Rob Hardwick, bishop of the diocese of Qu’Appelle, will spend much of his four-month sabbatical—May 14 to Sept. 3, 2018—bicycling across Canada to raise money for ministry projects within the diocese and beyond.
Hardwick plans to cycle from Victoria, B.C., to St. John’s, Nfld., a total of about 7,877 km. With one rest day factored in each week, the trip is expected to take 82 days, with Hardwick aiming to cover 114 km each day that he rides.
This may seem a less-than-restful sabbatical, but Hardwick says that the pedalling pilgrimage will be an “opportunity to pray – throughout the ride – for unity and reconciliation, and also for unity across the church.”
Hardwick says, the idea of biking across the country to raise money came to him in a dream. In this dream, to raise $1 million for mission and ministry across the diocese, the 7,800 km of his journey were “tithed,” with each of the diocese’s identifiable givers donating $780 over five years.
If this dream were a reality, according to Hardwick’s calculations, this would mean that the diocese’s existing 1,553 donors would be contributing, together, just over $1.2 million: a figure that works out to 43 cents per day, per donor.
If they did, he says, that money would fund all of the diocese’s children and youth ministry work, the Qu’Appelle School for Mission and Ministry, and enable the building of a medical centre in Muyinga, Burundi, where Qu’Appelle has a companion relationship with the diocese of Muyinga.
The average wage in Burundi? Forty-three cents per day.
Hardwick’s plans have extended beyond his diocese as well. His trip will take him through 21 different dioceses, and he hopes to raise an additional $800,000, through sponsored rides and donations, for the Anglican Healing fund and Indigenous ministries—bringing the grand total of his fundraising goal to $2 million.
Though he is dreaming big, Hardwick says the ride is also about prayer and reflection.
“It’s a fun way of gaining people’s interest, but the importance of it, really, for me, is praying for unity in a conflicted church…praying for reconciliation, praying for healing. It’s my preparation, really, for General Synod 2019.”
Hardwick, who has been training for three years, has made several preparatory trips, including cycling across Saskatchewan twice in the last two years. His first trip, in 2016, raised $22,000. The latest trek, completed this past August, was an opportunity to experiment with camping. The bishop is planning to carry a tent—adding an extra 45 pounds to his pack—on his cross-Canada journey and camp for much of the stretch between Regina and St. John’s.
His wife, Lorraine, will be along for the ride on the first leg of the journey, driving a support vehicle from Victoria to Winnipeg. After that, Hardwick says he will be riding “self-supported,” carrying everything he needs on his bike.
Hardwick says the discipline of training for the ride has been an important part of his life and spiritual journey. “I did get to the point in my life where I was reaching for potato chips rather than praying,” he said. Since he began cycling three years ago, he has lost 92 pounds and says he has “never been as healthy as I am now.”
Hardwick is planning to use a GoPro camera to create video updates for his diocese each day, and will be posting updates through social media along the way. Donations can be made through the diocese of Qu’Appelle website beginning in the new year.
His itinerary will put him near the country’s major city centres on Saturdays, and Hardwick is hoping that bishops, clergy and laity from the dioceses he passes through will join him for parts of the trip.
A commissary will look after the diocese during Hardwick’s sabbatical. Hardwick says the task will fall primarily to Bishop (ret.) David Ashdown, with assistance from Executive Archdeacon Dell Bornowsky and Dean Mike Sinclair. Hardwick says he and his wife will likely take a “two- or three-week holiday” after the ride, before his return to work in early September.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated that funds would go towards building a school in Muyinga, Burundi. The money will in fact go to fund a medical centre.