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By Nancy Derr, Church School Director
St. John’s pilgrims from June 2015 – now 11th and 12th graders — are looking forward to presenting to the parish their account of their journey and their insights from it. You can hear them during the forum hour, from 10 to 11 am, in the Parish Hall, on Sunday, November 8, and you can also enjoy their photography show, covering all four walls. Ragan Fewell has prepared a Power Point show for us.
We were away six nights – we spent a night coming and going in Quito, Ecuador, and the middle four nights on the Galapagos, on land, on two islands. Every night we held vespers. “Vespers let us reflect on the day. We got the input of every person. It was crucial to us analyzing the spiritual part of the trip. It made all the difference,” remarks Chris Houlihan. Kate Zehner picked up on that theme: “Some of the other members of the group said things that were really profound and made me think and reflect.”
Here is one of our themes: what made the trip a spiritual pilgrimage? Spencer Stingley thought that “traveling out of my comfort zone was a crucial part of the spiritual experience. I can get caught in a loop of the same things, so the trip out of what my normal habits are allowed for an inward look at myself that wouldn’t happen in my day-to-day life. I also think it was incredibly spiritual because it showed me other life styles and what I have to be thankful for.” And listen to what Olivia Dulany has to say: “I don’t think that to be spiritual you have to travel to a holy land, or spend a lot of time in a place of worship. I think that being spiritual is loving yourself, those around you, and your world, and realizing that everyone and everything matters. And I think that going to the Galapagos and Quito really embodied that definition of spirituality, whether it was learning to appreciate the wonders of nature that our world has to offer, or learning to love one another through the experiences that we shared together.”
Our days were full of activity and of unique and gorgeous moments. Katie Zehner,snorkeling around Kicker Rock, “had a huge sea lion just come and swim up to me and stare me in the face, not fearing me at all, and I found its innocence and trust in humans to be so moving.” Justin Plocki is going to tell you on Sunday his experience on the bike ride, from the top of the high interior of the island, where “time slowed down” taking in the view, through his adventures to the shoreline. Richard Schugar appreciated the new friends he made, and Irina Galbo commented on this as well. “Seeing friendships emerge among people who really didn’t talk much before was also something that was very spiritual for me,” noted Katie. Irina wrote, “I saw God like never before. Going on a pilgrimage helps kids our age experience faith in a different way, more hands on, being able to see the land God created. And in Quito a seven-year old boy asked me if I could buy food for his baby sister. It broke my heart and made me realize how lucky I am to live the life I do.”
The pilgrims took the photos which illustrate this issue of Crossroads: many pilgrims sketched and wrote poems and expressed themselves creatively, and every person at some point reached out to others, in evidence of an enlarged spirit.
Mark Sullivan said he was someone whose “faith in the Christian God and the Holy Trinity is shaky at best.” Nevertheless, “this trip has truly solidified my belief in the spirituality of this world. After witnessing the majesty of the quilted, sprawling Andes, the relaxed innocence of the island wildlife, and the natural purity of a world that remembers a time before humans, there is no doubt in my mind that a spiritual power is at work in our lives and in our universe.”
We thank our congregation for keeping us in their prayers. The three new teachers of the pilgrim class can attest, as the leaders of the pilgrimage can too, that these nine girls and ten boys are striking people, individualistic and original. We hope the pilgrimage played a role in their strong characters. We believe that by our parish’s support of their spiritual growth, we are helping them become people able to enhance others’ lives.