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posted by xscot mcknight

Have you ever taken a pilgrimage or a retreat? Tracy’s Balzer’s book, Thin Places,, has a chp on how the ancient Celtic Christians took pilgrimages. She joins Tom Wrightin encouraging us to reconsider the value of retreats and pilgrimages.
Have you experimented with pilgrimage? What value have you found in pilgrimages? What are your favorite places for pilgrimages or retreats?
Tracy enters this discussion by distinguishing tourism or vacations from pilgrimages. A difference, but not the only, is between asking “what did you do or what did you see?” or “what did your trip mean?”
Celtic Christians sometimes traveled without a distinct location or destiny in mind. They traveled to hear from God. And of course some fine Celtic prayers derived from such pilgrimages:
The compassing of God be on thee,
The compassing of the God of life.
The compassing of Christ be on thee,
The compassing of the Christ of love.
The compassing of Spirit be on thee,
The compassing of the Spirit of Grace.
The compassing of the Three be on thee,
The compassing of the Three preserve thee,
The compassing of the Three preserve thee.

She mentions Abraham and Moses and the desert fathers and mothers. Why did they do this? To accomplish the mission of God, for purification and discipline, and sometimes — like St Patrick — to evangelize.
One of my favorite ideas in this chp is that pilgrimage turns a “place into text.” For many Iona or Northumbria are places that have become texts. What about you? Any places that are now texts?



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Scott Baxter

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:11 am


Scot,
A timely message, I have just started to pray the office, a link I found on your site, I also have friends who are friends with a family that live up in the Northumbria community and I am feeling very drawn to this.
My life in the south east of england (much like anyone elses) is hectic, crammed with being a father, a husband, and studying for my Bsc, God is in the whisper (not exclusively, but mostly) I cannot hear my wife talk at times because of the noise, how am I expected to hear God whisper.
Thanks for the link to the Northumbria site, I am hoping/planning to get up there around november, I will report back on my time there on my return.



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Diane

posted September 14, 2007 at 6:32 am


Scott (#1),
Best wishes for your pilgrimage to Northumbria.
This has been my favorite chapter so far in the book . I am leaving a job I love and when I read this chapter last night, I realized immediately that leaving a job can be a form of pilgrimage: journeying beyond safety, security, warmth and people you love towards a destination that is somewhat unknown but that is seeking God.
In recent years I have tried consciously to turn vacations into pilgrimages. I often return to places that are texts (good pomo image) and while I have enjoyed that, I often find I have to search out new places for new wineskins. The surprises are the best part of the pilgrimages so I like the Celtic idea of setting out open-ended about destination.
I liked the prayers too.



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Nathanael

posted September 14, 2007 at 7:23 am


the mountains of Pennsylvania



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Kris

posted September 14, 2007 at 7:32 am


Hey my 2 cents:) When I read this post this morning about retreats, I started laughing out loud about your husband’s experience with his recent retreat. Can you report it for us here on the blog (or ask him to do it)?



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Scott Watson

posted September 14, 2007 at 7:52 am


In the summer of ’99 I went to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage–a God-ordained one.At the time I worked at a job where I had a coworker who was a very charismatic type,one with a prophetic gift. One afternoon while we were working and he told me to get my shoes ready because I was going to be sent on trip by God.I highly respect the gifts of the Spirit,with discernment. I went on about my way with this word in my heart. A few days later,a friend from my parish called me and presented me with the idea of going to Jerusalem to scout out possible educational opportunities for college students and for my spiritual enrichment. I knew this was the word of YHWH come to pass. I stayed in Jerusalem,in the Old City,for about a month,where I took in the life of the people,the sounds,sights,but mainly got into a rhythm of prayer in the morning,ferreting the city for programs which students could get involved with and visiting holy sights and inthe afternoon making my way to teh Church of the Holy Sepulchre to pray and meditiate in one of the many chapels,esp.the Mary chapels,and a couple of times in the Tomb of Jesus.It was a time of consecration and reflection for me, a space and a time where I could be free to experience God and life in a special frame of reference,one chosen by God for that period in my life. I experienced so many blessings suring that time! My praise to the Triune God knows no bounds!



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Dianne

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:40 am


I did something like this last March . . . I have an uncle who is a priest at a monastery so I stayed in the guest quarters there for a few days. With the exception of the infernal bells which rang every 15 minutes from 6am to 9pm, I loved the peace and quiet, although it took me a while to settle down and just listen. There’s something about getting away from your normal surroundings that makes you more attentive, I think.



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don

posted September 14, 2007 at 9:48 am


Every other year we go to southern France and trace pilgrimage routes through France to Santiago de Compostello. Very gratifying!



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Tom Hein

posted September 14, 2007 at 10:36 am


I have a sabbatical coming up in a couple of years, and for part of it I would like to do a study/retreat experience. I would be interested in hearing more from folks or from you Scot, on the best way to go about this, what companies or contacts to start with. For me, it would be a combination study/retreat experience. I definitely want to do the holy land, and probably Greece/and or Turkey to follow Paul’s journeys. Probably like most of you, I don’t want to do something that is typical commericialized tourist stuff, but I recognize it’s hard to get away from that totally. There’s a number of tour companies out there, so I’m just trying to sort out how to go about this.



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Tracy Balzer

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:13 am


Tom, there are a few books I’ve encountered that deal with pilgrimage that might give you some ideas, or at the very least, some inspiration. Each of them has a different twist:
Short Trip to the Edge, by Scott Cairnes. Scott is an Orthodox poet who chronicles and reflects on his various pilgrimages to the monasteries of Mt. Athos, Greece.
The Way is Made by Walking, by Arthur Paul Boers. Boers is a Mennonite pastor/professor and Benedictine oblate. This book is about his 500 mile pilgrimage on the route known as Camino de Santiago, ending in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, at a cathedral that is said to hold the relics of the apostle James. A new book — I’m just finishing it.
And just in case you find yourself drawn to the Celtic lands:
Soulfaring: Celtic Pilgrimage Then and Now, by Cintra Pemberton
and
Celtic Journeys: A Traveler’s Guide to Ireland’s Spiritual Legacy, by Steve and Lois Rabey.
I know there are others out there, but these have been helpful to me.



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Heather

posted September 14, 2007 at 11:33 am


Last weekend University Ministries went to a Covenant camp in Lake Geneva for our annual retreat. The experience was strengthening and empowering–student leaders were anointed at the end and prayed over individually for our ministries this school year. I’ve never had an experience quite like it.
place that became text–Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs



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Ted M. Gossard

posted September 14, 2007 at 1:00 pm


This sounds so good. I agree with the thought from Dianne #6, that there’s something about getting away that tends towards making one more open to God and hearing from God.
We need that space and time sometimes, getting out of the normal routine and even rhythm. These pilgimages need to take on regular rhythms so they become a part of our regular practice, but in my experience this is at best, hard.
I love the Celtic ideals here as well as the prayers, as always for me- of Celtic prayers.



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Andrew Kenny

posted September 14, 2007 at 2:15 pm


Tozer stated that we should seek out somewhere quiet where we won’t be disturbed,be it a basement or boiler room. The essential thing was that we get alone with God. Jesus himself got up early before the hustle and bustle of the day and headed for the mountains. His precious advice to the seeker of God is to ‘go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you’.What a promise is that! It is a blessing to go on a special retreat. The problem is that they may not be very frequent. But we can have ‘our room’ each day to wait on God if we avail ourselves of it.



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Peggy

posted September 14, 2007 at 8:01 pm


Diane (#2),
I know exactly what you mean about the job-leaving-as-pilgrimage!
When I was ordained in 1995, my husband and I (and our 9 month old firstborn) set out on an “Abrahamic” pilgrimage. We knew we were called to leave for a land we would be shown. It was a nine-month journey that ended here in the Northwest–far away from family and familiarity…and though we have lived here in this house for nine years, I have continued to pilgrimage spiritually as I followed God’s call to equip the saints…and been able to do things I never would have dreamed of doing!
…interestingly, this past year has been a very intense part of the journey. I have gone to Kansas, Oregon, So. California, the Blogosphere 8) and I am preparing for a kind of “summary summit” next month at Allelon’s Missional Order Gathering (speaking of Northumbria!) where the nebulous/mysterious and much reworked “CovenantClusters” community/church planting strategy will finally be shared and who knows (of course, God does ;) ) what else?
And this season of intense pilgrimage did include at a three day retreat–at a wonderful retreat center east of Salem, Oregon. It is rather awesome (overwhelming?) to stop and look back over the past 11 years…but remembering God’s faithfulness does strengthen one for the journey ahead.
Be blessed.



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Tony Myles

posted September 15, 2007 at 1:51 am


Having just come off a Sabbatical, I find these times invaluable, too. What I’ve learned this round…
Sabbath is more than setting a time aside but is about setting ourselves aside… and yet it does includes a time we set aside.
Sabbath isn’t about you getting your needs met, but is about you becoming the kind of person God wants you to be… and yet in the process you do get your needs met.
Sabbath involves keeping your soul alive to the enigma of the Divine… and yet in the process He keeps your soul alive.
Sabbath involves dialogue with a God who speaks an ambiguous language… and yet He does this so we might discover the point of the dialogue in the first place.



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Diane

posted September 15, 2007 at 8:30 am


Hi Peggy,
Sounds like you have a very interesting schedule lined up as you continue the pilgrimage.



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1jack

posted September 16, 2007 at 11:36 am


My trip to Rome this year could definitely be considered a pilgrimage.
Not the whole vacation, but certainly my journey to Jasna Gora monastery in Poland was the same. (And coincided with one of the major feast days that Polish people make a huge pilgrimage to come see the Black Madonna.)
In the United States, the place that had that sense for me was the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in D.C., particularly the lower level with all of the Marian chapels. (You don’t have to be Catholic to admire the place. It is a beautiful piece of architecture and the way in which America’s ethnic heritage is on display is great.) And nearby the Franciscans operate a place with replica sites of the Holy Land.



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