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Daily Dispatches from Spectrum’s Holy Week Camino Pilgrimage

Spectrum Camino Hikers

If you’ve been reading these daily updates, scroll to the bottom to see the final dispatch on our arrival in Santiago.

SUNDAY, MARCH 24

Today, 23 Spectrum readers walked 15 miles in northwest Spain on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. It was the beginning of a weeklong, 70+ mile Holy Week trek led by Denis Fortin, professor of historical theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. On the Camino, we trace the steps of Christian pilgrims who have done this for around 1,000 years. The group includes Adventists from Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, California, and Colorado, as well as Iceland and Sweden. 

This is the second pilgrimage organized by Spectrum, thanks to board chair Carmen Lau. It follows up on our St. Cuthbert’s Way walk through Scotland and England in June 2023. During a reflection time in the evening, we got to know each other better as we new shared first day observations of birds and conversations, spirituality, and humanity made along the way and retired to an early bedtime. Tomorrow brings another 15 miles. 

MONDAY, MARCH 25

The second day is always the hardest, stated someone in our group. During our 8:00 a.m. breakfast, Dr. Fortin, who is a veteran Camino pilgrim, gave out the weather warning: drizzle guaranteed, with more moisture likely. Just an hour or so into the day’s 15 miles, the path went up and the rains came down. Our group was well-prepared with an assortment of gear: jackets, pants, backpack covers, and ponchos transformed everyone into new creatures. We survived! By the time we all gathered for dinner at 7:00 p.m. the conversation around the table included reports and pictures of hail, trudging through mud, and meaningful encounters with other pilgrims. 

Despite the rain, Dennis Tidwell added four birds to his list for the week: ⁠⁠Eurasian blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), Coal tit (Periparus ater), Eurasian magpie (Pica pica), carrion crow (Corvus corone). Carol Jones mentioned getting to know a fellow pilgrim, a young professional who is from the Philippines and whose wife teaches catechism classes. When Carol mentioned something personal, the man said he would keep her in his prayers, and touched, she returned the favor. Strangers became prayer partners and helpers. When they found a woman with a hurt leg, Anton Torstenson—a pastor in Sweden—provided a bandage, and David Grellmann—a physician from Michigan—provided bandaging services. Tomorrow promises more rain, adventures, but fewer miles—an easy 10. 

TUESDAY, MARCH 26

Within a few minutes of our walk today, light rain turned to sleet, and then snowflakes fell. Yet, in many ways, the journey felt light and quick. Traveling 2/3rds of the distance compared to each of the last two days helped. So did more time to stop for coffee and explore the medieval churches along the way. We crossed the restructured Bridge of San Xoán de Furelos which dates back around 900 years. Experiencing the oldness of Christianity on this Holy Week walk provides perspective in these times of rapid change. 

We’ve now completed more than half of our Camino. The minimum distance to travel is 100 kilometers in order to get the official “Credencial del Peregrino” from the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. We aim to walk 117 km or just over 70 miles. Thus far we’ve gone 62.2 km or 37.3 miles. 

The size of our Spectrum group has grown. We started with 23 and at dinner this evening, Pedro Ribeigo and Vera Amaral Ganhão (both pictured above), two Spectrum readers, arrived from Portugal. They have a great sense of humor and brought us all a sinfully delicious Portuguese pastry called the jesuíta. It was the perfect way to end our evening meal and start a new friendship. 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27

The rain in Spain may stay mainly in the plain, but the rest of it drained on us today. Luckily it was our shortest walk–just 8 miles. We experienced a soaking pour with winds reported as high as 50 MPH. The shorter distance meant that we had extra time at our new accommodations to dry out and relax. 

In the late afternoon we gathered in a large circle. For a riveting hour Denis Fortin drew on his seminary lectures and explained the Roman Catholic traditions associated with each day of Holy Week. Helpfully, he also answered questions about what we might expect in 48 hours as we arrive in a city full of ecumenical pilgrims celebrating the risen Christ. 

A highlight of these days are often the evenings. Tonight, our group of 25 gathered for dinner. The meals each night are simple, with thick slides of rustic local bread to start, then courses of soup or salad, then mains with fish or chicken or rice and vegetables, vegetarian burgers made of lentils or lasagna. Almond tarts are always one of the options for desert. In addition to the food, there is a lot of talk. This evening the group around me discussed Ellen G. White and other Adventists of note. At breakfast it was postmodernity, a carryover from yesterday’s dinner conversation on science and religion. 

The group is bonding through the rain and pain—I know of three in our group who have twisted an ankle—yet we press onward and upward. Spectrum’s Easter Camino pilgrims—Esther Aoyagi, Cindy & Donald Barton, Don & Rhonda Cale, Alexander Carpenter, Cheryl & Gorden Doss, Charlotte & Tom Dyer, Denis Fortin, David Grellmann, Carol Jones, Elton Kerr & Karen Arason, Carmen & Yung Lau, Pedro Ribeiro & Vera Amaral Ganhão, Anita Roberts, Dennis & Lila Tidwell, Anton Torstensson, Sabine Vatel—are poised to cover the final 25 miles in the next two days.

THURSDAY, MARCH 28

The 11 miles we walked today felt pro forma. Perhaps it was the rain again, or that it was the penultimate day. Tomorrow we will arrive at our destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Today got us to the jumping off point—we’re less than 12 miles to the end. I can tell everyone in our group is ready to arrive. Tomorrow will be our earliest breakfast at 6:30 a.m. so we can get an early start and have a very good Friday. 

After dinner tonight our WhatsApp group chat has been buzzing, busy with details and planning for tomorrow. One of the most important details of the Camino is the pilgrim credential/passport. To receive the official certificate of completion, the Compostela, one needs to:

  • Do the Camino de Santiago for religious or spiritual reasons;
  • Walk the minimum required distance by foot or horse (100km) or cycling (200km);
  • Get two stamps per day on the credential/passport.

Here’s mine as an example. We all just need two more and then we go the cathedral office to get our Compostela certificate. Denis Fortin just messaged us that the office gave out 1955 certificates today.

This is the second spiritual walk Spectrum has organized in the last year. In June 2023 we walked St. Cuthbert’s Way through Scotland and England. Nancy Lecourt wrote a beautiful poem about the experience, “St. Cuthbert’s Way: A Poem from a Spectrum Pilgrim.”

FRIDAY, MARCH 29

We made it. Today, 25 Spectrum pilgrims staggered across the final dozen miles—in more ways than one—into the town of Santiago de Compostela, the destination of all the Camino routes across Europe. After a few quick pictures outside the 813 year-old cathedral just as the sun came out, a group of us went to the Oficina de Acogida al Peregrino to get our official certificate of completion. We were just a few of the 3195 who received the “Compostela,” or accreditation of the pilgrimage. They run an efficient system and the wait was minimal.

The document reads, in part, “to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognises before all who observe this document that: …………… has devotedly visited this most sacred temple having done the last hundred kilometers on foot or on horseback or the last two hundred by bicycle with Christian sentiment (pietatis causa).”

Throughout the afternoon and evening, we joined in the Good Friday experiences, visiting churches, discovering a prayer labyrinth, and observing several processions. Tomorrow, we’ll gather on Sabbath morning as a group and then spread out again in this old city to enjoy an ecumenical Holy Saturday. One of the esssential realizations of this experience that’s been repeated in our group is that much of the world falls away during this journey. Everyone is a fellow human—a child of God—and that essential connectedness brings spiritual peace. Buen Camino!

Thanks to Anton Torstensson, a pastor in the Swedish Union, for this creative and dedicated work shooting and editing these videos about our journey this week. Special thanks to Carmen Lau, our board chair, for her work in organizing and leading this experience. If you are interested in doing something like this in the future, email alexander@spectrummagazine.org. Check out more pictures from our week.
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About the author

Alexander Carpenter is the executive director and executive editor of Spectrum. More from Alexander Carpenter.
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