Day 27 Friday, August 5 Hiland to Casper, WY 62 miles
Thursday, I rode off into Wind River Canyon wondering what I was doing out here. I do think that is why I chose to do this pilgrimage and head off into “wilderness”. I don’t think it is any coincidence that I began to ask that question as I nervously faced the prospect of crossing some of America’s beautiful wilderness areas. Yesterday (I am writing on the morning following) I was reminded again of why I am doing this. There certainly is something to Jesus’ wisdom when he says, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find.” It reminds me of my yoga practice. We start with an intention and see what clarity and healing the Spirit brings during the course of the class.
The answer I received is really no surprise to me. I just needed to hear it and see it and have it confirmed for me in this place where I am cut off from my most intimate friends and family. I left Hiland while the air was still cool in the morning. The wind was blowing and Jamie Lee suggested that we toss a coin to see who would get the tailwind today. I was heading east. They were heading west toward the Tetons. I didn’t bite as I could feel the wind already blowing in my favor and I didn’t want to jinx what was already a good thing.
Fifteen miles down the road there was a sign for a viewpoint. I have let many of these pass especially when I am in a good rhythm and enjoying the biking itself. But, I could see that the terrain suddenly had a break in it and this canyon literally seemed to come from nowhere after riding over miles of not quite flat high desert. I had come upon Hell’s Half Acre, a miniature version of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with painted rocks, jagged walls, and caverns carved throughout.
There I met two cyclists of the motor variety–Gary and Glen. We began to talk about this bike pilgrimage I was on and they seemed intrigued not just by the cycling itself, but by the story of Eastminster Church that led to this unknown journey of faith. I shared how Eastminster had come to a point a year and a half ago where they decided that their future was not in stretching out survival as long as possible, but was in the legacy they would leave in the community. I shared that when we made that switch it led to the opening of the winter warming shelter for homeless families and the soon to be 3/4 acre community garden. I said the third leg of this was this pilgrimage to capture the story of the apparent shift from institutional religion to personal faith and spirituality.
I asked Gary and Glen what their work was and they shared that they both were in health care facilities development. I didn’t get the scope of what they did, but it sounded impressive. Not too much more was shared except that Glen said that he came from a whole family of ministers–grandfathers, father, and siblings. One brother started an emerging church model in Sydney that is now a megachurch. Glen then added that he has joined the “world ecumenical movement” which I knew meant that he has taken his faith out into the world and doesn’t feel a need for the church. It was clear that he felt a calling to his work as he added, “I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t serve.” The spirit of Christ was clearly living in him.
We parted with eyes and hearts knowing that we were kindred spirits on similar journeys. There was this recognition that we are participants in whatever new thing God is doing in this time. The old lines between secular and sacred seem to be dissolving. God is just as active (and maybe more so) outside the walls of the Church as God is inside the walls of the Church. Something is happening. Something new is emerging.
We in the Presbyterian Church know that we have been on a long four decade slide in membership, budgets, and cultural relevancy. I just have this feeling that we don’t need to fight it. The winds of the Spirit are moving and sometimes the best thing we can do is point our bike in that direction and let the Spirit take us to the next destination.
Eastminster has adopted a version of this. In our discernment and decisions we use the motto “Follow the energy.” We don’t know where that is taking us. We don’t what that means for our future. We do know it led to the warming center, the community garden, and a well attended Power of Myth class. It led to this ten-week spiritual pilgrimage. None of these things look like church as we’ve known it. But, you know what? It never was supposed to be about the Church. It is supposed to be about the presence of God in our lives. And Gary and Glen know that and I am thankful that the tailwind blew me into their lives.
Today (Saturday) is a rest day. I have another 90 mile stretch with some elevation gain to get to the small town of Medicine Bow. So far the word is that there is a rest stop with water about half way. But, I shouldn’t count on buying a refreshing Coke anywhere along the way. I think I am getting the rhythm of this. Yes, it is a wilderness, but if I plan and am patient and listen to my body and to the signs around me I can survive, even thrive, and learn to enjoy! Your prayers, comments, and gentle nudgings have provided me with strength and with opportunity for growth. I need you.