Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Thanksgiving 2009

 

"Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house…to offer spiritual gifts acceptable to God" --I Peter 2:5

 

What is the difference between a pilgrim and a tourist? I found myself wrestling with this question repeatedly this past summer during my sabbatical leave. I had the great privilege to visit a wide variety of places of worship. Some were massive, ancient, among the most significant places of Christian worship on the planet. The Cathedral Notre Dame de Chartres and the Temple Sagrada Familia in Barcelona are both world heritage sites. The Basilique Notre Dame du Cap at Cap de la Madeleine, Quebec is a major pilgrimage center and home to some of the finest stained glass in North America. We joined hundreds of other people on the days we visited these awesome sacred places. The ancient church of St. Severin was far less populated with visitors. However, dozens of people were visiting this church in the Latin Quarter of Paris, enjoying the mystic ethos. On a humid, hot, and beautiful day, I visited Trinity Episcopal Church in the small town of Apalachicola, Florida. There was only one other person in the church that afternoon. Her name was Dorothy. Fortunately for me she was a member of the altar guild and a life long member of the parish. She gave me her time to show me around this lovely historic parish church. What is the difference between a pilgrim and a tourist? Part of the answer, for me, lies in the relationship between place and people. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary grounds the origin of the word pilgrim, somewhat ironically, in the Latin word for stranger (peregrinus). What impacted me the most on my visits to places of worship large and small, old and new, was encountering people there who had an obvious spiritual sense of place. At Trinity it was Dorothy and her ministry as a member of the Altar Guild. At Madeleine du Cap it was the worshippers participating in the several liturgies taking place simultaneously on the grounds. The great cathedrals of Europe have spaces set aside where conversation and cameras are not welcome. Clusters of individuals could be found in such places, some of them appearing very burdened down, sitting in silent prayer and reflection. One of the most moving experiences I had was saying my daily office in one of the small chapels at Chartres Cathedral, and contemplating the many lives that had worshipped in that space over the centuries. Pilgrimage is about finding the connection between God's presence and God's people. I think it is also about accepting the call to offer something from one's self in grateful response to God's presence in one's life. "Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house…to offer spiritual gifts acceptable to God" Pilgrimage is about setting out as a stranger and arriving as a friend and fellow traveler. It is about setting out in search of something, and returning by way of the path of gratitude and giving. This Thanksgiving, I'm trying to give my original question about tourists and pilgrims a sharper focus still. On the road of life, am I called to be a tourist or a pilgrim? How about you?

 

--Canon Rod Gillis, Harvest Thanksgiving 2009

Almighty God, watchful and caring, our source and our end, all that we are and all that we have are yours. Accept us now as we give thanks for St. James, where we come to praise your name, to ask your forgiveness, to know your healing power, to hear your word, and to be nourished by the body and blood of your son. Be present always to guide and judge, to illumine and to bless your people, this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. -Prayer for thanksgiving for a Parish (BAS p. 668)