One of my least favourite parts of travel is the airport departure lounge experience. You end up there through an arduous process of check-ins, security checks and moving walkways.
Nobody belongs at an airport, it’s a place where you dream of being somewhere else. With free Wi-Fi access, my head is usually somewhere else checking my device or listening to podcasts. Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman considers tourism as a primary metaphor for contemporary life marking modern living by mobility and looseness of ties to places and people. Life is an endless smorgasbord of options, sampling experiences but which lack commitment to any belief, ideology or lifestyle. You can be everywhere and belong nowhere.
At first glance, the tourist and pilgrim might look the same. They are both travellers, after all. But in fact their relation to their surroundings is entirely different. A pilgrim is a traveller who is on a journey, a sacred trek that has deep significance whereas a tourist is generally sight-seeing. Tourists are sampling life experiences, pilgrimages are undertaken to awaken insight. Tourists are looking for bargains and photo opportunities, while pilgrims are seeking to come properly to attention to their surroundings.
Tourists don’t belong with the locals, pilgrims seek to actively engage with them. They are a part of a company of like-minded people who share life’s journey. In the tradition of pilgrimage, life is embraced and hardship is seen as an integral part of the journey.
At the heart of education is a journey, for to educate is to lead or draw out along a course from one place to a new place. As Christian teachers, we take our students on a pilgrimage through school to see life through God’s eyes.
The Lord Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, calls His people to reflect on what it means to be the new humanity, deeply engaged in real life.
Our schools are to be communities of faith, hope and love where embodied truth, faithful habits, and an enacted moral framework are experienced by students as they participate in the life of the school. It is to be a place when they can be planted and have a deep sense of belonging as they go on a journey to discover what it means to know Christ and locate their lives in His great story. As teachers, we need to explore the ways we can invite our students to participate in the great mandate to be stewards of God’s world, the great commission to be disciples of God’s Kingdom and the great commandment to love God with their whole being and to love their neighbours and themselves as Jesus does.
May the Lord give us wisdom and courage as we raise our students to be pilgrims who are firmly anchored in the City of God.
“It is imperative that the past of the pilgrim’s progress be intentionally carried forward into the present as we walk into our future. Without it we cannot know who we are, why we are here, or where we can go. Without a common past to live out we become aimless and wandering individuals instead of a pilgrim people.
“And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
Grace and Peace
The Excellence Centre
 Bauman, Zygmunt, (2003). Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds. Polity Press