Preparing to Pilgrim

Posted on Posted in Ruminations

The countdown ticker over on the right is relentlessly marching forward. At the Institute we are gearing up for our annual Summer Seminar—this year is Seminar #44—on the very cool theme of “Mission and Ecumenism in the Global Village: One Hundred Years after the Edinburgh Conference.” Since ecumenism takes its birthday from a mission conference, and this is the big centennial year, it seemed like a good idea to find out whether mission and ecumenism still belong together… we’re hoping the answer is yes!

We also have been finding new sponsors for our project—see the growing list on the right, with more soon to follow, and feel the glow of our gratitude!—and setting up some speaking engagements in the U.S. So if you are in the Twin Cities on November 9-10, stop by Augsburg College where we’ll be giving the Founders’ Day lectures. And if you’re in the neighborhood of Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, we’ll be speaking at the Center for Religion and Society on November 18. And we might just have another engagement between those two… details soon to follow.

Besides these practical matters, there is after all the daunting fact that we have committed ourselves to walking for 70 days and 1700+ km… that takes a bit of training if we’re not going to flunk within the first week. So we are going for practice walks, testing out comfortable shoes and synthetic-fabric clothes, soon adding practice backpacks, and now (finally!) facing some serious heat as we go. Whenever I start to feel nervous about pulling it off, I remind myself that Luther did this without orthopedically correct footwear, in definitely not highly engineered synthetic fabrics, during the Advent fast and winter weather (including the Alps-crossing part), and with a considerably higher risk of bandits and wolves. This is perhaps not the most spiritual of comforts, but it helps…

It’s funny, though, in the course of all this preparatory work it did suddenly occur to me one day that we are really going on a pilgrimage, that this is the first pilgrimage that either of us has gone on, and pilgrimages have a tendency to change people. Everyone we’ve talked to who’s done one or knows someone who’s done was says the same. All the walking, the quiet, the certainty of the road against the uncertainty of where you’ll lay your head: the daily clutter finally has no choice but to drain anyway. It sounds wonderful and unsettling at the same time. There are many senses in which we don’t know what lies on the road ahead.

2 thoughts on “Preparing to Pilgrim

  1. Preparations are fun, and you’re quite fortunate to have such comfortable gear for the trek. Don’t forget cameras and camera paraphernalia. Take pictures and post them!

    But after addressing all the necessary practical concerns, I have a question about the more intellectual component of this endeavor. Is a pilgrimage right if you’re focusing on journeying, rather than the destination?

    A pilgrimage is a journey to a destination, and the weighty spiritual import of that pilgrimage lies at the destination. The End, the purpose, the point, the thing-to-be-gained by the pilgrims resides at the destination, after a journey’s completion. While you’ll undoubtedly learn things along the way, if your minds stray from that end, you’ll make the journeying your end rather than the destination, and… meander. It seems a more Eastern idea to focus on the journey as the End, rather than the destination. But perhaps I misunderstand your intended end, and in turn ecumenism. Where does this end?

    Practically, you’re walking through Europe, so please have lots of fun and take even more pictures. Eat beautiful food. Drink… like Lutherans. Be merry as only a redeemed sinner under the Mercy of Christ could be.

    -k <

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