Summer with the extra day-light hours and the more relaxed schedule in campus ministry provides an opportunity to break away from work and try something new. It’s the time of year to put final touches on adventures, those weeks of magical bliss. It’s a time to create a new world, to try out some dreams, or to take the next step in a story. It’s a time during which adventure can be a gateway to a new possibilities.
- A time to leave everyday life.
- A time to more deeply connect with internal spiritual nudgings.
- A time to refresh after two semesters of work.
- A time to journey towards a story.
After several years of ministry and family responsibilities that have kept me close to home, I’ve decided that this year is the time to head out on a more distant literary pilgrimage. During this time, I want to integrate writing, pilgrimage, rest, community, new experiences, and life transformation. So, I am working towards creating this perfect summer adventure – both eager and fearful at the same time. But what does this look like?
Recently I’ve wanted my journeys to be grounded on this book on literary pilgrimage that I’ve been fooling around with forever. Each time I venture out – whether across town to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s home in Cincinnati, Ohio, or to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home in Mansfield, Missouri – I get a new burst of energy for writing. These journeys draw me into conversations that others are having about place, literature, story, and faith. In turn, they pull me out of my writing rut.
Beyond research for a book, I want to explore other connections of literary pilgrimage. Where might this interest connect with work within study centers, particularly centers associated with authors’ homes? Where it may fit in with apologetics, in sharing the Christian message as a campus minister? Also, where might literary pilgrimage connect with the teaching of literature – both in formal and non-formal venues?
Within these reasons there is the underlying desire to design such trips for others. I would like to learn how to develop a pilgrimage that would be welcome at a school like the University of Cincinnati – a journey for that students would be able to join for credit in literature, writing, religious studies – but also be on a personal pilgrimage that offers time to reflect on the larger questions of life and the academy.
One more thing – I look to these journeys to bring the possibility of connecting with other pilgrims. There is no doubt that a trip that includes interacting within a community moving towards a common goal is good discipline for someone who favors time alone and can get lost in being by herself. I want to experience the wonder of being on pilgrimage, of walking in another’s steps, of meeting myself more deeply – and doing so with the challenge of being with other people – of being with a group, exploring a place, creating new stories even as we explore the richness of old ones.
What have I hit on? I’m not to the point of getting a hotel yet, but am slowly putting together a journey that includes a week at a C.S. Lewis Seminar in Oxford, England, and some further meanderings around that great island. Planning questions are still rumbling around my mind, but there is a beginning to this summer pilgrimage. It won’t be perfect, but the possibilities for opening a new door in my life exist – and for that I can’t wait.
Any other pilgrimage planners out there?