Pilgrimage to High Church

For years I have taught about the spiritual practice of pilgrimage. In my own personal faith story, the theological concept of being on pilgrimage had become a quotidian exercise with a sense of being sent daily on a journey by God with hope, possibility, promise, and joy.   I thought of my life as a kind of lectio divina with biblical companions like Abraham, Sarah and Jesus and his male and female disciples.   Pilgrimage was sweet with the gentlest pull beyond my comfort level.  I was stretched, but not too much.

Until two weeks ago when I ended up in a kayak at two in the morning with my best friend, accompanied by my senior warden in the next kayak over,
being pulled along my street that was now a river,
by a high school student who had come out in the middle of the night to find folks who needed rescuing from the results of a torrential Houston rain.

Until one week ago, when much of the stuff of my life was either rotting in my front yard for all of the world to see,
or in storage,
or kindly taken by loving members of St. Mary’s to clean and tend and restore,
and my beloved home would be uninhabitable for many months.

Last night, as we began the third week after the Houston flood,
once again sleepless in the middle of the night,
in the daughter’s room of a dear friend,
surrounded by her stuffed animals and high school memorabilia, my temporary island home,
I came across a book I had read years before about pilgrimage.

As I reread the wise words,  I realized that my romantic view of pilgrimage had hit the reality of the true cost of walking into the unknown with only Jesus beside me.  Being on pilgrimage meant going to a place that I would never ever have chosen to go.  Yet, that is where the path is leading.

I know that while God did not cause the flood, that God did not destroy my home and car, that God is indeed sending me on a pilgrimage that I do not want to be on. I know that there is hope. I know there is possibility and promise. But as I begin the third week of this unsought pilgrimage, the joy, if it is anywhere, is drowning in grief.

Christine Valters-Paintner writes, “[pilgrims] must leave behind everything that is familiar…..and carry forth only what is needed.”

I have been forced by Houston flood waters to leave behind much that is beloved.  With God,  I will find my home with a new awareness of what home means.

Today I leave my two week temporary home with my kind and generous friends.  Tonight I will sleep in my next temporary home, a lovely house left vacant by other dear friends while they live for four years in Germany, they being on their own pilgrimage.

The name of the street that will be my address for the next several months is Halkirk.  Halkirk means “high church,” with the sense of church (a place where people gather to be with God) being on a high hill, a place of safety and a ever-present visual reminder of God who is with us.

I will listen for God’s call and invitation.

5 thoughts on “Pilgrimage to High Church

  1. Beautiful Beth. Great words for me as I am about to set out on my own pilgrimage. I have been thinking of you, knowing that you are surrounded by God's love and his people.


  2. Beth,I haven't kept up with you except through Mary Green but I have had you and others in Houston in my prayers after I learned about the disastrous flood. I am so sorry for your losses. Yet your faith shines through your words, and I am reminded of a verse of Scripture that has been so powerful for me: John 21:18 “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”


  3. Honestly inspiring to so many of us, your heart is courageously filled with the Light of our dear and Precious LORD. Let His Great Peace continue to fill you in this Pilgrimage as God leads you, carrying you into unknown places. You will be lifted onto Heights Unknown and into places on High!


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