This morning was a flurry of activity in Saint John trying to get ready for the pilgrimage. There were bags to pack, equipment to find, hair to be cut, lawns to mow, washing to finish, plants to plant and beds to make. This rush came to a screaming halt at 1.40pm, which was good because Trevor arrived 10 minutes later to pick me up. So much for calm and thoughtful preparation for an important time of spiritual reflection.
We arrived in Woodstock about 2 hours later and were well entertained at supper. Then off to St. Luke’s for Evening Prayer. Around 40 people arrived from across several parishes. It was also good to meet up with Tony and Barb Richard who used to attend Stone Church and are now living in Woodstock. Our service was topped and tailed by two hymns from Saturday’s Royal Wedding and I think a good time was had by all.
Tomorrow we begin the pilgrimage proper with a long walk of about 22 km to Hartland. The hope is that we will cross the covered bridge at about 4.30pm. We have about 7 hours to travel the distance, so with breaks that will be just over 3 km per hour, a bit of a push.
Today I have been reflecting on the 2016 pilgrimage. During that adventure, we met Carson, Liz and Marshall. They worship at Grey Rapids in the Parish of Derby and Blackville. At least one of them walked with us on each of the days we were there. Some of you may remember the photograph of me proudly displaying the striped bass which I caught on my fishing trip with Carson and his friend.
Ten days ago I received a phone call from Fr. Gerry Laskey asking that I call him. When I did so, he told me that 19-year-old Marshall had been killed in a traffic accident on the way to work. This was a great shock. Thankfully I was able to attend his funeral on Friday. Marshall was a fun-loving young man and the attendance at the funeral was a great tribute to him and his family. There is clearly a great love for them in the community.
It is events like this which bring up many questions in one’s mind about the nature of God. There are no glib answers. The one thing we have to hold on to is that as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death the Good Shepherd is with us. This is not blind faith, it is faith which hopes for that which we cannot see. Without hope, all is lost.
I am dedicating this year’s pilgrimage to Marshall’s memory. Please remember Carson, Liz and the rest of the family as they walk this hard path.