Updated: Dec 30, 2019
One of my (many) favourite gospel stories is the account in Luke known as the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35).
Two of the lesser known disciples are walking away from Jerusalem with heavy and confused hearts after the death and rumoured resurrection of Jesus. A stranger falls in step with them and they find themselves being engaged in the most profound conversation about the meaning of all that has happened. They do not want this to end so they invite the stranger to stay and eat with them and then, in the breaking of the bread, they realise who he is. And one of the 'proofs' of the identity of the stranger is that their conversation had led their hearts to burn within them.
I love this story on so many levels including that, as many will be aware, early Christians were often known as the people of the Way. It is a title, a working description of what it is to be a follower of the risen one, that I particularly resonate with. It seems to emphasize that being a follower is just that, one who follows, who travels, who grows and changes over time. This seems so enlivening and inclusive compared to titles and descriptions that emphasize creedal belief systems and the need to agree with everything before one can belong. Indeed, the older and more spiritual I get the less interested I am in creeds and the more interested I am in the company of those who also see themselves as travellers. If I had been alive at the time of Jesus I hope that I would have walked the highways and byways within listening distance as Jesus talked and taught on the road. Just as he did on the road to Emmaus.
Like all good theology, the story of the Emmaus walk works at so many levels including those which might be labelled secular (although does any area of life fall outside the sacred?) and I probably owe almost as much to novelists as to theologians for my love of this story. If you have not already done so do consider reading Salley Vickers: "The Other Side of You".
So when I began thinking about a website from which to share my ministry, I knew I wanted the name of the web site to reference this story. Hence "Companions on the Way". I have in my mind and on my heart that we might 'fall in step' with each other for a portion of your walk along the way and that we might 'converse' about many things that are important. My prayer is that our hearts shall burn within us as we realise that a third other joins us in our conversation.
Now, as when in parish ministry, I do not wish to draw you to myself but rather that we might together walk in step with the resurrected one. While I believe that each journey is unique we are also parts of the whole and so no wonder that we find much in common and that we at times long for company on different sections of the way. I hope that the material I shall share here provides company and support and encouragement as you face the challenges, successes and failures, of life on the spiritual path. However, what I can provide in this forum is limited to the general nature of the spiritual life and there may be times and circumstances in which you need to seek individual spiritual direction or supervision in your vocation or personal counselling. For many of us it is a combination of individual and communally available support. Please find what is best for you.
Part of my attraction to this format was that while travelling and far from my usual supports I found online courses that helped me remember who I was and build on my strengths. My husband suffers from what I now call 'The Heroes Disease' (or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) after decades as a police officer. Usually travelling is a shared pleasure and adventure but during our last long trip, thousands of kilometres from home, he fell into a dark space and became depressed and angry. I became anxious and exhausted. We each had one or two people on the end of the phone but we were without most of our usual supports and safe havens.
I found two online courses that really helped me regroup, take better care of myself, and stay clearheaded about what we could do and what we couldn't cope with. Over the weeks and miles we regrouped and got home in reasonably good shape. It was one of the experiences that convinced me, not only of the value of the material I accessed, but also the delivery method. There I was thousands of kilometres from everyone I knew and yet words of hope and encouragement could arrive in my inbox and be whispered in my ear right when and where I needed the company of someone who understood.
My travels in regional and remote Australia also revealed to me just how many people live lives of isolation - whether because of geography, or social circumstance, or simply a shortage of kindred spirits. And some of our learning and exploring needs to be done away from the curious eyes and ears of others. I remember that this can be true even in cities. So, despite my trepidation about the technological challenges of this forum I am enthusiastic about the opportunities for blessings and good company on the Way.
So, I invite you to fall in step with me for a little while or a longer portion of the path - whatever best supports the flourishing of your spirit within you.