Originally published in Anglican News Service
Bishop Raphael Hess, of the Saldanha Bay Diocese is making good strides on his 800km pilgrimage from one end of the diocese to the other.
The journey, which he is undertaking during Lent, touches each of the six Archdeaconries that make up the diocese. The Bishop has been sleeping in villages along the way, listening to and engaging with parishioners as he journeys.
His route takes him from Malmesbury to Wellington, through Paarl, along the byways to Klapmuts, Northpine, Kraaifontein and Bellville; then continuing through the city streets to Goodwood, Table View and Atlantis and finally out into the country as he heads up the West Coast of South Africa meeting all whose homes are the villages, fishing communities and farm lands.
The Bishop said, “I want to communicate to all within our Diocese along its length and breadth, walking through the dust, that this Pilgrimage invites us to strip ourselves of all that divides us, to be able to walk on the earth and in this instance one of the oldest parts of our planet, recalling the ancient Khoi and San people, having lived in these parts from time immemorial. This Pilgrimage of possibilities offers me and indeed all of us keeping the Holy Season of Lent, a time to walk, listen, pray and reflect in the silence of the land, the sea and the wind.”
Canon David Mills who has been reporting on the pilgrimage said the journey has indeed been a blessed one thus far with many opportunities for the bishop and his team to learn more about the lives of those in the diocese.
He recounted one encounter between the Bishop and fisherman on the road to Lamberts Bay: “On the road between Elandsbaai and Lamberts Bay the Bishop encountered a fishing boat, complete with crew on the road!
“The trailer carrying the boat had a faulty wheel thus allowing a God-given opportunity for Bishop Raphael to introduce himself and speak to the fishermen about their life and the challenges facing them.
“It was made clear to the Bishop that while none of the fishermen had licenses to fish, nevertheless they had to continue fishing to put food on the table for their families. Bishop Raphael identified with their dilemma and expressed compassion for their predicament – he committed himself to
take this concern further in dialogue with the relevant authorities.”
The pilgrimage, called a “Lenten Pilgrimage of Possibilities”, started on Ash Wednesday, March 5, and will end on Easter Sunday, April 20, at an early morning service in the coastal village of Port Nolloth just south of the South African – Namibian border.
During the pilgrimage, hundreds of the estimated 150,000 Anglicans living in the region are expected to participate in the pilgrimage, accompanying the Bishop on a leg of the journey or simply by raising funds through sponsoring the 800km walk. Each day, pilgrims are walking some 20kms starting and ending with prayers for the people and needs of the areas through which they walk.
Meetings in local churches and with community leaders will also take place. During Holy Week, Ordinands from the diocese will join the Bishop on his pilgrimage as he completes the final 150km between O’Kiep and Port Nolloth.
Any sponsorship money raised by the Bishop or others on the walk will go towards the development of people in rural areas of the diocese, as well as towards the work of theological education for our future generations of laity, deacons and priests.