Dipping his bicycle tires into the Pacific Ocean on the morning of Saturday, May 19, Bishop Rob Hardwick of the Diocese of Qu’Appelle officially began a cross-country pilgrimage to the Atlantic coast to promote unity, healing, and reconciliation within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Over the course of a planned 62 days, the 7,877-kilometre cycling journey will take Bishop Hardwick from Victoria, B.C. to St. John’s, Newfoundland, during which he will meet and pray with thousands of people in hundreds of congregations.
“I’m hoping to gather people’s comments, what they understand those three words [unity, healing, and reconciliation] to mean in their own lives,” the bishop said.
“Obviously in our church, we are fairly conflicted in some issues. So what does it mean to be a church of unity? What does it mean to be a church of healing and reconciliation as well?”
Though his main focus is prayer and meeting people, Bishop Hardwick is also hoping to raise $2 million from individuals and dioceses he encounters in his travels.
Should that goal be reached, approximately $1.2 million would go towards funding a medical centre in Muyinga, Burundi, a Habitat for Humanity build in Regina, Sask., a diocesan theological school, and ministries focused on children, youth, and First Nations. The remaining $800,000 would be earmarked for the Anglican Healing Fund.
Preparing for his journey on Thursday en route to Victoria, the bishop was in good spirits. “I really do feel ready for this,” he said. “Looking forward to the adventure.”
The idea for the cross-Canada pilgrimage goes back to a mission action plan that Bishop Hardwick wrote for the Diocese of Qu’Appelle in 2014 calling for a “healthy leadership” model.
At the time, the bishop had recently undergone heart surgery and weighed 310 pounds. In an effort to better embody that concept of healthy leadership, he resolved to improve both his spiritual and physical fitness.
“I’d reached the time where I was reaching for a bag of chips rather than praying,” he recalled. “And so this has all been a kind of target for me to get fit, physically and spiritually.”
Avidly taking up cycling, Bishop Hardwick subsequently lost more than 100 pounds and saw vast improvements in his health and fitness. The idea of a cross-Canada pilgrimage via bicycle began to take shape in his mind, and in preparation, he embarked on two pilgrimages across Saskatchewan in 2016 and 2017, raising tens of thousands of dollars for the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund.
“The [cross-Canada] pilgrimage helps my personal walk with the Lord, if you like,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity to have extended times of prayer—praying for people, and praying for situations in the diocese and the wider church and world.”
On May 18, 2018, one day before he officially began cycling across Canada, Bishop Hardwick was welcomed to the land by the Songhees First Nation located around Victoria. An evening prayer gathering was set for later the same day.
The first day of cycling on May 19 saw the bishop ride to Nanaimo. On the second day, he planned to visit St. Francis-in-the-Wood Anglican Church in West Vancouver, celebrating and preaching at their Pentecost Sunday service.
Asked what he hoped would be the result of his pilgrimage, Bishop Hardwick reiterated the main themes of his journey and hoped that Anglicans would pray for safety, but also for unity, healing, and reconciliation for the church.
“I’m hoping that we will see something of the hand of God at work at our next General Synod,” he said. “For me, it’s laying a foundation of prayer in preparation for our prayers for a self-determining [Indigenous] church … prayers for unity as we look at things like the marriage canon. It’s my way of preparing.
“I hope through this that other people will be really encouraged to pray for some major things that are going on in our church today.”
Regular updates on Bishop Hardwick’s journey will be posted on the Living the Mission – Bishop’s Ride Facebook page. Donations supporting the ride and mission can be made online.
Background information for this article was provided in the May 2018 issue of the Saskatchewan Anglican.
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