Tuesday, August 11, 2015

We Learn By Walking

Tomorrow morning I'll get on a plane in Boston to fly to Birmingham, Alabama to begin a five-day pilgrimage to commemorate the life and witness of Jonathan Daniels who was shot and killed on August 14, 1965 in Hayneville, Alabama. I'll be walking with others, including my Bishop, with a group from the Episcopal Divinity School. (If you have an hour to spare, click here for an excellent documentary about Jonathan Daniels.)

I'm behind in the reading we were asked to do to prepare for this pilgrimage - but am using this rainy morning to catch up. One of the "learning modules" is on this theme of pilgrimage - something I've thought about before. I especially appreciated this short blog post on the Four Principles of Pilgrims gleaned from the writings of Ignatius Loyola. In particular I appreciate the fourth principle - and these words:
We learn God’s will by moving toward something—whatever seems right to us. In the way that you cannot steer a parked car, God cannot direct us while we are sitting rigidly in our fear and over-caution and our need to know every detail before acting.
On a personal level, I tend to find these words both right and challenging. I am not normally a fearful person, and I don't think of myself as someone who often gets stuck. But I can be paralyzed by over-caution, or over-thinking things. I do like to know where I'm going and I do like to see down the road (further than one can sometimes see) and I do like to "think things through" before I set out on a journey. Very often this serves me well, as a strength; except when it doesn't. I'd rather learn, and then walk; yet sometimes the "shadow" of this gift is that it keeps me from learning by walking.

So these words convey wisdom to my soul and in a sense they summarize something deep in my soul that has been unfolding for a while now - probably since I said yes to becoming Canon to the Ordinary a couple of years ago without really knowing for sure what it was I was saying yes to!

But I think these words are bigger than my own personal journey, as pilgrimage always is. I am not walking alone in Alabama - and more importantly I'm not setting out to these places as an explorer - but as a pilgrim. We will walk together, on holy ground - ground made holy by the blood of martyrs.

We walk at a time and place when it's hard to know how far we have really come in fifty years. As recently as a few years ago people like me (white, male, educated) could be tempted to believe that as we watched an African American take the oath of office that we'd come a long ways in the journey toward racial justice as a nation. I sometimes wonder these days, however, if that moment in our history - the election of President Obama - didn't tap into some deep primordial racist fear that has set us back; or maybe just opened our eyes to the fact that the journey has only begun. Clearly anyone paying any attention at all has to wonder how we take the next steps.

I am the kind of person who could sit and think about that for a very long time. And maybe I'd come to some new insight. But this week, I'm going to walk the pilgrim way with others. I ask for your prayers as the journey unfolds.

I trust that we will indeed learn by walking.


  1. prayers for you and your fellow pilgrims and all who have walked before you for peace and justice. Looking forward to hearing more!

    1. Thanks, Audrey. Continued prayers for you as you learn by walking with the people of Central PA - who are so very blessed to have you among them.