Welcome to the Rangihoua Hikoi / Kiwi Camino Project

Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat and Conference Centre is a place of rolling hills, crashing waves and soaring gulls, an oasis of peace that is open to all people of all backgrounds. It is a place of hospitality, conversation, healing and spiritual encounter and at the heartbeat of Vaughan Park is the beautiful chapel that looks out to sea and offers rhythms of daily contemplative worship, prayer and retreats. And this is where a crazy dream began to ferment! WHY NOT A KIWI CAMINO?

Well, why not, as pilgrimages seemed to fit perfectly with the kaupapa (traditions) of Vaughan Park and those who had led and grown this place. And so the dreamers this year, anglican priest John Blundell, historian Allan Davidson, and anglican priest and new director at Vaughan Park Retreat Centre, Iain Gow who had just finished the Camino in Spain, tossed some ideas about. The Vaughan Park Board gave its blessing to explore this as one of the ministries of Vaughan Park, and so in partnership with the The Diocese of Auckland/Te Pihopatanga o te Tai Tokerau, a dream began to take shape.

But, the story of Christianity in New Zealand is not owned by one church tradition. Other traditions were and are equally important. Why not an ecumenical dimension then from the start; in fact why not a vision for any person of peace interested? There are now embryonic partnerships, to name a few: The Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church. And others too are pondering because the dream is to make this truly ecumenical from the start, to be supported and developed by all ‘followers of the Way’. A new name is being considered: The Rangihoua Hikoi.

To create a Kiwi pilgrimage after the model of the Camino de Santiago that is specific to the NZ context, its early Christian history and ethos of NZ.  It is to provide an opportunity for people to discover an understanding of how pilgrimage enables one to understand at a deeper place the journey of life and faith, how the principles of pilgrimage can touch the ordinary in our everyday lives and how it may be a stimulus to discovering the spiritual journey? It gives us time to ‘pause, ponder, plan anew’ for our lives and as John Blundell reminds us, is always about walking ‘with others’. Thus it is a good antidote to our individualistic ways of society today. Finally, we hope it may become a mechanism for people and churches along the way, to offer the gift of hospitality, friendship, kindness to pilgrims; a chance for discussion to occur naturally between different people of different faith traditions and none.

There are many fantastic walks in NZ and all have the potential to be spiritual. This is one we are offering! It is for anyone, but IS more EXPLICITELY for those who wish to discover a more spiritual perspective to their walking. It is for those of faith and those very unsure of faith. It is for anyone interested in questions of life and meaning and takes around 25 days and around 350 kilometres walked at an average of 18 kilometres a day, with a day off in-between. In its first stage of development, it starts at Vaughan Park, Long Bay, Auckland and goes to Rangihoua, north of the Bay of Islands, where Christianity was first welcomed by the indigenous people of this land, Aoterora. It wishes to honour Maori and the history of Aoteroa by working closely with people.

We have over the last six months done some dreaming, and there is now an ecumenical committee. We are now in the project development stage, and in that context we are looking for FRIENDS to join in our dreaming and our explorations.

So come join our Kiwi Camino Friends Group for updates, for meetings. Anyone can be a friend who is interested in this dream.

We are looking for people to help us design the track so it goes past churches and historical places of interest; we are looking for people who can ‘walk the track’, help us write up notes from parts of the track that can be used by future pilgrims. If you think you might be a church or person able to offer hospitality as churches and people on the way, then wonderful too. Finally, and very importantly, as this vast vision needs to be broken into manageable bites, we are looking for someone 1-2 days a week to join the team at Vaughan Park as Project Development Developer – this is because we have an enormous task that is before us, so if this is your gift, please let us know.

At the moment, we are walking the route for ourselves (Check out Miles’ blog as he is doing it at the moment). There are a variety of tracks, ranging from secondary roads that are tarred, through beautiful bush tracks, through towns and villages, via ocean vistas. We are indebted to Te Araroa Trust for their track which goes part of the way.

The first pilgrimage led and organised by Vaughan Park, is planned for 2017. We hope it will incorporate people from different church traditions as Vaughan Park has historically been ecumenical in its ethos. It is hoped leaders from different church traditions will join for part or all of the first pilgrimage.

Historically, pilgrims start their journey at a place of significance that is known to them. You can, therefore, have different start places. However, historically, there are often a few more obvious start places that become ‘launch pads’. We suggest that pilgrims either start at Vaughan Park or at their own churches of significance (eg cathedral of their tradition, their local church, school etc). If the latter, pilgrims would walk from their place of significance to Vaughan Park on the first day, catching a ferry from Auckland, walking via the North Shore to Vaughan Park. At Vaughan Park, they will be greeted with ‘a service of welcome’ Over the next two days, pilgrims will come to understand the nature of pilgrimage through lectures from various people, have the opportunity for spiritual direction, be given time to prepare spiritually in solitude, experience the rhythm of prayer and worship that will become known on the pilgrimage, be offered practical advice on what to carry, view maps etc.  

The first pilgrimage will be more organised than what we hope the ones in the future will be. From 2018, Vaughan Park will continue to offer bespoke pilgrimages as part of its ministry to all strangers and friends, be a place where people can book their start, but it is also hoped that this hikoi/wallk would organically discover a life of its own! Pilgrims would choose their own distance each day they wished to walk, start where they wished, would stay where they booked for themselves, and do whatever stage of the total that was right for them. Churches from all denominations would own it in their own way and from their own starting points should they wish.

Buen Camino! Kia tau te haere, Safe journey! Bonne journee….

Blessings from us all on the team, Iain (