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Iain Hunter: Bishop on a sacred journey of reconciliation

When a bishop takes to the open road something, besides the bishop, must be up.

When a bishop takes to the open road something, besides the bishop, must be up.

There was a brief report in the Times Colonist a few days ago indicating that Logan McMenamie, our Anglican bishop on these islands, has been walking from Alert Bay to Victoria, a journey of about 470 kilometres in 30-kilometre spurts a day.

This seems unusual in this day and age, rather medieval in fact. It seems to merit more than a few paragraphs.

People who are interested in politics might assume Bishop Logan is on some kind of campaign trail. Not understanding how these things are decided, they might think that he seeks votes for higher ecclesiastical office.

They might assume that he’s trying to raise money for some charitable cause or to wave defiantly the banner of his diocese in the face of those who think his church is less than once it was.

And if the folks along Highway 19 turn out to see a grand parade of choristers, deacons, vergers or what have you preceding our bishop with his golden cromach and ecclesiastical block and tackle, they will be disappointed. There is neither pomp nor ceremony about this journey. It smacks more of hair shirts and bare and bleeding feet.

For Bishop Logan is on a pilgrimage. He’s looking for a new beginning — to restart a journey that took a sorrow-filled road that the descendants of colonizers and the colonized have found no end to.

Of course, there are other suffering souls in need of compassion. They — such as the homeless across the street from Bishop Logan’s cathedral, such as those fleeing wars and persecution abroad who need asylum — are today’s “issues.”

But Bishop Logan has chosen for his pilgrimage an issue that has lasted far longer and one to which his church as an institution has contributed.

As he says in the Diocesan Journal: “In the past we have failed — our Creator, First Nations people and ourselves.”

And he travels lightly. He says that he’s not coming “with God on my back.”

This time, there is no brandishing of Bibles, no singing of hymns at people who spoke in Chinook jargon.

Before embarking on his pilgrimage, our bishop asked the chiefs and elders whose lands he’d pass through for permission to do so — lands that history has defaced.

He says he seeks reconciliation. Surely, reconciliation needs more than an acceptance of historic blame, a repentance for sins long past, an apology for wrongs realized lamentably late. It requires preparation, not reparation.

The road to reconciliation needs to be a new road. It lies before us now. It needs to be taken by all people of this place together. And it should be where none, finding another in distress on the wayside, passes by on the other side any more.

It will take more than a pilgrimage by one holy man. That’s why this pilgrim has invited others to walk with him — to pray, meditate and consider what must be done and be done better than before.

Some will find the journey leads to what he calls the “sacred place in each of us where we will discover anew our relationship with God.”

Others will miss that fork in the road, but should keep going. Standing still and making speeches has been tried before. There has been too much wringing of hands that need to be held out to others.

Compassion, from its Latin root, means the sharing of another’s suffering. The compassion that Bishop Logan feels demands action.

Will his sacred journey work? Will it convince us that we are all neighbours on this archipelago and lead us to a made-in-British Columbia (the diocese) reconciliation?

Well, Easter approaches. This is the season of a very miracle.

Prelates interfering in matters which secular authorities consider theirs often have not been appreciated.

Thomas Becket was assassinated because his king, according to some sources, wanted to be rid of “this meddlesome priest.”

Bishop Logan, in walking fearlessly where politicians have not rushed in, is showing his mettle.

Let no one rid us of our mettlesome priest.

iainhunt@telus.net