Pilgrimage: Day 22 / by Jeff Tacklind

Today is the first day of what has become an annual pilgrimage up to Orcas Island to participate in a think tank hosted by Portland Seminary.  It has become such a significant event of the year for me.  I love it for so many reasons.

Orcas Island is a magical place.  All of the San Juan Islands are incredibly beautiful and also wonderfully charming.  Old growth trees covered with moss combined with island style cottages and local businesses and farms.  It is a special place.  A thin place.  A place where I feel my heart rate immediately slow and my breathing deepen.

It takes some effort to get here.  A plane flight, an uber, a carpool up to Anacortes and then a ferry ride.  Each step has become a necessary part of the pilgrimage and an important way of untangling from the familiarity of everyday life.  And I get to do it with one of my best friends, Lars, too.

This is always a weekend that fills my soul.  And the surroundings are just the dessert.  The real meal is the time I get to spend in the home of one of my former professors and doctoral mentors, Len Sweet. He is one of the most uniquely brilliant thinkers I know, and specifically in regard to the future of the church.  No one has given me as much value and appreciation for both its history as well as a vision and intuition for where it is going. 

This is the topic of discussion for the think tank…the future of the church.  And as a pastor, I find myself deeply invested.  But not merely out of some concern for my future job security.  No, the church is something I care so deeply about and have always cared about.  Not even by choice as much as by calling.  A pastor and friend of mine says she is going to have written on her tombstone, “she had a lover’s quarrel with the church.”  I completely relate.  Maybe I’ll plagiarize that on my own tombstone one day.

The church has always been a part of my life.  I was born into it.  I was raised on bible memory programs and drills.  Vacation Bible School.  Summer camps and Ensenada mission trips.  At times I kicked against it.  Other times I was healed through it.  I was both inspired by it and deeply wounded by it.  And I have poured the majority of my vocational years into it.  Because I love it. 

And to sit with a group of pastors and professors who have poured their lives into it as well is such a gift.  It is a wonderful assortment of backgrounds and perspectives and traditions.  There is plenty of challenge and pushback.  Some of it I love, and other moments I struggle with.  But to wrestle with such deep and thoughtful fellow practitioners is so good for my heart!  I feel like I belong.  Like I’ve found my tribe.

So I’ll keep you guys posted on what I learn.  I can’t wait to soak it all up.  To wrestle and process it all.  And then to return home, a little bit different than when I left.  And maybe a little more myself as well.