For the Right Reverend Robert Hardwick, Bishop of Qu’Appelle? How about a 2,800- kilometre journey by road bike through almost the entirety of southern Saskatchewan in the dog days of summer?
That’s exactly what brought the retiring bishop to St. Aidan Anglican Church on Friday afternoon, as he made the latest stop on his cycling journey to visit all 50 churches in his Qu’Appelle Diocese -- stretching from Saskatoon all the way south to the U.S. border.
“We had a wonderful tailwind today, so we did really well and were able to cycle from Swift Current to Pense before driving back here,” Hardwick said shortly after being greeted by members of the St. Aidan congregation.
“I’m going to be retiring July 31 and instead of having a big meal and inviting people to Regina and that kind of thing, I just wanted to go to every community where we have a church and say thank you to all the people for their faith, the way they live their lives and the Christian way they operate in every community.”
His journey began back on July 15 and has seen Hardwick covering around 200 kilometres a day, often with stops in multiple communities along the way.
The interesting -- and quite frankly, amazing -- thing about the whole journey is that this isn’t his first rodeo. Hardwick cycled over 5,500 kilometres across Canada in 2018 to help spread awareness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the need for healing in Indigenous communities.
While that trip was an individual undertaking, he has help on his ride this time around. Hardwick is being joined by two priests and a layperson in sharing the riding duties, with each taking a one-hour turn on their road bike before being spelled off.
For the Moose Jaw portion, Hardwick was joined by Rev. Michael Burns from Regina.
“It’s manageable and in this heat it makes a big difference, you can stop in an air-conditioned car and rest while the other rider is on the road,” Hardwick explained.
His fellow participants are part of another project that’s part of the ride: video and photographs are being taken at every church they visit and an archivist is putting together stories from each stop, with Hardwick providing narration.
“So we’re doing all this riding and meeting people in churches, but we’re also producing a historic video piece that’s like a snapshot in time of who we are and where we are in this period of time,” he said. “They’ll be a three- to five-minute history piece telling the story of buildings and people and how we got where we are.”
Hardwick and crew still have four days remaining on their journey. Once it’s completed and he’s officially in retirement, Hardwick and his wife plan to return to the British Isles and possibly settle down in the Inverness region of Scotland where his youngest son’s family and their four grandchildren live.
And yes, you’ll find him once again find him leading a flock once he’s back home.
“One thing I’ve missed is being the priest of a parish,” Hardwick said. “When you’re called to the bishop, you’re everywhere and while it’s a privilege to meet everyone, there’s something special about a journey with a group of people.”