Some of you may not know it, but I’m about to embark on an adventure I didn’t expect to take. With the encouragement and blessing of council and various friends within this community, I’ll be leaving on the evening of September 13th for Spain to walk the “Way of St James.” Christians in the first millennium considered three routes to be sacred pilgrimages: the road to Rome and the tomb of St Peter, the road to Jerusalem to the Holy Sepulcher of Christ, and the road to Santiago de Compostela in the most north-western part of Spain. It is believed St. James the Great (son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John), made his way here to evangelize where the Romans called “Finis Terrae”, the “end of the world.” He then returned to Palestine in 44 AC, was taken prisoner, tortured, and beheaded. It is believed his disciples whisked him away in the dark of night to bury him in a secret place. In the 9th century, a Spanish hermit named Pelayo heard music and saw a vision of a brilliant star over a field where a Roman-era tomb was later discovered. A chapel was built on the site. Many pilgrims from Charlemagne to Pope John the XXIII to Martin Sheen have come to this place believed to be holy and known as Santiago de Compostela (“St James’ field of the star”).
Now I, your pastor, am going there to walk with 11 others about 10-15 miles a day after a morning of prayer and inspiration for contemplation along the way to Finisterre Lighthouse at the “end of the world”. As a pilgrim, I open myself up to ‘the unknown’, slowing to a pace of 2-3 miles an hour “with the intimacy of walking, planting my feet on solid ground and moving at human scale” as our guide says. I’m both excited and nervous, because I’ve never done anything like this. I‘ve gotten to know the group a little and like them. Each in our own way for a variety of reasons feel a call to make this journey. A pilgrimage is different than a vacation, tour, or seeing the sights. As our guide has told us, “to embark on a pilgrimage is to travel to a sacred place with a sacred purpose. It is an inward and outward journey of spiritual significance and with devotion”. We won’t be rushing from site to site, city to city. We will be “rooted in the daily act of walking in a particular place—the ancient path of El Camino de Santiago.”
In medieval times, pilgrims on El Camino, The Way of Saint James, carried several symbols of their intention to undertake this journey not of miles but of meaning. These included the scallop shell (reminding me of baptism), and served a practical use as drinking cup or bowl. They also carried a pilgrim staff or walking stick for support along the path. Undertaking a pilgrimage was an arduous journey requiring courageous spirit and an open heart. I’ve already had the chance to explore modern ‘walking sticks’ from two dear people encouraging me to use them. And, just tonight, was given 2 shells from a dear member to carry with me. What added meaning this will have for me! I’ve also been thinking about taking one of the handmade crosses I have created by Bob Myers—one given to me at my installation here at CLC and the other I got when he made a number of them from leftover wood he had one Lent.
I’ll be gone 2 Sundays and back for October 2, World-wide communion Sunday. As I make this pilgrimage, I will hold you all in heart, thought, and prayer. Any special needs for healing and wholeness will be especially on my mind, as well as a general listening for “call”—mine and ours for this particular time in our lives. I hope to be present and in the moment on this pilgrimage, listening within and around, welcoming what blessings, lessons, and insights come my way. Thank you for all who will be here while I am away, especially our staff and visiting clergy. I hope you will keep me in your hearts, thoughts, and prayers. I hope you will care for one another while I am away and that each of you are filled with the Spirit’s many blessings throughout each day. I so appreciate the opportunities for continuing education every year. Thank you very much for your love and support. I’m proud to be a part of CLC.