pilgrim, according to Merriam-Webster, is a person who travels to a holy place as an act of religious devotion. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a pilgrim in relation to our upcoming UTO Pilgrims on the Camino trip in October, especially for our Grant Site Pilgrims. I must admit the lore of the Camino is intriguing to me, while at the same time, the thought of walking 800-plus kilometers is not on my list of things to do. (Our Walking Pilgrims will walk 100 km.) The great news is that nowhere in the Merriam-Webster definition does being a pilgrim indicate a required amount of walking or physical exertion. Therefore, our Grant Site Pilgrimage is perfect for those desiring a Camino experience without the walking!

Our Grant Site Pilgrimage and Walking Pilgrimage begin and end together, hosted by Bishop Carlos López Lozano of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Spain. We will see beautiful sites in Madrid, visiting the Catedral del Redentor, whose staircases and vestibules UTO helped restore. We’ll receive our pilgrim’s blessing and concha shell and travel to the 11th-century walled city of Ávila. There, we will learn about Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross as we receive a guided tour of the Church and Convent of San José.

As the Walking Pilgrims depart for Sarria to begin their walk, the Grant Site Pilgrims travel with Bishop Lozano to visit several of the UTO Grant sites in Spain, where the gratitude in our lives, and our Blue Box contributions, have supported ministries that bless so many. The first stop in the “golden city” of Salamanca has received five UTO Grants since 1991, for a total of $141,500, which helped build the Anglican Student Centre shared by the three universities in this beautiful medieval town.

From there, we travel to León, stopping in the small village of Villaescusa in the province of Zamora to visit the Anglican Church of Espíritu Santo, another UTO Grant site. In León, we visit one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in Spain and then travel to Astorga, where we will visit the Romanesque cathedral and the Episcopal Palace built by Gaudí. From Villafranca del Cebreiro to Lugo, we visit the Archiepiscopal Palace, joining the Walking Pilgrims for Eucharist that evening at the Botana family estate chapel, before traveling on to Santiago. As we all walk the last mile into Santiago together, we will enter Santiago de Compostela like millions of pilgrims before us. We will celebrate and give thanks for the holy pilgrimage we have taken, both individually and together.

It’s not often one can see the amazing beauty of Spain in the context of our Episcopal faith tradition and the gratitude-based work of the United Thank Offering. To pray our way through Spain, as pilgrims, is an opportunity not to miss. Are you ready to be a Grant Site Pilgrim this October? Are you ready to experience the Holy One in a new and profound way? If so, registration is available here and a full itinerary here.

The Rev. Cn. Heather Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

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