I am back! Jenny and I have just finished the Camino de Santiago across Spain – over 30 days on pilgrimage. We averaged walking 27km and on our longest day we walked a marathon. It was a wonderful time of prayer, reflection, beauty and fellowship. Most days we walked for about seven hours punctuated by “café con leche”, croissants and great local seafood.
Part of the secret to a “successful” pilgrimage is to carry very little. People recommend you carry no more than 10% of your body weight so you become very disciplined about what to pack. Everything extra just tires you out and slows you down. We met pilgrims who literally ripped their guidebooks in half and threw half in the rubbish so as to take nothing extra. There was an amazing freedom in journeying so light.
I was challenged in my own life to contemplate again what it means for me to live as pilgrim. We and the church are called to be a pilgrim people, and it’s worth reflecting on how much we are carrying personally and as a church. What are we carrying in our personal life backpacks that weigh us down? This could be for us personally unprocessed pain, grief and emotional trauma, or for others we are weighed down by our cultural expectations of success and affluence. Still for others we are weighed down by past failures and regrets.
The same is probably also true for us as a Diocese and as Parishes at this time. A good question for us to regularly ask is what are we carrying that Jesus is not inviting us to? Jesus said:
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
(Matt 11 : 28-30)
Early in the Camino, Jenny and I passed a fit young couple walking. For a few days we would meet up at night at the accommodation – we would arrive early and they would arrive later in the day exhausted. They were carrying packs that were significantly heavier than Jenny’s and mine. We lost track of them and a week later we met up again. However, tragedy had struck as one of their packs had been stolen so they had to purchase another pack and gear. They took the opportunity to thin down partly due to having little money to buy lots of stuff, and also due to the fact that they were sick of carrying extra gear. I was amazed near the end of the Camino to hear one of the couple reflect on actually being blessed by her pack being stolen and being forced to travel light. Their pilgrimage changed for the better when they unloaded their lives.
Bishop of Wellington