The hill, though high I covent ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way of life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart; let’s neither faint nor fear!
— John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
We aren’t going to the Celestial City today (with all due respect to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin!). But we are beginning our pedaling pilgrimage throughout southern Wisconsin. The supplies are stowed. The route directions have been printed. The anticipation is about to become a reality. Someone asked me yesterday, “Have you got everything together? Are you all ready?” My reply was, “I’ll know how ready I was three days into the trip! By then I will understand what we should have done better.”
But at this point, the team of folks who have worked so hard to make this day (and the ten days after) possible, have done their best to account for contingencies and plan for safety. Mr. Pilgrim in Bunyan’s classic didn’t have the benefit of my logistics team! And yet, I will say that at the end of all the dreaming, talking, planning and training, today is the day we put all of those efforts to good use, get on the bikes and ride.
Over the past ten months or so, I’ve told folks repeatedly, that the Tour is not a race. We’re not aiming to see how fast we can get from one place to another — although we do want to get to our daily destinations before dark and in time for dinner! In a culture that craves speed like a drug (and I’ll admit to always wanting to “do more, faster” myself), this ride is an opportunity to see things at a different pace, from a different angle, and hopefully, with different eyes.
I have been a priest in the Diocese of Milwaukee for over seven years. Wisconsin is where I make my home. Yet sometimes as I hurtle along the highway, intent on my to-do list, I fail to see the “beauty that surrounds me on every side”. Sometimes in the rush to meet a deadline or get on to the next thing, I have neglected to see the people in my life as the gifts from God they truly are.
The people I will meet in the parish churches along the Tour are my brothers and sisters in Christ, even though many of us have never met. My prayer is that over these next few days, I will learn much about these fellow pilgrims who follow the Way of the Cross throughout southern Wisconsin in the quiet, understated and practical ways that characterize Episcopalians. I will learn about their commitment to the Gospel and the challenges that are a part of their ministries in the places where they live out their Baptismal Covenant.
But for now, enough talking (and writing).
Time for some riding!