For the second year in a row, Bishop David Edwards of the diocese of Fredericton will spend the first two weeks of June walking the streets and highways of his territory, visiting parishes, praying with Anglicans and witnessing to the communities he visits along the way.
“As a church, we need to be getting outside our walls and proclaiming the good news of Jesus in all kinds of ways,” he said in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “In a sense, this is a symbolic gesture on my part: to say to folks that we can’t sit in our buildings, the gospel is something to be proclaimed in the streets and on the hillsides.”
The pilgrimage, which began May 29 and ends June 12, will take Edwards through the geographically large but sparsely populated archdeaconry of Chatham along New Brunswick’s rugged north shore.
It is part of a planned series of walks in which Edwards hopes to travel through each of the seven archdeaconries in his diocese. His aims are to connect with his parishioners and witness to the church’s presence in their communities.
Last year’s pilgrimage, which Edwards said went “extremely well,” took him across the much smaller archdeaconry of St. Andrews, on the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. This year, however, he will face new challenges.
Because most of Chatham’s six parishes and 14 churches are spread along the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence or nestled inland along the southwestern and northwestern branches of the Miramichi River, distance poses an obstacle.
Edwards explained that due to the geography of the archdeaconry, there are large areas with nothing but forest. For this reason, at certain points he and his walking partner, Trevor Fotheringham, will be lifted from one part of the province to another to save time.
The idea to walk around the diocese during summer came from Edwards’ mother, who told him stories when he was a child of how the bishop of her home diocese of Lichfield, England, would spend summers walking around the diocese. Following his election as bishop in 2014, Edwards thought it might be a good idea to try this approach in his own diocese.
As well as giving him a chance to meet with and encourage Anglicans in his diocese, Edward believes walking is a way of making the church’s presence known in a unique way to the wider community.
“There is a degree of visibility [in walking]…and the opportunity to draw people in and to pray for people who may need prayer as we go along the road,” he said.
“Also, Jesus did a lot of walking, as far as I can see.”
A website dedicated to the bishop’s walk has been created, where Edwards is live blogging his experience.