No walking today, but plenty of activity. Trevor and I joined the combined congregations of the Suburban Moncton Parishes for worship this morning. It was a gloriously sunny day, with temperatures reaching 29C, as we had a barbeque in St. Philip’s church grounds after the service.
After two weeks of walking, worshipping and meeting people it is now back to reality. Since arriving home I have unpacked my walking gear and packed it away. Done my washing and cut the lawn. All this because at 8 am tomorrow I will be celebrating the Eucharist at the 2017 Clergy College in Fredericton. I still have to pack my case to leave for that event.
Every year so far when I have undertaken these walks a theme has emerged. This year has been no different though it has not been easy to capture it. As I have reflected over the last few days I think I have it: the certainty of God in the midst of randomness and apparent uncertainty.
As you may recall there have been several incidents during the pilgrimage where disaster could have struck, the last being the falling of a tree in Moncton on Friday night. In addition, people have shared their stories with me about things that have happened in their lives which have come out of the blue and in many cases still have consequences today.
There is also uncertainty on the larger scale. People are concerned about the way in which the world seems to be disrupted at present. There is the obvious matter of terrorism, but also climate change, the refugee crisis, famine and so the list goes on. The things which were certain seem to be vanishing into the distance. Life seems to be much more complex and much less stable.
What are we to make of it? I suggest that we look to the promises of God. Jesus said that he is with us always to the end of the age. There is the promise that life in Christ is life in all its fulness. These are not pious platitudes and sometimes we have to hang onto them for dear life. Yet in a world where things seem so tenuous where else do we turn?
To end I want to thank all those who have hosted Trevor and me this year. I am also grateful for all the small acts of kindness made along the way. Next year I intend that we walk in the Archdeaconry of Woodstock.
The final total is in, after various adjustments I can confirm that during Pilgrimage 2017 I walked 232 kms and Trevor walked 244, for reasons that will remain unclear. Today was a 20 km walk around Moncton, beginning at St. George’s, lunching at St James’ and finally arriving at St. Philip’s. As we travelled we saw some of the damage caused by the storm last night, there were several fallen trees.
The walk was rewarding in that people shared some important personal things with me. In addition, at lunch-time I heard from a couple about their concerns for the future of our faith in the area and beyond. I am always challenged by these conversations, because I feel (probably wrongly) that the hope is for me to provide some type of solution. I really wish I could, but all I can do is to say that we live in different times. It has almost become a mantra.
In many of the congregations I have visited during the last two weeks I have seen a great deal of love and care by the members for each other. We also have many people deeply involved in the various communities I have passed along the way. Involvement in breakfast programs, community gardens, after school events, the list is long. I want to thank all those who do such things as part of their Christian witness.
Today all of us who visited were greatly impressed by the foodbank here in Moncton. It is a tremendous operation and aims to do so much more than solely providing food for people in need. There is a strong sense of treating the folks with dignity and trying to point to hope in difficult situations. It is a non-denominational venture, though people from many churches are involved. I saw something which is clearly a blessing to Moncton.
It is this which points us towards what we should be. We are communities of blessing, who do these things to show the love of Christ. If we can continue to understand this then we will see God glorified and people coming to worship him. It cannot be about seeing people come to church, it has to be about people joining Jesus on the way.
Once again it has been an eventful day. Thankfully we had covered most of the distance we needed to from Riverview to St. Andrew’s, Sunny Brae, before the rain really began to fall. Our journey to St. George’s was curtailed due to the weather, taking the shortest distance between two points. We have been royally fed all along the journey and today was no different. For me the highlight was Welsh Cakes for lunch, but everything has been marvelous.
Despite the weather we have had good sized groups walking with us. The 200 km mark was reached this morning, so we really are on the downward track. This evening I went to visit some folks in hospital, which was a joy for me. When we came to leave the church to travel, a fierce wind had sprang up. As we passed down Gordon Street a huge bough fell from a tree just in front of us. It literally captured the car coming in the opposite direction. Thankfully no one was injured, but it closed the road.
During much of the pilgrimage I have been able to write about the beauty of nature. Babbling streams, tumbling waterfalls, swooping eagles and so on. This evening I saw the other side of the natural world. The destructive force which can be unleashed at any moment and the reality that there is little which can be done to stop it.
During the Victorian era and on into the Twentieth Century an idea emerged which suggested that the natural world could be tamed by human technology. It was part of the whole sense of God being able to be discounted from creation. One of the first major incidents which made people think that this might not be the case was the sinking of Titanic. The greatest ship built, the height of human technological endeavor felled by an iceberg; disappearing in a few hours.
Ultimately this universe is the realm of God. Nature, as we know from Romans 8, has been subjected to imperfection by God in response to humanity’s turning away from him. Thereby trees break and icebergs float into ships. Not the intention of God, but a consequence of our broken world.
It is my prayer tonight that everyone in this area is safe and that any damage caused by the wind has caused no great harm.
It was very hot today! I am told at one point the mercury climbed to 33C. Our walk was about 20 kms from Salisbury to Riverview; surprisingly I did not find it too arduous. We arrived at the Shannex complex at about 2.45pm and were greeted warmly by some of the residents. Then it was on to St. John the Baptist for an evening barbeque and service. There was a grand turn out of over 60 people. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain, so I am sure I shall look back on the heat of today with a degree of fondness.
It was also a great pleasure for me to be joined at the supper by four people from Stone Church in Saint John. One of them worshipped here, in Riverview, during the 1960s. She enjoyed renewing some old acquaintances.
Their presence made me think about the universal nature of the Church. In this season of Pentecost, we are reminded that we are the Body of Christ, connected by the Holy Spirit. The person from Stone Church is linked through time to this part of the body. There are some people whom she knows who are still here, but others have gone on ahead. Yet they and we are still joined.
This led me to another thought. The Church is not only linked over time, but also over distance. Today we know that in various places in the world Christians are being both persecuted and killed, because they profess the name of Jesus as Lord. Still others face famine and war. We are in the same body as they, yet we do not often think about them and their plight.
There may be little we can do other than pray or we could find that God calls us to minister in particular ways to our brothers and sisters who are in distress. Too easily I forget that we are joined together by the one Spirit. I am quite happy in my comfortable Christian life while my family in other parts of the world faces things I cannot imagine.
We are one body because we were all Baptized into one Lord, Jesus Christ.
We have experienced our first really warm day. This afternoon the temperature rose to 23C which is a little high for walking, but the cold previous days meant that no one complained. A good number of people joined us from the Parish of Salisbury and Havelock, as well as some of the staff from Camp Medley and one person from the Parish of Richmond. In addition, people were out of their houses more than previously, which meant we were able to greet them along the way.
Another great thing was that we were invited to stop for iced tea and a seat in the shade of a Maple tree by one of the parishioners. It is where we also met Shep the dog.
There was almost a nasty incident on the road. We were walking facing oncoming traffic, quite safely, when I heard a roar behind us. Before I could think I felt the brush of air from a car against me. What had happened was that someone had decided to overtake a slower vehicle right alongside us. Had I taken one step to the right in all probability I would not be writing this blog this evening.
The incident set me thinking about the fragility of life. The margin between everything being fine and the whole world turning upside down can be very slim. We have seen terrible examples of this apparent randomness around the world recently, but these are the events which hit the headlines. On a much smaller scale one step to the right happens to many people every day and can be devastating.
It led me to ponder the subject of where does our security come from? In my case I know it is centred in Jesus. This is not a pat answer; it is a conclusion I have come to over many years. Yet had I been killed today it would have been devastating for my family and friends. It is in cases such as this that we as the Church need to gather around those who face the pain of loss. We need to stand with them.
The Body of Christ is the place of hope. It is central to our message. We are called to love as God loves in the midst of suffering.
We had unusual walks today. Firstly, we walked up Shepody Mountain, then to Dickson Falls and finally into Elgin. Then we drove to Petitcodiac for supper and a meet and greet. It has been another successful day and though it was cold this morning it became warmer this afternoon.
One of the great things today was seeing rushing water, streams, rapids and waterfalls. The highest of the falls was Dickson Falls in Fundy National Park. It is a little trek to get into the valley to see them. The dampness creates a micro-climate which has led to the growth of interesting plants and means that the temperature can be much colder the further you descend.
This rushing water reminded me of the images in scripture about living water. Jesus chooses to use it in describing the Holy Spirit. When, in John 4, he meets the Samaritan woman it is this water that he promises to her. It is water that brings life. We are reminded of this through the mystery of Baptism. Through these waters we pass from death to life.
The problem is that we too easily allow the water to stagnate rather than flow freely. In the Book of Acts it often speaks of Peter or Paul “being filled with the Holy Spirit”. The sense here is that the filling is continuous, like a waterfall running through us, rather than of a container being filled.
If we follow this image we have the idea of continuous life rather than something becoming polluted. It is a picture of renewal and refreshing. Some people ask how can we achieve this? It comes from intentionally asking God to fill us with the Holy Spirit. This will involve intentionally spending time with God and learning to hear his voice.
In this season of Pentecost, we are reminded that it is the Spirit of God who gives us life. Life as individuals and life as the Church. We need to spend more time seeking the Spirit and listening to him.
Today has been a tremendous day for many reasons. We walked the greatest total of kms so far and had great fun with the folks from the Parish of Hillsborough Riverside. There was much laughter. In addition, I learned many things about the countryside in this area. The day was also enjoyable because we walked on footpaths rather than roads for much of it. To end the day, we gathered in the little stone church in Riverside Albert for Evening Prayer.
This morning as I walked one of my travelling companions told me about how Jesus has released him from addiction and healed other parts of his life. This all happened several decades ago and was miraculous in the way it happened. It is always good to hear such stories as it reminds us of the greatness of the God whom we worship and his care for us.
As I walked through woodlands, beside ponds and streams; hearing the call of birds and seeing the evidence of the animals who inhabit the countryside, it was almost information overload about the creativity of God. My senses were buzzing with an appreciation of the majesty of God. Yet in the reading we had from Romans 8 this evening, we were reminded that creation is groaning in pain as a woman in childbirth. It is waiting for the children of God to be revealed, so that it can be restored.
As the passage was read tonight and as I thought back to the marvels of the day, I was in awe of the greatness of God. The beauty of creation is stunning yet this is not a patch on what God intended. We do not know the magnitude of difference between what we have and what was intended, but we know that it was more.
The creation we experience shows the love of God for us. It sustains us in more ways than we can imagine. God shows his grace to us through it as he does through Jesus. We also see the graciousness of the Father as he brings wholeness to damaged lives, as he did with my companion of this morning.
As a side note Fred, our Primate will not be able to join us on Wednesday as planned. He needs to remain in Toronto due to an important family matter. Please pray for him.
I am sitting in a lovely B&B looking out of the window at a beautiful tree. Trevor and I are staying on the Alma side of the Hopewell Rocks tonight and have the luxury of this special accommodation. Sometimes in life there are surprises and this is certainly one, for which we are grateful.
A few weeks ago, when we were offered the possibility of staying here I was a little doubtful, only because I do not want to put people out and, believe it or not, I quite enjoy sleeping in halls and church buildings. I know that I am strange, but there we are. As I was thinking about things I suddenly realized that I was being quite a Pharisee about this sleeping in churches.
A lesson that I thought I had learned a long time ago came back to me. If people want to be kind to you accept their kindness. If you think about it, when Jesus sent out his disciples he told them to accept hospitality where it was offered. I was so concerned about the purity of the pilgrimage, that I was beginning to miss the point.
In so many aspects of our lives as Christians we can easily become lost in our self-imposed rules and we miss the purpose of God behind the things which happen. What happens then is that we become trapped in ideas which we think come from God; in fact, they are merely reflections of things deep within ourselves. As a child, I was always taught not to be a nuisance to others, that often meant not taking things when offered.
I remember once I went to an event with a friend and his family. I was given money for everything which was to take place that day, but the parents of my buddy would not let me pay for anything, no matter how hard I tried. Even when I hung back trying to not have an ice cream or whatever it was still bought for me. I was in deep trouble when I arrived home. No matter how hard I tried to explain I was unable to get myself off the hook.
This happened several times during my childhood and has left me sensitive to accepting the generosity of others. I am tied by an invented rule. It means that I am not free to receive from others as God would have me do. It is for freedom that we have been redeemed in Christ, but too often we restrict ourselves and do not receive all that there is. This also means we prevent others from exercising their gift of generosity.
Today we visited three churches: St. Paul, Sackville, St. Anne, Westcock and Trinity, Dorchester. A good number of us walked between all three, then some of us went out for a ham and bean supper, the perfect end to a to a great day.
We gathered for Evening Prayer in Trinity and it was every special, being the Eve of Pentecost. This festival is often something of the “poor relation” to the great celebrations of Easter and Christmas, yet it is the day when we remember the empowerment of the people of God by the Holy Spirit.
Tomorrow in the Church of England many churches will hold a “birthday party” for the Church. I am told by Dean Geoffrey Hall that it is the intention of the folks at our Cathedral to have their service out on the Green. I hope the weather will be kind to them.
The power of the Spirit is important to all the Gospel writers, but St. Luke, who also wrote the Book of Acts, points to a special link between Jesus and the Church. In his Gospel Luke, points to the fact that Jesus’ ministry is empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is no more so than in chapter 4 when Jesus returned to his home Synagogue in Nazareth. Having been given the scroll he deliberately turned to the prophet Isaiah and began with “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and he has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor…..”.
In Acts 1: 8 the disciples are told to wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon them and then in Acts 2 the Spirit falls on them and enables them to do the mission which Jesus has called the Church to undertake. This continues to work itself out during the remainder of the book.
It has been suggested that the Book of Acts has not ended, rather it continues as the Church today seeks to fulfil the purposes of God. We need to know the power of the Spirit guiding and directing us as we seek to do the work to which we have been called.
We should not minimize the importance of Pentecost. It is my prayer that all of us will be touched in new ways by the Holy Spirit as we celebrate tomorrow.
Another interesting and challenging day on our pilgrimage. We began in Baie Verte and ended in Sackville, visiting Mount Whatley in between. Primarily we travelled along back roads and trails; it is the first time I have had dirty walking shoes.
In the late morning, there was a huge thunderstorm over much of the area. We were walking across part of the Tantramar Marsh and observed both the ferocity and beauty of nature without being terribly involved. To the right of us and ahead deeply black clouds rolled across the sky. We could see rain on the horizon, falling in sheets from the sky. There were several roars of thunder and at least one flash of lightning. Apparently hail fell in Sackville, but apart from a few sparse raindrops everything skirted around us.
As this situation played out, against the back drop of the lowering sky, two eagles soared around their nest and called to each other as they did so. There were times when they hung in the air and others when they scudded rapidly across the dark clouds. A beguiling sight.
The Marsh is an amazing place where humans have developed the landscape. The Acadians and others worked out a dyke system which is still in place today. Historically there were hay barns scattered across the fields. Now few are left as their usefulness has passed. We saw three men planting and when we asked them what the crop was to be, the reply came, “Raspberries”.
In the quietness of the walk I could hear many birds calling. There was evidence of other animals such as deer who travel the same paths as we traveled. All in all it was a tremendous experience.
Throughout the walk today I was constantly brought back to the glory of God’s creation. To see it in all its complexity I find it hard to imagine that it came about unguided or by chance. The danger is that as we contemplate the beauty of God’s handiwork we can miss him. God is not creation, he is in creation. We are to see the wood for the trees. The creator is worthy of our worship, not the created.