Pilgrimage highlighted rural challenges, kindness of parishioners
By Gisele McKnight
The consecration of a church and two confirmation services were some of the highlights of the fourth annual Bishop’s Pilgrimage. It took place in the Archdeaconry of Woodstock May 23-June 5.
The consecration of St. John, in the Parish of Richmond, took place June 1. It was the bishop’s first consecration of a church building.
The bishop also held two confirmation services — at Holy Trinity, Hartland and St. Luke’s, Woodstock. This is also the first time a Diocesan Council meeting was held during the pilgrimage, in this case, at Camp Brookwood May 26.
The momentum has built each year, with many parishioners attending the daily services and many accompanying Bishop David Edwards and route planner Trevor Fotheringham on the walk.
“We only walked six kilometres on our own this year,” said the bishop, adding the two walked 184 km in the two weeks.
The pilgrimage began with Evening Prayer at St. Luke’s in Woodstock, and a walk to Hartland the next day. The pilgrims continued northward over the next few days, reaching Edmundston on day 5. Then it was a push southward, always with the St. John River not far away.
On May 31 and June 1, the temperature reached into the 30s, with an added humidex, making the trek difficult.
“On those two hottest days, it was quite a challenge,” said the bishop.
“We had some nice parishioners — trail angels who provided air conditioning and cold drinks,” said Trevor.
Otherwise, the weather was almost perfect, with only one day of rain and some persistent drizzle on the final day.
Trevor enjoyed this year’s route because so much of it was on trails instead of roads.
“It’s very scenic walking, especially along the St. John River,” he said. “And as usual, people in the parishes were very welcoming. There was such generosity in providing us with everything.”
The bishop was also appreciative of the hospitality.
“The churches were all engaged and we were treated extremely well,” he said, adding that despite taking more than 300,000 steps during the two weeks, he didn't actually lose any weight.
“Some places gave us pot lucks, and we had a roast beef dinner,” he said. “We were very well fed!”
Half way through the pilgrimage, the bishop suffered a sore foot. A call for prayer went out and the bishop was able to carry on. But the outpouring of support and concern certainly left an impression.
“People were very concerned about my well-being,” he said. “I was given a hotel room by the owner of the hotel when I hurt my foot. I was supposed to sleep on an air mattress in a church that night. I want to thank everyone for praying for the pilgrimage and for my foot.”
Carving played a role in this pilgrimage, with parishioner Ernest Clark gifting the bishop with “a very beautiful carving of fiddleheads.”
And the Parish of Richmond had a walking stick carved for each of its three churches, each with the words “Bishop’s Pilgrimage 2018.” They will remain as a reminder of the event.
Other highlights were visits to a potato washing and packing line and the McCain Foods world data centre.
“There were individuals along the way who weren’t connected to the walk and I had a chance to talk to them,” said the bishop.
One of the things the bishop continues to ponder even two weeks later is the emptying out of the rural areas that were once thriving communities.
“It gave me insight into the rural needs that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise,” he said. “I’ve gained a greater understanding of the archdeaconry.”
He mused about this rural challenge in his blog, saying of Canterbury: “As with many of our rural communities, much of what was here has gone, along with the people.
“At the centre of the village there used to be two places which provided accommodation for travellers, a railway station and at least four stores. Today the only thing remaining is a store/garage/café, which sells everything from milk to plumbing supplies.”
On the final day of the pilgrimage, Bishop David, Trevor and pilgrim Jean Whitman of the Parish of Woodstock walked from St. Clements in Dumfries to Kings Landing Historical Settlement. With help from Patricia Graham, supervisor of exhibits at Kings Landing (and parishioner in the Parish of Canterbury, Benton and Kirkland), they were able to visit St. Marks Chapel of Ease in the historic village and say mid-day prayers.
Patricia offered some history on the chapel: St. Mark’s is a very early Medley church and was once part of the Silverwood parish.
Jean was a pilgrim for the first two days of the walk, and was able to rejoin them on the last day.
“I just wanted to end it since I started it,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a great journey and I’ve met a lot of people too.”
Next year’s pilgrimage will take place in two archdeaconries: Saint John and Kingston & the Kennebecasis.