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Maybe God Wants Us To Get Out More?

August 20, 2010

For the past three weeks, during our Adult Ed hour on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings, we’ve been talking about living our lives as a pilgrimage with and toward God. And now, since the release of the new Julia Roberts movie, “Eat Pray Love” (based on a true story of one woman finding a life-changing spiritual path by dropping everything and traveling the world in search of enlightenment), suddenly the concept of pilgrimage is “hip.”

So the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” blog has posted the following question: “In your tradition, what is the aim of the spiritual journey?” And they’ve posted the responses of many people from many different faith traditions. In my survey of all those, I was struck by how many seemed to dismiss the importance of actually making physical journeys now and then as part of our spiritual journey. I tend to think the physical is necessarily intertwined with the spiritual and so I also think it’s really important for us all to shake up our routines now and again, to go some place we don’t normally go to find and reconnect with God.

This response to the Post‘s question, by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, under the headline, “Pilgrimages Are Needed Now More Than Ever” resonated most with me. And it made me all the more excited for the Youth Group’s hopes and dreams about making some sort of week-long mission trip or pilgrimage next summer and taking some sort of wilderness retreat this coming fall or winter.

Travel is a tried and true way to get away from the demands of life and hear God again… This is a good thing for churches to realize. A few years ago, a seminary colleague and I undertook to study which churches sent us the best students for ministry. There were a few churches that we came to call “seed churches” that just routinely raised up wonderful candidates for ministerial leadership. What were these churches doing right?

There were several characteristics they had in common, like a lot of lay leadership opportunities, but one unexpected trait was church work-trips where lay people volunteered to help folks in need in U.S. urban or rural communities, or around the world. We interviewed people about these work trips and they all said, in one way or another, that they were able to more easily make the connection between what the scripture teaches and what they were doing to help people. Everything just got clearer and simpler on the trip because they were not treading their usual paths in life.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Michael Adams permalink
    August 23, 2010 12:03 pm

    It was very rewarding to Betsy and me when we participated in youth mission trips. Getting urbanized teenagers away from their comforts of concrete and glass and malls was entertaining as well as uplifting to see those young folks transform over the week or two mission. Seeing them thrive in a close knit spiritually united community helping those who were complete strangers at first and who became friends by the end will never be forgotten by us or the youth who were fortunate enough to have been a part of those trips.

    As an “adult,” I’ve come to realize that my pilgrimage begins every time I take that first step out the door.

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