Anglican Bishop Rob Hardwick is passionate about his multi faceted cross Canada cycling pilgrimage.
He began his journey on May 19 in Victoria, and plans to arrive in St. John’s, Newfoundland on August 1.
His journey is being fuelled by prayer, a desire to raise funds for a quartet of worthwhile causes, while serving as a pilgrimage to foster unity, healing and reconciliation within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Bishop Hardwick, who served as the reverend for Swift Current’s St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church from 2001 to 2009, rolled through the Southwest over the weekend. He reached Maple Creek on Saturday and made his way into Swift Current on Sunday.
“It feels like home,” he said after arriving at his former church home for a special congregation event on June 3.
His arrival was made more special as a group of his former congregation members rode the final few kilometres with him to the doors of the church.
“It was just great to be welcomed. It’s great encouragement. It uplifts you. You could come into a city or a town feeling really fatigued, but then you get this renewed energy because of that kindness and meeting people.”
He noted that his cycling journey is first and foremost a pilgrimage of prayer, and he is praying for unity, for healing, for reconciliation, all the way across Canada.
“We have a history in Canada where there’s a fair number of cultural groups that haven’t been entirely welcomed – so whether that’s Chinese, Japanese, German, Acadian, African-American or our First Nations,” he said. “I think there’s a lot we need to do in terms of reconciliation.”
He is also using the challenges of the road as extra inspiration for his prayer.
“Its been a special form of prayer, using the hills that I encounter to pray for those people in the greatest need. To associate some of the pain that I’m going through, praying for those who wonder if that top of the hill will ever come. Or when the reach what they thought was the top of the hill, there’s another hill afterwards. So just to keep on praying for people and using that journey, the length of it, for that prayer.”
Bishop Hardwick, who currently serves as the Bishop for the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle, is aiming to raise $2 million in support of four fundraising causes.
A portion of his fundraising will be directed to a Habitat for Humanity home for a refugee family in Regina.
The Anglican Church of Canada is in the process of building a medical centre in Muyinga, Burundi, a project in the second poorest area in the world. While the walls and roof are already completed, they need a final $15,000 to complete work. The average wage in Burundi is 43 cents per day.
“So I’ve challenged every Anglican who gives to their church, I’ve challenged them to give 43 cents a day. And if we all do that over five years, we’ll raise $1.2 million, which will go a long way to finishing that medical centre, the Habitat for Humanity, and some of our regional work with youth and children, and with the Qu’Appelle School for Mission and Ministry.”
He is aiming to use $800,000 of the raised funds to support indigenous ministries within the Anglican Church. He has called on all other diocese across Canada to give to this cause.
“That’s going to help with suicide prevention, leadership training for pastoral care in isolate communities, and help get a First Nation’s Church off the ground in Canada.”
The additional funds will be directed to support evangelism and mission work for the Diocese.
The daunting cycling challenge, which will cover 7,877 kilometres during the heat of the summer, shows how far Bishop Hardwick has come on his own fitness journey in just four years.
“I had a heart bypass surgery, and I’ve got some Crohn’s issues. It was suggested that cycling would be a good form of fitness for me,” he recalled.
“I remember buying a bike and cycling for five kilometres, and I had to get off.”
“But the next day I rode for a little bit further, and the next day a little bit further. Its just been an amazing journey of fitness. I’ve lost 93 pounds. So I was 310 pounds. So I’ve done it in the right way – a little bit of weight loss each week. And now it’s just amazing that I can cycle across Canada.”
He added that it is no coincidence that his journey will take just over two months.
“I turn 62 this year, so I’ve planned a cycle ride across Canada to take 62 cycling days,” he said.
However, he quickly dismisses his age as a non-factor in his effort.
“I think to myself ‘you don’t have to think that you’re old,’” as he has encountered a 77-year-old who is cycling across Canada 100 kilometres per day, while a 30-year-old is completing the same trip at a quicker pace.
“Irrespective of age, you can be fit enough to do things like this.”
The early days of the trip have produced a few special moments, including an antelope running beside him during a part of his ride when he was travelling 35 kilometres per hour.
“What I’m finding is that we live such a rushed life. Everyone’s busy. What this cycle ride is teaching me is it’s important to be attentive to the moment. Not to let the moment go by. On a bike you can stop immediately. You can just take in the scenery. You can take photographs. But a bike you can smell the sage or the lilacs. There’s so many experiences, so many senses are involved.”
“Also along the way there are some what I would call Godly moments.
He recalls that he was cycling towards an SUV parked at the side of the road with its hazard lights activated while on the uphill stretch of the Vermillion Pass.
“As I came up to the SUV, I was just about to say ‘do you need any help?’ The man simply pointed to the bushes and said ‘Bear’. So needless to say I continued cycling. But I looked back after no more than 50 metres, and the car wasn’t there. And it was a long, straight road. Must be at least a mile. Where did that car go? Who was in that car? So it left me pondering. What that an Angel? How many Angels do we miss each day because we’re rushing from one place to another.”
To follow Bishop Hardwick’s pilgrimage you can visit his Facebook page at fb.me/DoQMission, or visit the diocesan website at www.quappelle.anglican.org/ministry/p/bishops-ride.