I’ve cut and pasted sections of past work research and writing into a new document. It’s now ready to look at it from a new perspective, for a new audience – a Bible study on pilgrimage for a local church. This isn’t so much following the theme of pilgrimage throughout the Bible (which is another project that would be fun), but delving into historical and theoretical research I’ve pursued in this field and weaving it together with passages from scripture.
Part of me is reluctant to put together this study. If I keep this work safe on my shelves and in my mind, then no one can criticize what I’ve done or tell me that I need to look at these ideas in a different way. Yet, does such an attitude accomplish anything? I remember my initial enthusiasm for reading about the stories of individuals who struck out on these journeys to reach sacred sites – and for many different reasons. St. Helena, Constantine’s mother, traveled Jerusalem and is said to have discovered the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. A nun, Elgeria, went to the Holy Land to have a deeper experience of God’s Word. In the Middle Ages some individuals may have trekked long distances on pilgrimages wanting primarily to get out of town on one of the few accepted reasons for travel.
As I look at this new study, I want to share some of these intriguing stories of early pilgrims, along with a simple description of how pilgrimage ‘works’, and ways that people can step into pilgrimage even without traveling to the ends of the earth (though such journeys are pretty amazing). This is an uncomfortable liminal space for me – one of starting conversations about pilgrimage even though I may not know the outcome. I’m between feeling goad about my research (a somewhat finished product) and putting it in front of other people to interact with. What will they ask? How will it meet them in their life stories? What will I learn?
Will this change the world? Probably not. But it may change me and maybe a few people – opening us to that that pilgrimage dynamic, that transformation that can occur in the midst of place, story, and pilgrim.