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Pilgrimage: A path to getting unstuck

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Pilgrimages are not vacations and pilgrims are not tourists. Rather, these holy treks have the power to change lives. The Rev. Steven Manskar and the Rev. Chris Heckert discuss their roles as both pilgrimage leaders and pilgrims on "Get Your Spirit in Shape." 

Guests: Rev. Steven Manskar and Rev. Chris Heckert

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This episode posted on January 6, 2023.



Crystal: Hi, and welcome to "Get Your Spirit in Shape." Today. I'm here with two of my friends. I'm so excited about this conversation. I'm here with Steve Manskar. Steve is a retired United Methodist pastor, living in Grand Rapids. He served at Discipleship Ministries for 19 years as Director of Wesleyan Leadership, and he's also served pastoral appointments in Maryland, Minnesota, and Michigan. I'm also here with Chris Heckert. He's currently senior pastor at Haddonfield United Methodist Church in Haddonfield, New Jersey. And prior to serving local congregations in New Jersey and Western Pennsylvania, he was the Associate General Secretary for Mission Communication at the General Board of Guild Global Ministries. And I know you both because we spent 10 days together in England in July of 2022 on the Wesley Pilgrimage. So welcome to “Get Your Spirit in Shape.”

Chris Heckert: Hey, Crystal. Hey, Steve. Thank you, Crystal.

Crystal: We are going to talk about pilgrimages today. We're going to talk about the Wesley Pilgrimage, our experience there, but we're also going to talk about pilgrimage as a spiritual discipline or a spiritual practice,  something that maybe,United Methodist, haven't really thought of how they might incorporate a pilgrimage into their faith journey. So I would love to talk about that with you both today, because I know that that has been a part of your spiritual walk. So let's just get started. Steve, tell us, what is your definition of pilgrimage?

Steve Manskar: What is my definition of pilgrimage? It is basically the, the dictionary definition of pilgrimage, which that's the way I understand. I think a pilgrimage is, or a pilgrim is a person who journeys to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion.  And pilgrimage is making, you know, it's making a sacrifice of time, energy, wealth, and making yourself in some, I guess some way. Anytime you travel, you're opening yourself to whatever the Spirit has in mind for you, whatever you're going to encounter. So pilgrimage is the practice of making yourself vulnerable to grace through travel, and it know, and of course it can, you know, there's lots of religious pilgrim sites around the world, but pilgrimage can also be one of a  pilgrimage I enjoyed making.

Every year I was living in Minnesota and a pastor in Minnesota was making a pilgrimage to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, usually with a group of youth. But that to me has always been sacred space, holy ground in the wilderness, , where you can go and there's no lights, there's no motors, and you're completely alone in the wilderness.  And it's a great place to bring youth, to teach them about the importance of community and teamwork working together.  And I'll just close by saying one of my mentors in my life was Dr. David Lowes Watson, who I met at Wesley Theological Seminary, and he's been a dear friend ever since. And he once told me, and I think we had this on the promotional material for the Wesley pilgrimage at some point, maybe we still do, I don't remember.

But he told me something that always stuck with me, that for Methodists, every Methodist, particularly every Methodist pastor, should make pilgrimage to two places in the world, sometime in their life.  The first, of course, is to the Holy Land, to walk in the places where Jesus and those early Christians walked and lived. The second is to England to walk in those places that formed John and Charles Wesley and the early Methodist movement. And that always stuck with me. And I think he's right. Now I'm yet to make that first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I haven't done that yet, and I hope to do that sometime in my retirement, but I'll stop now.

Crystal: You said something earlier about any time you travel, but a pilgrimage and traveling as a tourist are not the same things, are they?

Steve: No, they're not. I'll just repeat what I said earlier. A pilgrim is a person who journeys to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. A tourist is a person making a tour or a visit as a holiday or a vacation, a person traveling for pleasure. To people the world over, a pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion, to find a source of healing, or even to perform a penance. Always, it is a journey of risk and renewal for a journey without challenge has no meaning, and one without purpose has no soul. That's a quote from Phil Cousineau in his book, “The Art of Pilgrimage.”  At first glance, the tourist and the pilgrim might look the same. They're both travelers, but in fact, their relation to their surroundings is very different. Tourists are escaping life.

Pilgrims are embracing it. Parker Palmer notes that in the tradition of pilgrimage, hardships are seen not as accidental, but as integral to the journey itself. Tourists focus on preparation on what will be needed to maximize monetary investment and comfort. Pilgrim's focus preparation on understanding the context they are entering. 

Crystal: Steve, you have for more than 10 years taken groups on the Wesley Pilgrimage, and Chris and I were a part of that in July. We definitely got on buses and we went to sites that were famous. But Chris, how were those experiences less about touring and more about a pilgrimage for you?

Chris: Yeah, thanks, Crystal. I appreciate what Steve shared about really the contrast between tourism and pilgrimage. The first, I'll get, I'll get to answering your question directly, but I, I was reflecting on how I would've answered some of those questions for myself. And,  the first time I ever really heard a contrast drawn between pilgrimage and tourism was in getting ready to go to Taize, France, for the first time in 2006, on a pilgrimage with the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. And a colleague and close friend of mine was training the group. We were going to be going through Paris, a place I had never been before. And he was, he was drawing, , some contrast between the trip and pilgrimage. And I've now been to nine times, led nine pilgrimages there and what I would add to that, which very much was true for our Wesley Pilgrimage, was that the destination is the purpose of a trip, but the entire journey is the purpose of the pilgrimage and the meaningful stuff can happen in the random person that you meet on the plane.

I remember one pilgrimage I took to Taize that just a couple hours into the journey, I sat next to a woman on a plane, that was as important as the rest of the pilgrimage. That there were strangers along the way who became teachers. And I think the pilgrimage is a sacred journey in which every stop and experience along the way is of equal value, as opposed to, if I'm going to Paris, nothing's really important until I get to Paris and then I come home.  And absolutely that was the case for this pilgrimage, which the, the entirety of it, just the journey there getting there.  The conversations I had with a colleague that I, that I traveled with a, a pastor who is on staff here at this church, even before we got started on the pilgrimage, that experience was, would build for the rest of it.

And, absolutely the people in the pilgrimage, Crystal, of which you’re a part, Steve, you’re a part, and the other pilgrims, I really, really deeply feel connected to those folks. And I've only spent nine, 10 days with them. But the level of sharing, and you have these shared experiences of going to John Wesley's birth home, and even the meals that you have and the random conversations you have, you learn about yourself, you learn about them, and you also learn about what God is doing in that moment. And so, I would just say again, for me, pilgrimage is a sacred journey in which every experience has the potential of equal value.  Our Wesley Pilgrimage had all these stops, including London, a place I'd never been before, but it was really those unexpected conversations over a meal or singing at Evensong in a cathedral that shaped me as much as anything else.

Crystal: There's data that suggests that pilgrimages have been happening for more than 4,000 years. What do you think inside of us that has that yearning to journey to a sacred place to find a holy ground?

Chris: If I could jump on that real quick then I'd love to hear what Steve has would think of that.  I did go to the Holy Land in 1999, I think. I was in college and my local church went for a trip, both mission trip as well as a pilgrimage. And, it really is about, connection with story is a big piece of it. And I know other religious traditions have, you know, there's the Hajj within Islam, and there are other pilgrimages and different traditions within the Christian tradition. We hear stories. You know, you sing “Silent Night” and you imagine what that crude, stable was like. And then when you actually go to Bethlehem and you see that there probably wasn't a stable, and it was actually in a cave carved in the side of a rock, it changes. And it creates a more intimate connection.

You read scripture most of your life. You grew up in these faith traditions kind of pairing up the image in your mind with reality, kind of like I imagine where John Wesley would've preached. And I realized how unrealistic that idea was,  and, and also how profound it is to be in some of those spaces. So it does give context to your, to the story in your mind, and also opens up connections you didn't realize, like, particularly for the Wesley pilgrimage. I think it's incredibly important to understand the place of the Anglican Church in England. And most Americans like myself, we don't have so much of a context for Anglicanism as a part of the government. And to understand Methodism, it really helps to go to cathedrals and to see how prevalent Anglicanism is as a cultural stable in England. So I would say it's connection to story and also providing greater context that's really powerful.

Steve: I think people have an innate desire to connect with the holy and pilgrimage is one of the ways that we, I think, human beings have always done that is, and, and it's through, you know, the stories, you know, for, particularly for Jews and for Christians and, and for Muslims for that matter. The reading of the Holy Scriptures and the stories of the people and how God has communicated God's self through the lives of people in those stories. We want to go to those places and experience it. Going to those places is a way of feeling closer to the holy, to the divine. I  just remember just a personal story, and it’s the reason that I started the Wesley Pilgrimage. I did a doctorate ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary. It had a focus on John Wesley and the poor. And our final seminar was 15 days in England with two of our professors. The very first day in England, the first full day we were, we went to Epworth and we worshiped with the people at the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church. 

And after our lunch and some conversation, we took the short walk up to St. Andrews Church, the parish church where Samuel Wesley was the rector for I think, 35 years. And where all of the Wesley children were born and baptized in that church. And at that time, the church was very different. And the church has been totally renovated on the inside since that time that this, I think this, this was like 2002. So at that time, when you walked into the, through the  Church yard entrance immediately to your left was this big stone font, which is, that's next to the entrance of the church is where the font belongs. You know, that's where you put it.

And there was a wooden plaque leaning on the floor, leaning against the base of the font that said, “John and Charles Wesley were baptized here.” And I think there was a little bit of water still in the font. And I just, just seeing the font, and that placard just stopped me in my tracks, and I touched the font, put my hand in it, and I had, I, I basically wept. It took me completely by surprise, you know, for the previous three, four years I'd been studying, reading, writing all about John and Charles Wesley and early Methodism and their relationship with the poor.

But standing in that building and touching that font, suddenly it all became real to me in a new way. And that study trip, that 15-day seminar with my classmates and professors became a pilgrimage to me. It changed me touching that font where John and Charles Wesley were baptized. It's where Methodism really began right there. That's where, you know, they became part of the church right there in that font.  I was working at the General Board of Discipleship at what's now Discipleship Ministries at the time. And about a year later, I realized, hey, I can give that experience to others.

Crystal: Before we talk more about pilgrimages, let me tell you about a way that churches can connect with young families in the community. Explore the 123s and ABCs of Frolic! Designed by early childhood experts to build faith through play in babies, toddlers, and young children from birth to age five. Frolic is a new way to help young children take their first steps of faith. Sign up and receive sample lessons, free resources and more at Frolic: Little Steps. Big Faith.

Chris: The whole pilgrimage, the whole experience had that effect on me.

Our interaction with a lot of these sites was brief. You know, we were in Wesley Chapel for a brief period of time. We were in the New Room in Bristol for a little longer, but a brief period of time. And we were in those spaces long enough to take in all these, sites and senses. And for me, I took as many pictures as possible and later, you know, remembered and read quotes and went back. The entirety, however, of the experience of processing this and reading Wesley's writings in this context and sharing with others, had that sort of experience for me, that impact. , I think there's a, there is an ancient saying,  that it is solved in the walking. It's believed that I believe, Celts, monastic Celts, , would say this. It is solved in the walking. And a lot of the walking for me was time for things to filter from my head to my heart.

And one of the things I enjoyed the most about this pilgrimage was the, the materials that helped us prepare for it, the different books, but particularly the Wesley Pilgrimage in England Guide, the Pilgrim's Journal that Steve  put together with Discipleship Ministries. It has writings that John Wesley wrote and I read in seminary and had to write papers on, and I guess any United Methodist elder has had to read these, but I didn't really remember them, and particularly reading advice to the people called Methodist. And I was journaling on that on a bus trip from when we went to Epworth, which was a long trip there. And the next day, reading and rereading that and journaling on that, while I wasn't, you know, staring at the pulpit that John Wesley preached at. But I was moving from place to place and reassembling this new story, kind of with the old story of what I imagined these places were like, and reassembling this new context in which I really now had reference points again, of cathedrals, of where Wesley would've gone for the sacraments and would've sent others to the Church of England.

But then to be in these other kind of rudimentary spaces and read his words. And I'll just keep coming back to it, the Wesley's advice to the people called Methodists. For me, it was the most impactful thing because I was reading it in the spaces of which it was written and applied. But especially, this is what got me the most, is you can imagine that John Wesley wrote it for Methodists in 2022. That as we're going through an identity crisis, as our churches are splintered, fractured covid,  splits, and the church right now happening with the impending General Conference, Wesley says, this is who, I mean, the method, this is who I'm talking about when I say Methodist. And as I read that, you know, I did have some tear-filled moments in feeling that Methodism has nothing to do with the denomination. It didn't then, and it doesn't now. It has to do with the practices and people who practice this.

And I, and I, it gave me a glimpse of who Methodism, I'm sorry, who Methodists will be and should be and can be in the future. And that's people who are, committed to this practice of seeing goodness, only coming from the love of God, from not imposing will upon others, and really seeking to perfect how, you know, to be perfected in love and what Wesley says in advice to people, people called Methodists,  are those who watch over one another in love. And I thought about that. The fracturing is coming where we are not watching over one another in love. And so, connecting his words in those spaces in a time where, I have to say I was really exhausted. I was really exhausted and feeling pretty broken as most pastors were in the summer of 2022, after two years of video church in the middle of a fracture. I needed those words, and I was able to receive them differently, in that space.

Crystal: I had a similar experience, not for the same reasons, but I felt like all I was learning about John Wesley, he could have been standing in front of me in real time in July of 2022. And the words had so much relevance. Dr. Ashley Boggan, the general secretary of the General Commission of Archives and History, and I actually did a podcast episode about that, about the relevance of John Wesley, of, you know, someone, a historical figure, yes. But someone whose words and impact are still so powerful today. And, you know, and that being on the Wesley Pilgrimage did that for me, helped me understand what one person filled with the Holy Spirit, the impact he had, and kind of, you know, challenged me. What can I do for God's kingdom? So it was, yeah, it was really being in those spaces just for me too, brought everything so alive.

Steve, I know that you and the team, that prepared the Wesley Pilgrimage, you are very intentional about this being a pilgrimage. Can you briefly talk about those elements of this experience that you put together so it will be a pilgrimage and not just touring the sites of the Wesleys?

Steve: Yeah, I'm happy to do that because every time. every year when people are inquiring about the pilgrimage and even after they've registered for it and they communicate with me, they always refer to it as the Wesley Tour. It's like they don't even see the word pilgrimage. And sadly, I think the reason for that is the church prepares people to be tourists, not pilgrims. The world's, well, more, more powerfully, the world trains us to be tourists and not pilgrims. And so the church's job is to turn people from tourists into Pilgrims. And so we're very intentional about, you know, telling people the difference. Because you know, people can go on a Wesley Heritage tour and they'll have a great time, and that might be what they, what suits them the best. , but what we do is something very different.

The first thing that's different is you sleep in the same bed almost every night.  We're grounded in a place, Salisbury and in the community of Salisbury Cathedral, and we're also connected with the people of Salisbury Methodist Church.  We formed a very, I think, important relationship with the people of that congregation as well as the people of Sarum College and Salisbury Cathedral. The other thing that sets the pilgrimage apart from a tour is we begin and each day in prayer and sacrament. We begin every morning with morning prayer and Eucharist, sharing the bread and the cup together. In the context of prayer, there's no sermon. , we simply say morning prayer. If you've read Wesley's Journal, you read how every morning he reads morning prayer. And you may have noticed the morning prayer that's in the Pilgrim's Journal is part of the Anglican tradition. And then we end each day with either compline prayer, which is at before you go to bed, , or evening prayer. We try to go to Evensong at the Cathedral whenever we can. So the day is bookended by prayer and sacrament. So we're, we try to, the goal there is to ground everybody in scripture and tradition.

Chris: And Steve, can, can I jump in there real quick? Yeah. Just, just to share with you my deep appreciation for that and how that was one of the major, I would say, change agents of the experience. Again, not just going from site to site to site, but when I came home, I longed for that. And I actually, I have --it jumpstarted a new spiritual discipline for me. Because when you're doing that, I don't normally start and end my day in prayer or didn't before the summer. And when we did it seven, 10 days, however many days we did it in a row, when I came home, I needed it. And I really longed for it. And so I found ways to keep it in my life, and I, I just wanted to thank you for that. It really made a huge difference.

Steve: That warms my heart, Chris. , and, and I'll tell you that we didn't always do that. Paul and I have been doing the Daily Eucharist and Morning Prayer and Compline, we probably started that around 2015. And since we've been doing that, every pilgrimage I hear from Pilgrims when they get home, the thing they miss the most when they get home is starting the day at the table with the body and blood of Christ and the prayers of the, you know, in that community, in prayer and sacrament. They miss that and they find ways to incorporate that into their daily practice. We also have teaching, intentional teaching. Paul Chilcote, who is a great friend and is just a wonderful scholar and teacher. And I do some teaching. We want people to start thinking about what are you going to do with what you experience and learn here when you get home? Start working on an intentional plan for what you are goinig to do the week after you get home, a month after you get home, six months, a year, three years from now. Start working on a plan for implementing this experience and sharing it with other when you get home.

And we try to pray in the places that we visit. The people at St. Andrews have graciously allowed us the last several years to say, have, evening prayer together in St. Andrew's Church where John and Charles Wesley would've experienced that every day, , led by their father or one of his pastors, and so the, that, that's what I think, those are the main things I think that set what we do apart from a typical tour.

Chris: And I can just also add one other thing that as a pilgrim meant something to me. 

Well, part of, you know, in that "Advice to People called Methodists" who I, I just can't say enough about that, for people to read. But the practice has to do with the holy conferencing or the, the groups and the societies. And to study and to read about Methodist groups, bands, et cetera, is one thing. But to experience it while you're studying it is a entirely another thing. And we were assigned to small groups at the beginning, and we would connect, whenever we wanted, but especially over dinner, with some questions for reflection and also whatever we want to discuss. I, again, some of the relationships I made on the trip that have lasted, have started in that small group experience. And I just would kind of piggybacking off this idea of doing the small group experience in pilgrimage. It's the difference between learning about, and I, I remember Steve, you and Paul talking about the, the enlightenment, right? And the effect of, on Christianity, of the, of the Great Enlightenment, that thought and belief really lived in the head. And for Wesley, it was really about the heart, faith of heart and life. And that's what the difference of the pilgrimage was for me, as opposed to seminary. Nothing wrong with seminary, but I studied Methodism of the head. And here we got a little more of the heart and life.

Steve: Yeah., the, I think the, the small groups are one of the essential parts of the pilgrimage experience, because relationships are formed there, and people, , friendships are formed. And the purpose, one of the purposes of the small groups is to, you know, to give people a place to process what they've experienced that day around the evening meal, you know, to, to eat together, and then to have that conversation with each other, and, also to support one another because we have some pretty long, exhausting days. And people are experiencing all, having all kinds of experiences, and they just need a place, and people where they feel safe and where they can just process what they've experienced and do that with others who've had shared that with them.

Crystal: As we finish up the episode, I do want to give you both a chance, if there's anything else you'd like to share about. You know, Chris, you've been on a dozen pilgrimages across the world. Steve, you've led more than a dozen of to as well. If there's anything you'd like to share just about, , what, , why that's a spiritual discipline that we might what to consider? And it doesn't, it could mean going to England, it could mean going to the Holy Land, but Steve, as you said at the beginning of the episode, one of your favorites is going to a local, , it sounded like a, maybe a river, just a local area. So why is that something that, as Christians, as United Methodists, that we may want to try to bring that experience into our lives?

Chris: Yeah, I, I just thought immediately that the different pilgrimages that I've been a part of, I needed each one in that moment. When I went to Taize for the first time in 2006, it opened me up to contemplative space and contemplative life at a time where my, I, I wasn't aware of the inner room, you know, and other pilgrimages that I've been a part of, including one to India, seemed divinely orchestrated to bring me out of a place in which I was stuck. And I would just say that this pilgrimage for me, I came home really on fire for my Wesleyan faith. And I, and I'm saying that with all honesty, you just ask my congregation. I preached on the Wesleys and Methodism. I changed the sermon series for the rest of the summer. I preached on, you know, the essence and the core of Methodism and the practice of grace and you know, watching over one another in love, and really the emphasis on doing the work in groups and living holiness of heart and life.

And I would say the reason why I was on fire is because that's exactly where I was stuck. I, as a pastor in 2022, again, I'll just come back to the fact that we were in this perfect storm of, you know, I didn't see most of my members for, they're still very active members. I haven't seen now in almost three years, you know, and only half of my congregation is now coming out in person compared to 2019. So it was just such a time of uncertainty and burnout and exhaustion and frustration. And I had no vision for the future. Just my vision for ministry in the future beyond 2022, was nothing but decline. Everything's going to get smaller. The denomination's going to get smaller, budgets going to get smaller, staff is going to get smaller, and I'm just going to ride this wave until I retire or find something else to do.

That's how I have felt. And I've talked to a lot of clergy who I, who have shared that they've been feeling the same way. And when I went there and reread these writings and went to these places where they were, they were not doing this for a job. They were doing this because it was their everything, you know. And it was real. And, and Wesley, I believe, also struggled with the established church and didn't have to go build something new, just decided to be who he was called to be and create people who were going to be the church in a time when the church was really imperfect and messed up, if you will. And it gave me a whole new vision for myself and for the me, the Methodist Church, and for my church. And I would say that if you have an opportunity for a pilgrimage, listen to that still small voice, because it can lead you to a place that will perhaps get you unstuck and help you see what you can't see in the moment. That's exactly what happened for me on this pilgrimage. And I do want to say thanks to you, Steve, for, for making that happen.

Steve: Well, thanks, Chris. I think I also need to give a shout out to my other team member, Melanie Gordon, who just brings so much to this experience, her love of the church and her deep knowledge of particularly ministry with children and teaching. That it's another really important and powerful part of it for me, of being able to work with her and what she brings to the people on the pilgrimage. I think another reason for making pilgrimage part of your spiritual practice is making yourself available to God by making yourself vulnerable and going, getting out of your comfort zone. You know, we, you know, going to England for us, you know, on this side of the pond of this side of the Atlantic, you know, we're going to a foreign country, and it something about getting that far away. But you can do that by just, , like, you know, going to a lake or walking in the woods, , and being open to experiencing whatever you encounter along the way. , you know, whether it's other people or animals or whether, or whatever, you know, it's just making yourself available to God. And the, and the, the leading of the Holy Spirit is an important part of that. That's something that pilgrimage enables us to do.

Crystal: Now I'll ask you the question that we ask all of our guests on “Get Your Spirit in Shape.” How do you keep your own spirit in shape?

Steve: Well, I'll start. Can I give a plug for the 2023 Wesley Pilgrimage in England?

Crystal: Of course. And we'll also link to it on the episode page.

Steve: Thank you. The dates are July 10th through the 20th, 2023. , so just put that on your calendar and, there is a link, a, a page, you know, where you can sign up to get information when it becomes available. So, please link to that Crystal. 

How do I keep my spirit in shape? I pray morning prayer from the Anglican tradition every morning. One of the best souvenirs I brought home from Sarum College was the daily prayer book from the Church of England that is used in Salisbury Cathedral. And I use that every morning along with my Disciples Journal, which has a daily lectionary in it for the scripture readings for each day of the year.

And so I read scripture and, and pray Morning Prayer. And the other thing is I'm in a covenant discipleship group that meets every Wednesday at noon Eastern time. , and we do that over Zoom because it's a group that I've been in the whole, since the whole time I was working in Nashville at Discipleship Ministries. So we meet using Zoom because now we cover three time zones. But these are, and it's, it's all men, but, and they're all men that I've worked with over the years and become very dear brothers in Christ to each other. And we watch over one another in love for an hour every Wednesday, at noon, or 11 o'clock, or 10 o'clock in the morning, depending on where they are. And so that discipline of weekly accountability and support for discipleship and the covenant that we have with each other helps keep me grounded.

Chris: Shall I answer the question?

Crystal: Yes, please.

Chris: How do I keep, how do I keep my spirit in shape? I would say so I have started walking every day. I'm very vigilant to try and get 10,000 steps a day. If you're not used to that, I, I live about 20 feet from the church, and my kids go to school about a block and a half away. So my entire existence is basically within an acre, it takes a lot of intentionality for me to get more than a thousand steps a day because I'm just back and forth in very small spaces. So I have actually, since I got home from the pilgrimage, I have been trying to walk every morning, 10,000 steps. And there are days when I walk 20,000 steps or even more. And usually, so I walk down to a cemetery, on the other side of town, and there's a little bench, and I'll sit in that bench, set my alarm for 10 or 15 minutes and I'll do a form of contemplative prayer, centering prayer, and then I'll walk back by another route.

And actually, lately I haven't been going to the cemetery because I went there one morning and they're really large deer there, and I didn't want to disturb them. They were beautiful. So I, I found another spot at a pond, which is actually a little more beautiful. So I've been, this morning I went to the pond. I sat at the bench, I set in my prayer, and I, and I did a centering prayer. O come, Emmanuel, O Come Emmanuel, O come, Emmanuel. And say that for 15 minutes. And, you know, it's like, mind, it's, it's kind of a confluence of mindfulness and Christian centering prayer coined by Thomas Keating. And that practice has created a serious buffer in my life of being able to modulate, you know, anger, fear, other things, and then I have really been investing in my creative life.

I'm a musician and, and do some other things creatively. And as I invest time in that, I find that, that my relationship with God deepens because I feel that God has created me, really created us all to be creative beings. And when we limit that flow of creativity, we can lose our path. So I'm really grateful to be in a place of a more disciplined journey at this moment. And I would credit, I, I do believe the pilgrimage was a reset button for me and has enabled me to be a little more disciplined.

Crystal: Well, I thank you both for being here. Steve, thank you for all that you and, and the leaders do to create the Wesley Pilgrimage to be such a special,  just a special journey for the pilgrims. And Chris, thank you for being here to share your experience on the Wesley Pilgrimage. And I just thank you both for being on this episode of “Get Your Spirit in Shape.”

Chris: Thank you. Just a mention, Crystal, you were one of my small group buddies, so I'm really grateful for you too.

Crystal: Thank you. Yeah, it was a very special time and the friendships have endured for sure.


Crystal: That was Steve Manskar and Chris Heckert talking with us about their experiences with pilgrimages, specifically their leadership and participation with the Wesley Pilgrimage in England. To learn more about the Wesley Pilgrimage and the importance of pilgrimages as a spiritual discipline, go to and look for this episode, where you will find helpful links and a transcript of our conversation. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me at a special email address just for “Get Your Spirit in Shape” listeners, [email protected].

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Thank you so much for joining us for “Get Your Spirit in Shape.” I’m Crystal Caviness and I wish you and your loved ones a Happy New Year! is a ministry of United Methodist Communications. For more than 80 years, we have been delivering messages of hope and leading the way in communications ministry. Join us in this vital work by making a tax-deductible donation at

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