Pilgrimage to Stockbridge Boiler Room

After five hours on the road, we finally arrived at the Stockbridge Boiler Room, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It looked like…

A house.



A big one, mind you.

With a garage in the back.


Also a big one.

We knew we were late, so we tiptoed in sheepishly, only to be warmly welcomed.

“It’s the Canadians!”

Tim, the preacher, didn’t miss a beat, and got back to his sermon. Apparently he was used to interruptions, as his baby boy gleefully crawled around at his feet.

The garage was decorated like the prayer rooms we become familiar with, and was crowded with locals and visitors like ourselves.

After the service, I had questions. “How is this zoned?”

“It’s actually the church building, and the house is the parsonage. We had to make it wheelchair accessible and install a toilet.”

It’s a fascinating community configuration. The garage is the prayer room, accessible 24-7 with a door keypad. The house attached is the home base of the boiler room. Offices and meeting room on the main floor, and housing for interns and Vision students. “Boys on the main floor, girls upstairs.” Tim and Brooke, and Jordan and Charis, the elders of the community live a block or so away. A life of prayer and service in tight geographic proximity. The house also hosted a guest room. So after a late dinner of Spanish tapas (Kirk accidentally ordered a plate of plain cheese cubes for his supper) at a local eatery, we tucked ourselves in so we could be up in time for morning prayer.;

Local Hot Spot for Retreat and Pilgrimage

Yesterday the GOHOP team had a day away, where spent some extended time in prayer and discernment. We have found it good when trying to take some time apart, to actually go away. Somewhere. Anywhere outside our regular space.

We went to Lectio House, but then right after lunch, trekked over to Gage Park, and spent some time in the hothouse there.







What a great spot on a cold day! I totally recommend it to those of you who long to get away somewhere warm to connect with God.

Going on pilgrimage can be as simple as going to Gage Park.

It’s a little closer and a little cheaper than Cuba. ;o)

Pilgrimage reflections: The Scarf of Awesomeness

Yesterday I was chatting with my mum on the phone, catching up after my having been away so long.

“Whatever happened to the scarf?!!” She demanded. “My friends and I want to know!”

On the last day of the 24-7 Prayer gathering in Dublin, they auctioned off my scarf, along with several others from around the world. The proceeds went towards the work of a 24-7 Prayer community in Jordan that was working in Syrian refugee camps. When it came time for my scarf to be auctioned, I was extremely nervous. What if no one bidded on it? I had been working on it for hours and hours throughout the pilgrimage, and I felt like a mamma whose baby was being sold to the highest bidder. Which might end up being 10 Euros or so.

Imagine my shock when the scarf was sold for 750 Euros! That’s over $1000!

And then the man who purchased it gave it back to me as a present….

I ended up re-felting everything on a smaller scarf, so I could turn it into a wall hanging, as a momento of my pilgrimage.







Pilgrimage Reflections: Rhythms of Prayer

People have been asking me to post more reflections on my pilgrimage, so here ya go! I’m going to include my more recent pilgrimage to Mount Saviour Benedictine monastery last weekend.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about visiting various monastic communities was participating in their prayer rhythms. It’s one thing to make room in our own heart and life for prayer. It’s something entirely different to enter into the flow of the rhythms of another community.

When we were at the Stanford Boiler Room, the community gathered each evening for an hour to pray. It was a teeny prayer room, but one night we got 14 people all jammed into it! Also, as guests in the community house, we were expected to pray an additional hour a day in the on site prayer room, on our own.

At the Northumbria Community, creators of the Celtic Book of Common Prayer, they gathered to pray four times a day. 9 am, noon, 5:30 pm and 9 pm. Ten minutes before prayer, a bell would toll, and everyone would gather silently in the common lounge for prayer.

More recently at Mount Saviour, the Benedictine monks gather seven times a day for prayer. The first being at 4:45 in the morning! During those times they sing the psalms and prayer. Benedictines work their way through the entire book of Psalms once every two weeks!

I love he tolling of the bell.

The gathering in silence.

The centrality of the Word to their prayer times.

Upon our return, my travelling buddies, Peter and Sandy, decided to instigate the Northumbria Rhythm of Prayer at their home. Four times a day they ring a bell, set aside whatever they were doing, and gather to pray.

I’ve been wanting to try it at our Intentional Community House, so have been chatting with my housemates about starting evening prayers, which monastic type folks call compline. So we’ve decided to give it a go, starting tonight. We are going to try different prayer resources to see which fits us best. The Book of Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals has a compline section, as does the Celtic Book of Daily Prayer. We are also going to try an ancient form of prayer popularized by Ignatius of Loyola, called the Prayer of Examen. And if we want to just keep it simple, we might read a psalm and pray for people we have met or needs we have been made aware of throughout the day.

We’ve also invited a couple near neighbours, including the local MoveIn patch to join us.

I really love the idea of actually re-ordering your day around rhythms of prayer, rather than just adding prayer as a tag on whenever you can fit it in. And I love the idea of a community committed to rhythms of prayer that can create a welcome space for others coming to join them. Prayer and hospitality mashed up together in lovely ways.

Here are some pics of the prayer spaces at Northumbria, Stanford, and Mount saviour. I think I’m gonna go out and buy a bell…..





You’re a What????

After what seemed like an interminable wait in the customs line back across the border, we finally handed our passports to the customs agent.

“So where were you?” He asked Peter.

“We were at a weekend retreat.”

“What kind of retreat?”

“A retreat for Oblates.”

“A what????”

“It’s kinda like a monk, only you can be married. My wife’s ok with it.”

“A married monk?” He shook his head, and then turned to me. “So what do you do?”

“I’m a Protestant monk. Part of a Protestant monastic community.”

“You’re a what??? What do you do?”

“We pray, and we work with the urban poor. There’s lots of them in Hamilton.”

He was obviously still perplexed, but eventually waved us through. We cracked up when we realized that as we pulled the car away, he made the sign of the cross, blessing our passage into Canada.

Here we are with our new Benedictine friend Justin… Kirk wore his hoodie so they could both be monks in the hoods…



Living a Fast Life Slowly

Peter, Kirk, and I are driving south through New York State towards Mount Saviour Monastery, where this weekend Peter will become a full blown Lay Benedictine Oblate. Kirk and I have come along to witness this transition in Peters life as cymbrogi, what the celts call soul companions.

I’m quiet. I’m tired to begin with, but also peaceful. There is a companionable silence among us. Friends who don’t need lots of words to fill the space between them. Plus the autumn sun still has some warmth in it, and it’s shining on my cheek. Finally, I begin to tell Peter a story about my time on pilgrimage.

Do you know the nicest compliment I’ve received in recent years? It was from a young man I met in the UK. When our team visited his prayer community, we felt a strong connection with him. Near the end of our visit, he said to me, “you remind me of a mother figure in my life. You have the same pace of life she does.”

“And what pace of life is that?” I was bemused.

“She lives a fast life slowly.”

She lives a fast life slowly.

Years ago, those closest to me and in a position to lovingly speak truth into my life, would not have said that about me. The most common word used to describe me was “driven”, if they were honest (Thank God for honest friends who don’t flatter you!). I’m a first born, typical achiever type of personality.

More recently, the word my new friends use to describe me is “peaceful”. Maybe it’s simply because I am ageing. Maybe it’s because twelve years in a lifestyle radically reordered towards prayer and His Presence has shifted things on the inside.

I notice it in Peter too. The last few years as he has built what he calls “cantio Divina”, a contemplative singing of the psalms, and contemplative prayer into his daily rhythms, he has become more rooted and grounded somehow.

Our lives are still full with many responsibilities, but something, more likely Someone, is reordering our inward worlds.

Empowering us to live fast lives slowly.

Here’s a pic of a car license plate we saw at the border. It says ‘O Kneel!’. And here are the three of us messing around with one of the lovely sculptures at the monastery.






Yesterday at the Mount Saviour Monastery, a Benedictine Monastery in New York State, our friend Peter became a lay Benedictine Oblate.

Now that doesn’t mean that he’s saying goodbye to his lovely wife Cheryl, donning the monks habit (although he is getting one of our monks in the hoodies!), shaving a tonsure into his hair. He won’t be joining these monks in seclusion in their monastery nestled in the hills of northwestern New York.

What it does mean is that he will continue to build his life and work in Hamilton around rhythms of prayer and obedience to Christ.

Peter has a piano set up in his Urban Green workroom, and practices the hours – set times of prayer throughout the day. Last spring when I stopped by to pick up a load of dirt for my garden, I could hear the sounds of his devotion emanating from his workroom. He was happily singing the psalms, unaware of our presence. It felt like a holy thing just to stand outside the door and listen.

Peter isn’t a Roman Catholic. He’s Christian Reformed, actually. A man of the Word and full of the Spirit. But a man with the conviction that perhaps we threw out the baby with the bath water at the Reformation. And, like myself, a man who thinks the Catholics have a thing or two to teach us about prayer.

Below are some pictures of the trip. The beautiful chapel the monks pray in seven times a day. The monastery has some lovely art. We ate bread made by Trappist monks in Genesee, New York (where Henri Nouwen wrote the Genesee Diary). And of course, Peter being received as a lay Benedictine Oblate.