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There and back again: a pilgrim’s tale

Over the course of the summer, Rev. Scott Sinclair of Elmira’s Gale Presbyterian Church took a spiritual journey –  a pilgrimage – along the Camino De Santiago De Compestela in northern Spain. He’s back, and on Saturday he will be sharing his experiences and insights at his church.

The presentation is being hosted as a fundraiser, along with a dinner of Spanish and Mexican delicacies, and a silent auction of some 100 items donated by businesses and community members. The money is being raised in part for an in-house celebration of Gale Presbyterian’s 150th anniversary in 2018.

“But the bulk of the money raised at this event will go to a ministry that the Presbyterian Church has out in British Columbia: the Cariboo House Ministry,” said Sinclair.

“We’ve been associated with them for many years, sending out some clothing and winter gear for them every year, but this year they were very damaged and affected by the forest fires. And so they need some assistance and some help and fire relief, and so the bulk of the money from this event is going to go towards that mission.”

The presentation itself will focus on Sinclair’s pilgrimage across northern Spain though, replete with stories and photographs and a core of moral truth.

“It’s a pilgrimage, a spiritual pilgrimage that has been established since the 9th century, and it’s getting a fair bit of a resurgence, a fair bit of popularity in the last few decades,” explained Sinclair about the journey. The path cut through a variety of landscapes, he said, from mountainous regions to plains and prairies; and every 20 to 30 kilometers or so were the towns and cities that travellers would sojourn in along the Camino.

This was the second time Sinclair had attempted the Camino after he suffered an injury back in 2008 during his first trip. He managed to complete the walk that time around, despite the injury. Unfortunately, Sinclair suffered another injury this time around that limited his ability to fully travel along the Camino.

“I sustained an injury at about the 500-km mark, so it became much more of a spiritual exercise for me,” he said, though he made use of a rented car to keep up with his party and to travel to other sites unreachable by foot.

“I still wanted to make a spiritual if not a physical, [pilgrimage] out of this. So I stayed there; I did a lot of meditation, and a lot visiting to holy and relic sites and things like that, so I still feel like my Camino was worthwhile.”

However, while his journey was twice hampered by injury, Sinclair says there’s a lesson in it that he hopes to impart during his presentation Saturday.

“What I hope to get across on Saturday is kind of that. We in our spiritual lives can embark upon grandiose and interesting things, and they might not turn out the way we want them to. But we can still find very great value in what we end up doing regardless of whether or not it’s what we wanted to do in the first place.”

Accompanying Sinclair on his journey were his friends and two fellow-travellers from Canada, Tim Turner and Dick Hibma.

For Hibma, the trip was an opportunity to mark his recent retirement with something remarkable. Sinclair put out an open invitation to his friends, and Hibma decided to join him.

“It was truly a remarkable experience, setting out to walk day after day,” said Hibm of hiking up mountains and across endless plains.

“It brings its challenges, but it’s also a very unique experience in that it isolates you from so much and requires you to focus on so little. Just your daily preparations for the next day and one foot in front of the other for several hours,” said Hibma.

The people met along the path, pilgrims and travellers from all over the world, was just a bonus. “Each of them has their fascinating stories, their interesting personalities; it’s just a tremendous experience.”

All in, Hibma estimates he walked close to 1,000 km over those 35 days.

Hibma, Sinclair and third member of their group, Turner, will be at the Gale Presbytarian Church November 18 to share their stories and impart their gained wisdom.

The event starts with a supper at 5:30 p.m., followed by a presentation at 7 p.m. To join in is $15 for those 16 years of age and up, or $30 per family, while youth 15 and under get in by voluntary donation.



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