Day 4

Today was an unusual day in the history of the Bishop’s Pilgrimage, because there was no “pilgrimaging”. Due to the scheduling of Provincial Synod in two weeks, it was necessary to begin this year’s walk early. It meant that Diocesan Council had to be placed at this time. The result was that we gathered here at Camp Brookwood for a day long business meeting. We have met here several times over the years and it is always a joy to come.

This evening Trevor and I had the opportunity to walk some of the 25 acres which make up the camp. It is largely wooded with a beautiful stream running along one edge. The dappled sunlight coming through the trees made an enchanting setting for some brief muscle stretching to keep us in shape. Brookwood
is on multiple levels with a ball field on the lowest level and the cabins, chapel and cookhouse gathered around a fire pit and flagpole at a higher elevation. There is also a swimming pool, basketball court and a volleyball area.

Today our lunch was cooked by some of the board members from the camp, along with Trevor. They are very enthusiastic about this facility and spend many hours keeping things in good shape. The camp is slowly ramping up for the summer season. There are 35 campers registered thus far which is a little
ahead of the curve. The camp is small with about 28 spaces per week. It is ideal for children who might find a larger camp intimidating.

We may ask what is the value of camping ministry in this day and age? After Council, Trevor and I had a very important engagement at JC Sharkey’s bar and grill. There was an important soccer game, the European Cup Final, featuring Liverpool and Real Madrid. A table had been booked for us and when we arrived there was already a significant number of Madrid fans present. Two people from the parish came with us, but we were the only one’s rooting for Liverpool. Sadly, for us, due to two terrible goalkeeping errors and a world class overhead kick, Madrid won.

What does this adventure have to do with camping ministry? Our server asked who we were and what we were doing here. I explained that I am the Bishop of Fredericton and told her that we were staying at Camp Brookwood. Her eyes immediately lit up, “that was where I used to go when I was a kid”. She said. It held good memories for her and had planted some seeds.

During Council today we spoke about intentional discipleship. That is a complicated term for living as a Christian everyday. As I spoke with our server (I do know her name) I wondered what would draw her towards Jesus today? She was clearly affected by her experience at Camp when she was younger. It is this type of question we have to continue to ponder and act upon if we are to be more effective in our Gospel ministry.


Day 3

Our day began in Hartland with Morning Prayer. We have had a great time in the Parishes of Woodstock and Richmond; this afternoon we arrived in Florenceville-Bristol in the Parish of Wicklow, Wilmot, Peel and Aberdeen. For the next three nights we are staying at Camp Brookwood. It is great to be able to settle in one place for a few days, especially as there is a washer and dryer. This will be a great relief to those who meet us next week, though they do not know it yet!

Off for another day
The service in Hartland was based around reflections on the cross, it being Friday. That terrible tree is a place of suffering as well as hope, something I reflected upon all day. The suffering of Jesus comes out of the love of God for his creation. The beautiful handiwork of the Trinity has become distorted by the actions of humanity. The whole of the cosmos suffers because of this. It is pain which is taken into the heart of the Godhead and draws forth a love response.

On the trail, Trevor and Dawn stopped and began to look at something apparently lying at their feet. As we all moved closer we saw that they were looking at a chipmunk in the middle of the path. He was hardly moving. There was nothing obviously wrong with him, but he was clearly either very sick or desperately injured. There before me was an example of damaged creation. This small dying animal reminded me that every living thing groans in anticipation of the revelation of the children of God. It is then that they will be freed from the shackles of death and decay, just as humanity will be.

When we contemplate death, we are looking at our greatest enemy. We were not made for it, which is why we struggle so hard against it. Within all of us there is an echo of a life for which we were intended. A life without the limitations we face and resist. It is this hint of difference which makes us struggle to find meaning in the apparent chaos we so often find engulfing us.

This meaning is found in Christ. It is as if we are looking at the world through a kaleidoscope at a confused pattern, then Jesus turns the bottom and begins to make sense of it. He may only twist it slowly, but eventually we begin to see a thing of beauty emerge, despite the trials and tribulations which are part of the whole. These thoughts ran through my head as we walked along. I am not sure that I have a great deal of clarity around them, but sometimes all we can do is wrestle.

This evening in Florenceville-Bristol, Trevor and I had the privilege to visit the McCain Global Data Centre. It never ceases to amaze me that such a worldwide brand can be centred in such a small town in New Brunswick. Apparently, there are 20,000 people working for the company across the world, covering 60 or more countries.

Our day ended with a meal and Evening Prayer at the Church of the Good Shepherd. We finished as we began.


Day 2

In theory today was the longest walk day, 22kms from Woodstock to Hartland, but what a beautiful walk. We followed the St. John River along a disused rail bed. Early this morning we saw two bald eagles swooping over the water. Then there was a female osprey protecting her nest. Later a woodpecker pounded away on a tree. All along the route there was evidence of beavers being highly industrious and finally a beautiful male gold finch flew in front of us and perched in a tree. It was, as many who walked with us noted, a privilege to be out in the beauty of God’s creation.

N. T. Wright, the leading Bible scholar and theologian, tells us that there are three essential aspects of the character of God revealed to us in scripture: beauty, peace and justice. Today as we travelled along it was hard to understand how people who are surrounded by such glorious vistas cannot see the hand of a creator lying behind it.

These three elements of the nature of God are intertwined and inter-reliant. To be immersed in the natural world can lead to peace. One can also argue that it is unjust that people are unable to access the beauty of nature easily. I was reminded of my time at Stone Church when we took a small group of adults from Uptown Saint John to Deer Island. As we sat around a campfire one evening a woman in her early forties said to me, “This is the furthest I have ever been from Saint John”.

Though many years have passed since those words were spoken to me, the impact is still great. How is it in anyway possible that someone can be unable to enjoy the beauty of creation for so long. It is not a coincidence that often when people who have suffered a great deal of difficulty in their lives are trying to heal, they are helped by entering deeply into creation.

Another important component of today was that we were able to catch up with old friends. Several of those who walked with us along the river have joined us during other pilgrimages. It was great to be able to catch up with folks, to hear about what has been happening in their worlds since last we met. Friendship and companionship are important parts of our existence. It is too easy to become isolated. God did not create us for that.

Finally, there were two major accomplishments today. We were joined by the most mature walker we have travelled with. Peggy joined us in Woodstock. I am too gallant to divulge a lady’s age, but I can assure you she holds the record. This evening we gathered in the Church of Holy Trinity, Hartland, to celebrate the confirmation of: Robert Foster, Ethan Goodwin, Vanessa Goodwin and Bonnie Sparks. Around fifty people were in attendance for a fine celebration.


Day 1 (2018)

This morning was a flurry of activity in Saint John trying to get ready for the pilgrimage. There were bags to pack, equipment to find, hair to be cut, lawns to mow, washing to finish, plants to plant and beds to make. This rush came to a screaming halt at 1.40pm, which was good because Trevor arrived 10 minutes later to pick me up. So much for calm and thoughtful preparation for an important time of spiritual reflection.

Arrived at St. Luke, Woodstock

We arrived in Woodstock about 2 hours later and were well entertained at supper. Then off to St. Luke’s for Evening Prayer. Around 40 people arrived from across several parishes. It was also good to meet up with Tony and Barb Richard who used to attend Stone Church and are now living in Woodstock. Our service was topped and tailed by two hymns from Saturday’s Royal Wedding and I think a good time was had by all.

Tomorrow we begin the pilgrimage proper with a long walk of about 22 kms to Hartland. The hope is that we will cross the covered bridge at about 4.30pm. We have about 7 hours to travel the distance, so with breaks that will be just over 3 kms per hour, a bit of a push.


My first fish, caught during the 2016 pilgrimage

Today I have been reflecting on the 2016 pilgrimage. During that adventure we met Carson, Liz and Marshall. They worship at Grey Rapids in the Parish of Derby and Blackville. At least one of them walked with us on each of the days we were there. Some of you may remember the photograph of me proudly displaying the striped bass which I caught on my fishing trip with Carson and his friend.

Ten days ago I received a phone call from Fr. Gerry Laskey asking that I call him. When I did so, he told me that 19 year old Marshall, had been killed in a traffic accident on the way to work. This was a great shock. Thankfully I was able to attend his funeral on Friday. Marshall was a fun loving young man and the attendance at the funeral was a great tribute to him and his family. There is clearly a great love for them in the community.

It is events like this which bring up many questions in one’s mind about the nature of God. There are no glib answers. The one thing we have to hold on to is that as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death the Good Shepherd is with us. This is not blind faith, it is faith which hopes for that which we cannot see. Without hope all is lost.

I am dedicating this year’s pilgrimage to Marshall’s memory. Please remember Carson, Liz and the rest of the family as they walk this hard path.


A Pilgrim Blessing

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.

Trinity Pilgrim Prayer

May God the Father who created you, guide your footsteps,
May God the Son who redeemed you, share your journey,
May God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you, lead you on life’s pilgrimage,
and the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be with you wherever you may go.

Day 15 (2017)

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.


Day 14 (2017)

Setting off from St. George’s
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.

Lunch at St. James’
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.

St. Philip’s
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.

The end of this journey.

Day 13 (2017)

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.


Day 12 (2017)

Ready to leave Salisbury
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.

Visit to Shannex Royal Court
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.

Archdeacon Ham and barbeque team
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.