“Camino Just Right”? UTO Pilgrims on the Camino

April 1, 2019
The Rev. Canon Michelle Walker, Associate Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

Several years ago, I met a delightful woman who shared the story of how she and her four young children spent a summer walking across a good portion of England. She told tales of how they’d pack PB&J sandwiches for the day and set out not knowing how far they’d make it or where they would stay. Some days were enjoyable experiences; other days, not so much. I remember being amazed and terrified by her fearlessness. I tucked her stories away in my memory. As we prepare for our UTO Pilgrims on the Camino pilgrimage, I find her stories again on my mind.

Truth is, most of us don’t have a month to invest in a walking pilgrimage and are not ready – physically or mentally – to carry everything we need on our backs and hope we make it to the next town to find a place to stay. We have jobs, responsibilities, and more. This walking pilgrimage – the UTO Pilgrims on the Camino – is just right for the adventurous spirit not quite ready for an entire Camino pilgrimage.

As Walking Pilgrims, we will begin our trip with the Grant Site Pilgrims, hosted by Bishop Carlos López Lozano of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Spain.We’ll start in Madrid by visiting the Catedral del Redentor, whose staircases and vestibules UTO helped restore. We’ll receive our pilgrim’s blessing and concha shell. We’ll travel to the 11th-century walled city of Ávila, where we will learn about Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross.

After three days, as the Grant Site Pilgrims leave for their adventure, the Walking Pilgrims will prepare for the 100 km walk from Sarria to Santiago (100 km is the minimum distance to walk to receive the compostela or certificate of pilgrimage). Joined by Bishop Doug Sparks of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana, we’ll walk between 9 and 18 miles a day over five days. We’ll have a Camino guide, our luggage transferred daily, a pleasant prearranged hotel to stay in each night, and the opportunity to call for a pickup if our bodies give up before our spirits. We’ll see the beauty of the Spanish countryside, from the rolling meadows and clusters of chestnut and oak trees to the local towns and their Romanesque churches. We’ll take breathtaking pictures. We’ll walk the same path thousands before us have walked. We’ll be pilgrims like those who went before us. We’ll fit it into our schedules, and God will be with us in a different way than he is during our daily, task-filled lives.

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be easy. Most of us don’t walk 9+ miles a day in our sedentary lives. We’ll need to train a little to be prepared for the walk. With God’s grace, we’ll do it. And on the fifth day of walking, we’ll be joined by the Grant Site Pilgrims for our entrance into Santiago. We’ll be overwhelmed with our accomplishment AND God’s presence along the way.

I’ve been tempted to think of this pilgrimage as “Camino Light.” We’re walking only 100 km, we’re not carrying our packs, we’re not staying in hostels. I wonder if, more accurately, we might call this “Camino Just Right” – the right time, the right distance, the right amount of preparation for those of us wanting the experience but lacking the time, ability, or resources to do it all. “Camino Just Right” sounds perfect to me! Is it perfect for you as well? If you’re ready for “Camino Just Right” this October, sign up now here. Space is filling quickly. More details can be found here.

Tagged in: Pilgrimage