Why would anyone set off in a boat with no oars, or sails, or a motor? Just a boat and the currents of the sea or lake or river? Or head off on a journey by foot with no particular destination in mind? Sounds like folly, doesn’t it? Yet in the early centuries of Irish Christianity, it is reported that Christian monks set off from Ireland in small round boats, coracles, that had no oars or sails – and motors had yet to be invented. Why? To follow the call of God wherever God might lead their small boat. Wherever they landed this was where they were called to proclaim the love of God in Jesus the Christ. And after landing on a new shore they took off on feet to meet the folks God sent them to love.
As you most likely know, our Plymouth Reads book is titled, Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage. Here is what author Wesley Granberg-Michaelson writes about “why without oars and why pilgrimage” in the reflection guide for his book:
“Whether you are reading this in a sea of tumult, roiling political waters, fierce climate changes affecting lands by fire and water – or during a pandemic – your life has likely been disrupted from whatever ‘normal’ may have meant. … Can we learn to step away from the anxieties and crippling fatigue that seem to imprison us, and step forward in a journey to replenish our inner lives? That’s the promise of pilgrimage …. we’re exhausted emotionally, politically, and spiritually. Our inner resources seem sucked dry at a time when we are called on to have even greater strength … it’s time for us to take a step back from the frantic and frenetic tumult that has swept over our society, and re-center our souls. Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage is not a book about [outer] pilgrimages, per se, although that is included. Rather, it’s an invitation to begin the [inner] journey of renewal…to work with the text and travel down its roads, trusting that you will discover a wellspring nurturing your life forward.”
Why am I inviting you to read this book at this time? Because we are setting off on a new pilgrimage as a church community this spring/early summer. And I think it bears comparison to the pilgrimages of those early Irish monks. We are not exactly sure where this communal faith pilgrimage will take us! We are setting off on the implementation of our new strategic plan which will bring change, renewal, letting some older ways of doing things go, greeting new ways of being church together and most certainly, discovering some surprises that we can’t even plan for at this time! And we are setting off on this all-church pilgrimage as we hopefully enter the semi-post pandemic pilgrimage, as we find ways of coming back together in person (still masked and socially distanced) as more and more of us are vaccinated! We have ideas, plans, expertise and yet we have to trust the ways in which the Holy Spirit will move and guide our community of faith as we walk new paths and/or take off with the rising tides of our times.
Whew! Two pilgrimages at once, two vital, renewing and rigorous journeys that are intertwined. We need soul sustenance for these journeys because we will be accompanying each other in the necessary hills and valleys that will come logistically and spiritually. We have been through so much together these past 13 months. Let’s pause together to gather strength for the journey(s) ahead through the sustenance of this timely book and discussion of our life together in light of its wisdom!
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson will be with us in both our worship services on May 16 and in a Visiting Scholar webinar conference that afternoon. (See the meme below for more information.) He is a compelling, thought-provoking and hope-inspiring presenter. Check out Wes at wesgm.com to learn more about his life and ministry that has always joined faith with action for justice. You can also find more info at (Plymouth link). There are about 30 books left in the church office for your purchase at the posting of this reflection, $10 cash or check. (The book is also available on Kindle through Amazon.) I hope you will participate with me and all the Plymouth staff and lay leadership in reading this important book and take full advantage of the events on our Visiting Scholar day, Sunday, May 16th.
With you on the journey! See you on the road! Or in the boat!