it was on to Bell Forest, a piece of protected woodland, managed by the Meduxnekeag River Association, with a tremendous bio diversity. There are plants and trees there which are not found anywhere else in New Brunswick. There is a careful plan to both protect them and to encourage their growth.
In addition, school parties visit regularly so that the students can discover these important things for themselves. George, who led us through, was in effect a walking encyclopaedia of the flora and fauna in the area.

Midday prayers at St. Mark, Jackson Falls

Then it was back to St. Mark’s for lunch and midday prayers. It is another little gem of a church building with tremendous wooden panelling and a fine graveyard. Great care and love are clearly lavished on the building. Once again there is a sense that this is important to the community; those who attend and those who do not.

After lunch we began our walk to Richmond Corner. The first half was extremely hot and there were long hills en route. The roads had heated up so much that the tar was melting and if we stood too long, there was a danger of becoming stuck. It was a great relief that two drinks stations had been set up along the way in peoples’ homes. They made all the difference. Thankfully after a while the clouds began to gather and things cooled.

This evening we consecrated the church of St. John, Richmond Corner. What a great event it was. The folks there were very excited about the evening and the story of how it came to be is one of faith and perseverance. God has blessed the congregation and their challenge is how they continue to be a blessing in their community.

The consecration of the building is a sign and symbol of hope in the region. The truth is that God is working in the lives of people who are unaware of this reality. The question I posed this evening is how do we, as God’s people, become effective interpreters of God’s action?