A CANADIAN bishop is cycling across Canada on a “prayer pilgrimage” to raise money to support indigenous ministries, and to promote healing and reconciliation.
The Bishop of Qu’Appelle, the Rt Revd Rob Hardwick, set off on his 4300-mile journey in May. “The idea of the bike ride is to go across praying, and to raise awareness of the needs of First Nations people,” he said on Monday of last week.
His cycle ride began in Victoria, British Colombia, and will end at St John’s, Newfoundland; his aim is to ride 120 kilometres a day.
When asked why he embarked on the journey, Bishop Hardwick said: “There are a number of factors. Four years ago, I had a physical wake-up call when I had a heart bypass, and I had to do something seriously about my weight.
“But it’s not just a physical-health thing: it is about the stresses and strains of leadership — there’s a spiritual side of it. It made me want to do a prayer pilgrimage, which led to this tour across Canada.
“This year marks 25 years since the Anglican Church of Canada’s apology to First Nations peoples over residential schools, and ten years since the government apologised; so this year lent itself to a pilgrimage to show that there is still much to be done: healing, unity, and reconciliation.”
Residential schools were church schools that were run as part of a Canadian government programme to assimilate indigenous races into white colonial culture. A Canadian government inquiry estimated that up to 6000 children could have died from neglect or abuse at the schools (News, 8 January 2016).
For more than 150 years, about 180,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were removed from their homes and sent to federally funded schools managed by Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and United Churches (News, 3 May 2013).
Bishop Hardwick is hoping that the diocese of Qu’Appelle will raise $1.2 million from his challenge, and that other dioceses will come together to raise another $800,000. Much of the funds raised will go towards supporting indigenous ministries, but also directly towards helping First Nations peoples.
He said that it was partly a “journey of penance”: Qu’Appelle has the longest-running residential school, which closed only in 1992. “It became a particularly important issue since I became a bishop. I realised that you have to own the history.”
The prayer pilgrimage and awareness-raising parts of the trip mean that Bishop Hardwick has delivered presentations in 48 communities, and has been interviewed more than 30 times by various media outlets.
“I have been trying to lay a foundation of prayer across Canada. . . It has been wonderful to hear from people who have asked for our prayers.”
Bishop Hardwick said that the cycling has been “amazing”, despite the fact that he will have climbed the equivalent of four Mount Everests by the end of the journey.
“Every province is unbelievably astounding in beauty, and the challenges in that beauty. . . There have been some wonderful interactions with nature. First Nations people can teach us a lot about nature, especially the animal kingdom.
“An antelope jogged with me for three-quarters of a mile, and it has been great to see so much of nature. It has been a fascinating slowing down of my life.”