The Rev. Phil Gearing has a routine. He leaves his house every morning at 6 a.m. and walks 5.5 km, and then walks another 5.5 km every evening. The routine is partly to stay disciplined and partly to beat the heat, but it’s all to raise money for FaithWorks, the annual appeal of the diocese that supports Anglican-affiliated ministries.
“I don’t suppose I would do it for any other reason,” says Mr. Gearing. “This is for people who are really in need. It speaks to me.”
Sticking to his routine all summer, he planned to walk 1,000 km and raise more than $2,000 in donations.
The idea for the campaign came to him back in the spring, on a Zoom call with Peter Misiaszek, the diocese’s director of stewardship development, and Peter Mentis, the FaithWorks campaign manager. The call was to discuss fundraising campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought, ‘I could walk and get people to sponsor me’” he says. “The idea of making a big walk by breaking it into chunks was appealing too because I am not typically a walker.”
He mapped out his routes using his car. As soon as he drove 5 km, he turned around and drove back. Through the walk-a-thon, he has seen the full gamut of Canadian weather, from snowfall in May to unforgiving heat in July and August. But that hasn’t been the only challenge he has faced.
In late June, he started to be targeted by a red-winged blackbird. For 10 days in a row, the bird divebombed him, and he couldn’t help but notice that it just squawked at other passersby.
“I couldn’t figure out why me,” he says.
He tried crossing the street. He tried walking at a more leisurely pace to seem less aggressive.
“Nothing I did stopped this bird until I took off my hat.”
It turned out that Mr. Gearing’s black hat was setting the bird off. After he doffed his cap, the bird merely squawked at him like everyone else.
He has been sharing stories like these on his Facebook page to keep his followers and sponsors in the know about the walk-a-thon, and to make an occasional appeal to them to donate to FaithWorks.
It was fitting that FaithWorks’ theme is to walk humbly with your God, says Mr. Gearing. “It wasn’t planned, but it was validating.”
Boasting 1.2 million steps and a farther distance than going to Montreal and back, Mr. Gearing admits that his campaign may not be quite the picture of Christian humility evoked by the FaithWorks theme.
“That dichotomy is not lost on me,” he says. “But it’s for a good cause. I’m walking for the homeless, the abused women and for everyone else to whom FaithWorks reaches out.”
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