Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 14 seconds
Yesterday I began wondering about the plot of the movie in which I am starring. Some scripts came to mind. But I have found another which has more integrity and authenticity.
The Pilgrimage Model
While doing some work for Fairfield United Church I ran across a framework first suggested to me by Vanessa Hammond. Both theological and practical, the eight stage structure is that of a pilgrimage. The model fits my current physical and spiritual state, providing guidance and sequence to my wondering.
Discernment probes the matter of heart’s desire. What is it I really want from this time? This requires such honesty that it is difficult for me to sit with this question for very long at any one time.
Preparation requires facing the question: What do I really need (not want) now? What needs to be put “in order” because I will never return to my former life. For me, on a practical love, this requires a sorting and shedding of books and files and mustering the courage to enter the spiritual and physical storage areas where I have simply stuffed things to be dealt with later. Now is the later. Plus larger matters hover. How long should we plan to stay in the house?
Departure involves both blessing and intentionality. My family, friends and colleagues have provided ample blessing and encouragement for me to “get on with it.” Intentionality means I will actually leave some old habits,
Separation means moving out of the familiar. Part of this comes with retirement. The regular cheque no longer arrives. I seldom HAVE to be anywhere. Sundays are no longer the inflexible axle around which the week revolves. Even caring for grandchildren has more flexibility.
Travelling means I need to commit to and enact some new things. On a management level, this means my wife and I actually have to sit and shape the calendar so that dates for things to which we have said “yes” do not just appear like popcorn. Two, three-hour commitments, eight days apart can rule out two weeks of potential physical travel, for example. Travelling means it is also time to “fish or cut bait” on some practices and dreams that have too easily been excused because of lack of time. Am I going to do it or not or just simply dream/fantasize about it?
Communitas requires paying attention to the new group of people with whom I travel. Many previous companions simply came with the work; now the trek may bring new and unexpected mates. Will a glimpse of a new purpose emerge as I become part of a new gang waddling along?
Arrival. I do not know whether the model works at this stage. Does one ever arrive? Perhaps that complex of new relationships, patterns, and foci that settle in after a few years of retirement might be called an arrival. I don’t know.
Moving Forward. My hope is that this stage will mark much of the rest of this chapter. What I learn from the first 7 stages will set the direction for the next few years and then, perhaps, the pilgrimage begins again.
Graphic: Vanessa Hammond
This pilgrimage model is a good model.
I like it better than the more neutered word “transition” because I feel this time can be more than just a natural progression, like getting grey hair. (And because of this, I think it also fits the state of many congregations. But more on that another time.)
Pilgrimage is more than a tourist journey or a stroll in the park. This powerful practice can help reset a life.
Like all pilgrimages, I do not expect this time to be a stroll in the park. There will be chafing, blisters, soreness, a discovery and testing of limits.
However, it is also true that possibilities exist; deep yearnings need to be identified; and attention given to the sacred.
Q: If you thought of your life as a pilgrimage, which stage would most accurately describe your current state?