By Nick Cadwallender, Jannan Holmes, Casey Hu and Mary Cadwallender
“Jews make pilgrimages to the Wailing Wall, Buddhists to Benares or Lhasa, Moslems take the Haj to Mecca and Christians travel the back roads and by-ways of Europe and the Holy Land. They travel and endure hardship to find God in the holy places and to pay homage to their creator. St. George’s Senior High Sunday School made their pilgrimage this summer on the Appalachian Trail from the Priest Wilderness to the James River, 35 miles over four long hot days of July.
“The group selected the theme “Embracing Change: Living the Questions”, in acknowledgment that their transition from home to college and from St. George’s to an uncertain church home would be an opportunity to grow in faith and to find Christ in themselves and in each other.
“The Rev. Ridgeway Addison; an Ordained Baptist Minister and Chaplain in Residence at Georgetown University was the Spiritual Director of the pilgrimage. He led the group through prayer, reflection and meditation in camp and along the trail. Walking from 8 – 10 miles each day provided time to be alone in thought or deep in conversation with a fellow pilgrim.
“We camped in places of great beauty, in a fern glade, alongside a stream and next to a spring full of frogs. Around campfires each night we told stories, we sang, we prayed and we laughed knowing that within weeks we would be scattered, each student beginning a new chapter of their lives and leaving St. George’s and each other behind. This knowledge made conversations more meaningful, prayers more focused, shared song and the laughter more valued.
“At trail’s end the 6 tired and hungry pilgrims and their 4 adult leaders expected to climb into a waiting bus for the long drive home and maybe a stop at McDonalds for dinner. You can imagine their surprise as they rounded the last bend to find their families, a table set for Eucharist and a banquet fit for a king. For most of the group St. George’s had been their only church home, from pre-school to high school. The pilgrim’s years together in St. George’s Sunday School drew to a close around the Eucharistic table.
“it seems that after last summer a particular peace has risen inside of me”
Extract from an e-mail of gratitude recently received from one of the students.
“Student Pilgrims: Maria Colopy, Stephen Dorrance, Leigh Gayle, Anna Jones, Nicholas Sharp; Jonathon Sharp. Adult Pilgrims: The Rev. Ridgeway Addison, Mary Cadwallender, Nick Cadwallender, Casey Hu.
“Many thanks to Jannan Holmes, the Jim Dannals and all the parents for preparing the closing Eucharistic Feast, to George Beddoe for driving the bus and to Gaye and Fletcher for advice on preparing for a pilgrimage.”
Prior to their embarking, Gay Rahn wrote the following about Pilgrimage in the July, 2008 newsletter
“We all are truly pilgrim peoples; always on the move, interiorly if not literally, seeking that which will draw us closer to God – seekers of that which is holy. We may not always name it as such or even always be aware, but if we truly believe we are made in God’s image that within each of us yearns for the Holy One. We are hungry for ways to make more room for God.
“The tradition of pilgrimage is very old indeed. Abraham set out on pilgrimage to the Promised Land; many of the prophets were wanderers; Paul’s missionary journeys are certainly endless pilgrimages; all trusted in the leadership of God. In the early centuries of Christianity, men and women sought to follow God in a literal sense, wherever that might lead. Responding to Jesus’ command of “come, follow me”, some pilgrims went to the known holy places of Jerusalem and Rome, while others set out in tiny frail boats and let the wind, waves and tide direct their course, knowing their journey was as likely to lead to drowning as to a landfall – or they set out along land pathways that went they knew not where and which were fraught with unimaginable risk; they sought holy hermits who had withdrawn from the society of other humans; they visited local holy places such as shrines and wells; but in every case, always the intent was to seek the holy and thus draw closer to God.
“Pilgrimage means leaving home and leaving home means encounters of the new; new people, new places, new experiences, and new perspectives. You are given a broader vision to see the Holy in familiar places at home and unfamiliar places in the rest of the world. St. George’s Senior High Class under the direction and leadership of Nick Cadwallender and Casey Hu will be going on pilgrimage July 27 – 30 in the mountains of western Virginia. They will hike 10 miles a day. Their pilgrimage theme is “Embracing Change – Living the Questions”. Please keep them in your prayers.
“All of us are invited by God to “go on pilgrimage”; to seek the Holy One and summer is a season ripe for such journeys. Your pilgrimage may cross the oceans or be in your backyard, or the Bible study that Carey is offering on Tuesday mornings in July. I invite you to “go on pilgrimage”, to walk a sacred path and discover your sacred space, that core of feeling that is waiting to have life breathed back into it. If you would like help “planning” your pilgrimage, St. George’s clergy can help point you in the direction, just call or email us.
“Hildegard of Bingen was a twelfth-century mystic, composer, and author. She described the Holy One as the greening Power of God. Just as plants are greened, so we are as well. As we grow up, our spark of life continually shines forth. If we ignore this spark this greening power, we become thirsty and shriveled. And, if we respond to the spark, we flower. Our work is to flower, to come into full blossom before our time comes to an end. So come, walk with the Holy One this summer on pilgrimage.”