We have an ancient Jewish/Christian tradition of pilgrimage – walking and praying and talking with other pilgrims on the way to a sacred place. I think Western Massachusetts is a sacred place. So I have decided, with the enthusiastic support of my staff, to walk the diocese.
We are calling this adventure “Walking Together on Sacred Ground.” The “together” is anyone who wants to walk with me for any part of the journey. I want to hear the stories of our church members and those who have no church at all. We will stop along the way and have prayer services in parking lots and street corners. I’ll visit prisons and colleges and farms. And I will pray as I walk, lifted up by the beauty of God’s creation in this blessed region and one with all our churches who are taking part in the Creation Season.
The plan is to walk this one “corridor” at a time, each one 60-70 miles. The first one will be the Worcester corridor beginning at our most eastern church – Trinity, Milford – and ending up at Christ Church, Fitchburg. We start on Tuesday October 28 and end on Halloween. The walk through the Pioneer Valley Corridor will be the week after Easter and before Momentum Sunday. The Berkshires leg will be sometime in late May or early June. I am enormously indebted to my whole staff, and most especially Vicki Ix, Cozette Haggerty, Pam Mott and Rich Simpson who are handling a million details.
I’ll walk with a shepherd’s staff that Bishop Wissemann gave me this summer – just a few weeks before his death. It is genuine shepherd’s staff. Bishops carry staffs (croziers) to symbolize the Good Shepherd of us all and there is another reason. In the early church the bishop used a walking stick because the bishop was supposed to be on the move as the living embodiment of the connection between churches. I’ll walk with the shepherd’s staff as a reminder that silo ministry (one church working on its own in isolation) is over and we live in a new/old age of collaboration between churches.
And I walk because we are called to take the faith out of the churches and into the streets, where Jesus’ mission of mercy, compassion and hope is transforming the world.
I’m excited for this great adventure. If you are near my pilgrimage come walk with me. [The itinerary and routes can be found on our diocesan website.] Look for news of my journey on our diocesan Facebook page and Instagram. And, for the first time, I will be “tweeting” my experience @dfisher_WMA. If you are not engaged on these social platforms, please join me in prayer for this sacred land of Western Massachusetts. For wherever we are, we are walking together on sacred ground.