By Linda Schubert
From the time of the very early Church until today, Christians have made pilgrimage to holy places as a part of their discipline and life of faith. Long before the notion of vacations, holidays, and mission trips, individuals within the Christian tradition set out to see the places where our Lord and his saints walked, slept, prayed and preached the Good News. By mindfully walking in their footsteps, we put ourselves in touch with our tradition, our roots, our God. The Grace pilgrims set off on their two week journey last Sunday, June 9, after receiving a traveler’s blessing at the 10 o’clock service.
Pilgrimage is a time for seeking and finding God in new ways. Individuals confront the struggles of travel in unknown territory, as well as all the demands of living as a pilgrim community for the time of the journey. In the midst of all that these tasks entail, there is the possibility of tremendous joy and laughter and growth. Once normal activities, relationships, and obligations which sustain our day-to-day lives are removed, individuals are free to look again at their understanding of God and their need for God’s grace and presence in their lives.
It is important to note here that not every moment of pilgrimage has to be ‘meaningful’, nor should it be. There must be time for play, laughter, quiet, and rest. But somehow, even in the lighthearted activities which enhance our relationships, there is something afoot. God is moving in the hearts of these pilgrims in ways which are undeniable, deeply personal and sometimes surprising.
The blessings of pilgrimage can take time. Certainly the very fact that we are away for nearly two weeks helps. This is long enough for even a free spirit to begin to long for familiar food and the comfort of their own bed. But what happens on pilgrimage has to be processed in the life to which we all must return. Some pilgrims may say very little while traveling and even in the weeks and months that follow, but time will show that the long-term effects are profound. It is not only a trip that will never be forgotten: it is a journey which changes lives.