Loyd Allen Reflects on Pilgrimage


By Loyd Allen
I wrote in an earlier edition about a pilgrimage to Scotland that I led in May and June. Several people have asked my how things went. My favorite critique came from my wife, Libby, who went with us. About ten days into the twelve day trip, she said, “Loyd, this is so good you've got to do it again.” I hope to fulfill her request. The question underlying the question, “How'd it go?” is “What really happens on pilgrimages?” The best answer I have to this subtext is a little essay by Annette Hill Briggs, a Baptist pastor in Bloomington, Indiana, who wrote the following to her congregation. I think it gets pretty close to the heart of the matter. She wrote:

“What was your favorite part of Scotland? asked my son's teenage friend. “Hill walking,” I told her, “hiking down into a glen full of sheep who bleated and baa-ed at us for interrupting their grazing. Crossing their pasture to the beach beyond, a beach covered in rocks and pebbles of white marble, pink granite, jasper and Iona green stone. The beach is named St. Columba's Bay.”

I was too shy to tell her the truth – that my favorite part was the time and space to pray, with people who love to pray, in places where Christian people have prayed for 1400 years, Celtic people for whom prayer and worship and work were a three-plied way of life.

I was too shy to say my favorite part was feeling like an adopted child finally meeting her birth parents, the sensation of being suddenly at home in my own soul. Also, other people for whom the jump of a whale, the sound of the wind, the smell of warm earth and the miracle of flowers are as real an experience of God as any studied text. People who find themselves as in awe of God in the forest, the garden, and the ocean as in the cathedral.

I was too shy to admit the relief I felt to discover ancestors who valued stories, poems, songs and prayers more highly than nice buildings, sound theology and efficient organizations. They lived their faith in order to understand it – instead of understanding it in order to believe. No need to defend or explain anything in order to believe–what utter relief and joy simply to enjoy the awesome reality of being alive in the greater life of creation. Joyful relief to realize my most intimate experience of God is not some suspect New Age fad, but an ancient way of faith.

Celtic believers did not organize life by family, work, faith. It would not have occurred to them to think of the world as sacred and secular nor the self as body, mind and spirit. God is in and through all; all of life is prayer and worship. It is a way that feels to me very much like home.

Peace & prayers, Pastor Annette
Visit Annette's Website

Annette Hill Briggs, pastor
University Baptist Church
Bloomington, IN 47401
Check out our website at http://www.ubcbloomington.org