Pilgrims and Pedals

August 28, 2011 — Leave a comment

In about 48 hours, a few folks will gather in the parking lot of the Episcopal Church of St. Simon the Fisherman in Port Washington, Wisconsin. There will be the customary milling about while people gather. Greetings will be exchanged. Details will be discussed. Prayers will be prayed. Finally the moment will arrive when those present will sling their bodies on the back of their bikes and head out along a county road — beginning a journey that will occupy three of us for the better part of two weeks.

I dubbed this approximately 500 mile trek the Tour de DioMil, since the route will take us on a point to point journey to ten of the parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, which encompasses the southern third of Wisconsin. When this (crazy?) idea first occurred to me, I simply thought of hopping on my bicycle and doing a solo trip — a combination personal endurance test/vision quest sort of thing. Then the idea of raising funds for several outreach ministries occurred to me. Then I thought it would be fun to invite others along for some (or all) of the ride. Then before long, I had dozens of folks helping with the logistics of such an undertaking: designing a basic website for the Tour (http://www.tourdediomil.weebly.com); coordinating details with each parish stop; producing a brief promotional video; arranging for a vehicle to serve as the Tour’s “SAG” (Supply and Gear) Wagon, generating announcements of all sorts to publicize the fundraising efforts, designing and procuring the “official” Tour jersey and countless other details that would have certainly escaped my attention.

I am profoundly grateful for all the people who have taken the time and energy to assist me in this undertaking. I can hardly wait to get going! Simultaneously, I want to be fully “present” to all of the ways this journey will unfold.

Since July 15, I have been on sabbatical from my work as the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. For some of this time I have been a traveler with particular destinations in mind — Ireland, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and California (with North Carolina and Florida yet to come). I have also been a tourist, seeing the sights (and sites!) of the locales I’ve visited — from a Norman castle and Cistercian Abbey in County Wexford to the Picture Rocks of Lake Superior to the redwood groves of White Sulphur Springs and Los Altos. For the next two weeks, though, I aspire to be a pilgrim. *

I’ve narrated the route of the Tour countless times by now:  Port Washington to Beaver Dam to Baraboo to Richland Center to Prairie du Chein to Platteville to Monroe to Beloit to Kenosha and back to Port Washington. But for me, this particular trip is about more than a travelogue. Along the back roads of Wisconsin, in the company of others, I look forward to the shared community that only a shared experience can evoke. When we stop at each day’s end and share a meal with fellow Christians (of the Episcopal variety), I fully expect to meet the Risen Lord in the breaking of bread and the sharing of stories of faith. And like any pilgrim, I pray that I will learn something about God and something about myself in relationship to God in the process.

Let the pedaling…and the pilgrimage begin!

* I am grateful to The Rev. Lyndon C. Shakespeare for first sharing the differences between traveler, tourist and pilgrim in a phone conversation some years ago.

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