Arthur Paul Boers is an associate professor of Pastoral Theology at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. He is the author of several books on prayer. His most recent book is The Way Is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago (Baker Books, 2007). After reading it, Jeannette suggested that our readers might enjoy this conversation as much as she knew she would.
Jeannette Bakke: Arthur, in The Way Is Made by Walking, you describe walking 500 miles “to go to church.” What made you decide to undertake the ancient pilgrimage to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain?
APB: In 2000, I visited Taizé, Iona, and the Northumbrian Community. As I traveled, I read about pilgrimages and about the Camino de Santiago. It was the third most important pilgrimage route in medieval times, and I learned that it was becoming popular again. After I came home, I found out that somebody I know had walked it, and I read his book. I wondered, “Why would anybody do that?”
Then I read a newspaper article about middle-aged women walking the 500-mile-long Bruce Trail in Ontario. I’d lived most of my life near this trail and decided to walk on it, a day here and there as I was able. I soon discovered it was reorienting me. I was seeing things differently—time moved more slowly when I walked. Days would stretch out. The scenery surprised me. I was stunned by how beautiful it was. Then I noticed that what happened to me was very similar to what happens when I go on retreat. As I walked, I started to recognize where life was off balance. I was reminded of my priorities and made resolutions to live according to them. I became convinced that long-distance walking was a spiritual discipline. Remembering the Christian tradition of pilgrimages, I quickly decided to go to Santiago. And within a couple of years, I did.
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