Sometime before he was about to embark on his cross-province bicycle ride this June, Bishop Rob Hardwick, of the diocese of Qu’Appelle, was approached by someone wanting to know what the point of it was.
Hardwick responded that the nine-day, 723-km ride was to be a pilgrimage for prayer and worship with parishioners, with the goal of raising $10,000 to support mission and the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund. The man, Hardwick says, then handed over a cheque for $10,500 on behalf of his family.
“We don’t want you to worry about, or concentrate your efforts on, fundraising,” the man said. “Go enjoy the ride and dedicate your time instead [to] what is more important, your Lord and your people.”
The event represented the answering of just one of Hardwick’s prayers for the ride, the bishop says in a reflection, which appeared in the Saskatchewan Anglican. Soon after the ride, more than $22,000 had already been raised, without even any overt fundraising on the bishop’s part, he said.
Moreover, the nine days, the bishop says, were also “a time of intense prayer and fellowship,” as he stopped to lead worship in 19 places along the route. All told, 377 people gathered in 19 churches along the way, for morning prayer services, Eucharists, mid-day prayer, evening prayer and gospel jamborees-not to mention, he says, potluck feasts. Fifteen other cyclists joined him along various sections of his pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage, Hardwick says, had him cycling at an average speed of 25 km/h, over 146 hills, while coping with summer heat and shifting wind. It was a physical challenge he’d spent two years training for, by riding a total of 4,300 km-and losing 92 pounds (42 kg) in the process.
The experience, he says, followed two other similarly gruelling-yet spiritually rewarding-events of the summer: an intensive study week for new bishops in Richmond, Va., and July’s General Synod in Richmond Hill, Ont.
In fact, Hardwick says all three experiences taught him similar lessons: the importance of good preparation and discipline, perseverance and healthy leadership, for example.
“Leadership demands much of us and, if I have learned anything over the last few weeks, it is the importance of good preparation; staying prayerfully attentive; to be willing to make the uncomfortable decision; to not let emotion lead, but rather God’s still small voice, even when his voice suggests a different way.
“Without a doubt, all three events were challenging, uncomfortable, demanding, enlightening, and yet all were bathed in the presence of Christ,” he continues. “In all the discomfort…I can certainly testify to the presence of the Comforter and to the prayers, hospitality and encouragement of the faithful, which have sustained me.”
The Bishop’s Discretionary Fund is used to pay for a variety of expenses in the diocese, such as hotel rooms for people needing a place to stay because of family medical problems, or sending spiritual leaders for education training.