Youth Ministry Universal Permission Form

Youth Ministry Universal Permission Form

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

8009 Fort Hunt Road, Alexandria, VA 22308

Effective Dates: September 1, 2015 — August 31, 2016





A completed Universal Permission Form is required in order for any youth in 6th-12th grades to participate in a St. Luke’s Episcopal Church sponsored youth ministry event. Once submitted, this form is kept on file until the expiration date above. Provide the Assistant Rector updated information as changes occur. Return completed forms to the Assistant Rector at the address printed above.

Youth Information (please print)

Youth’s Name ____________________________ Nickname__________________ Grade ____

DOB _______________ School _______________________________________ Male/Female

Primary Address_______________________________________________________________

Youth’s Email _________________________________________________________________

Youth Home Phone ________________________ Youth Cell Phone _____________________

Parent/ Guardian Information

Name(s) ______________________________________________________________________

Parent Email(s) ________________________________________________________________


List ALL parent/guardians phone numbers in the best order to be reached (please specify type i.e. home, dad’s cell):

Phone #1 _______________________________ Type? ___________________

Phone #2 _______________________________ Type? ___________________

Phone #3 _______________________________ Type? ___________________

Phone #4 _______________________________ Type? ___________________

Phone #5 _______________________________ Type? ___________________

Non-Parent Emergency Contacts

Name_________________________ #_______________________ Relation? _____________

Name_________________________ #_______________________ Relation? _____________

Parental Consent (Read and sign below)

The undersigned does hereby give permission for my child ____________________________ (child’s name)(“Participant”), to attend and participate in any St. Luke’s youth ministry activities, events, and retreats during the period of September 1, 2015 – August 31, 2016.


LIABILITY RELEASE: In consideration of St. Luke’s allowing the Participant to participate in youth ministry (Sunday worship, Sunday meeting, Activities, Events, Retreats, Lock-Ins, Trips), I, the undersigned, do hereby release, forever discharge and agree to hold harmless St. Luke’s, its pastors, directors, employees, volunteers and teachers (collectively herein the “Church”) from any and all liability, claims or demands for accidental personal injury, sickness or death, as well as property damage and expenses, of any nature whatsoever which may be incurred by the undersigned and the Participant while involved in the youth activities. I the parent or legal guardian of this Participant hereby grant my permission for the Participant to participate fully in youth ministry activities, including trips away from the church premises. Furthermore, I, on behalf of my minor Participant, hereby assume all risk of accidental personal injury, sickness, death, damage and expense as a result of participation in recreation and work activities involved therein.


MEDICAL TREATMENT PERMISSION: I authorize an adult, in whose care the minor has been entrusted, to consent to any emergency x-ray examination, anesthetic, medical, surgical or dental diagnosis or treatment and hospital care, to be rendered to the minor under the general or special supervision and on the advice of any physician or dentist licensed under the provisions of the Medical Practice Act on the medical staff of a licensed hospital or emergency care facility. The undersigned shall be liable and agrees to pay all costs and expenses incurred in connection with such medical and dental services rendered to the aforementioned youth pursuant to this authorization.


EARLY RETURN HOME POLICY: Should it be necessary for my child to return home due to medical reasons, disciplinary action or otherwise, the undersigned shall assume all transportation costs and responsibility.


TRANSPORTATION PERMISSION: The undersigned does also hereby give permission for my child to ride in any vehicle driven by an approved and licensed ADULT chaperone (21 years of age or older) while attending and participating in activities sponsored by St. Luke’s. My child and I understand that SEAT BELTS MUST BE WORN AT ALL TIMES during transportation.


PHOTO PERMISSION: During Youth Ministry events, staff or volunteers will sometimes take photos or video of youth participating in various activities. These images may be used by St. James’s for online and/or print publications. Youth will not be identified by name in publications.

Yes. I give permission for my child’s photos to be used as described.

No. I do not want such images published of my child.  



Signature of Parent/Guardian                                               Date



Youth’s Full Name ________________________________________________ DOB _______________



Physician’s Name _____________________________________________________________________

Phone(s) _____________________________________ Fax ___________________________________

Name of practice _____________________________________________________________________

Date of last Tetanus shot (required) ______________________________________________________



Medical Insurance Company: ____________________________ Phone: ______________________ Policy/Group ID#: _________________________________________________________________ Policy Holder’s Name (please print): ____________________________________________________


Copy of Insurance Card (required)—Paste/attach copy here:












List all medications the youth will take during any youth ministry trips, retreats, or events. This includes any prescription, non-prescription medications, herbal supplements and vitamins. Any participant under the age of 18 is required to give ALL MEDICATIONS to the adult youth leader in their original containers with complete dispensing instructions before the start of the event. Youth are not permitted to carry any prescription or non-prescription medication during a youth event. If this occurs, the youth will be sent home immediately at the parent/guardian’s expense.

Medication Name     Dose Treatment for          Dispensing instructions

Example: Zyrtec                 5mgSeasonal allergies     Take one pill daily in the morning with food _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Over-the-Counter Medication Permission: Do you give permission for your child/youth to be given over-the-counter medication as needed and as directed on the label, to treat non-emergency medical conditions that do not require a doctor or hospital visit such as a minor headache, stomachache, or allergic reaction (i.e. Tylenol, Advil, antacids, Benadryl) while at a youth ministry event?

No. Contact me or get medical help if my child has any minor medical concerns.

Parent Signature________________________________________________________________


Yes. I give permission for an adult youth leader to give my child approved over-the-counter medications as directed on an as needed basis to treat non-emergency medical conditions.

Parent Signature________________________________________________________________


MEDICAL CONDITIONS: Please answer in detail if applicable or write N/A. Attach additional pages if necessary.

1.     List any medical conditions of youth (asthma, knee injury, epilepsy, wears contacts, etc.):



2.     List any allergies and the severity and type of reaction (drug/medicine, food, environmental):



3.     Please explain any other pertinent information about the participant (i.e. physical, behavioral, or emotional) that would be important for the adult leaders to know.



Youth Ministry Covenant of Community Expectations


The following rules and guidelines are equally binding for youth and adult leaders/chaperones.


Non-Negotiable Rules

Any participant failing to abide by these rules will be sent home immediately at personal/family expense.

• No use of illicit drugs or alcohol

• Presence at and full participation in all group activities, including adherence to curfews and other time-related instructions

• No sexual misconduct (defined as exposure, touching, or inappropriate reference to body areas normally covered by undergarments)

• Must be in assigned rooms by designated time

• Coed visitation only in assigned community room

• Smoking and the use of tobacco products are not allowed to, from, or during any trip.

• Will not break any American laws in the United States or any other country.

Guidelines for Living in Christian Community

• Adults and youth will be equally responsible for performing assigned tasks in a timely and cooperative manner.

• Participants will be respectful, encouraging, and will maintain a positive attitude toward others at all times, recognizing Christ’s presence in each other.

• Participants will be respectful of both common living spaces and the property of others.

• Participants will avoid the use of foul language, cursing, or any speech (including “humor”) which puts down, makes fun of, or stereotypes other persons or groups.

• Sleeping areas for males and females will be separate.














Youth Participant’s (or Adult Leader’s) Statement: By signing this form, I pledge to honor God and respect others during this activity by following the rules and guidelines printed above. I understand that I cannot participate in the activity unless this completed form is on file.



Youth Participant’s (or Adult Leader’s) Signature                                   Date


Parent/Guardian’s Statement: By signing this form, I agree to support the Covenant of Community Expectations printed above, and will accept responsibility for the payment of my child’s return transportation should s/he break one of the non-negotiable rules.



Parent/Guardian’s Signature                                                      Date

Welcome Table at the Church of the Epiphany in DC

On Sunday February 21st, all three J2A classes will be traveling to the Church of the Epiphany in DC to participate in their Welcome Table program. The Welcome Table is a hospitality program for the homeless. Here is our timeline for the morning.

6am meet at Saint Luke’s parking lot to carpool

6:30am arrival and orientation

7am Our volunteers are divided into groups (by Epiphany staff) that will do one of the following activities.    

        Gospel Art    


        Narcotics Anonymous    

        Bible Study

8am All volunteers and guests gather for worship (Holy Eucharist).

9am All volunteers and guests gather for breakfast.

9:30am Our group will have a theological discussion/debrief with their staff.

10am depart for Saint Luke's



Are you curious about what the "J2A Dinner" is?

The Journey to Adulthood Celebration Dinner is a special event that takes place during the beginning of a new two-year cycle of the Journey to Adulthood program.  The J2A Celebration is especially designed for the class members of the J2A section of the Journey to Adulthood program, with the objective of celebrating the teens’ journey from childhood to adulthood.  The celebration begins with dinner (Italian-themed potluck), followed by two separate and simultaneous liturgies.  One of the two liturgies is a Litany of Dedication intended for the J2A teens, and is a liturgy accompanied by a Eucharist.  The other liturgy, entitled Litany of Offering and Sacrifice, is intended for the J2A teens’ parents.  Both liturgies take place simultaneously but in two separate spaces.   Members of Rite 13 and YAC and their parents participate in the dinner and their role during the evening is to help with clean up after dinner, in this way showing their support for the members of the J2A class.

The Litany of Dedication helps the J2A teens recognize that they are indeed involved in a journey from childhood to adulthood.  As a community of young people, they are purposefully acknowledging that they are at this point in life on a path towards becoming adults as God intends them to be.  They are also committing themselves to walk on this path together, and to strengthen and support each other in joy or sadness.   Above all, they affirm that God is firmly standing with them in their journey.  

The Litany of Offering and Sacrifice helps the parents of the J2A teens to recognize that their children are now in a journey of growth from childhood towards adulthood.  The Litany encourages parents to recall the hopes and fears that they had during their teenage years, and to share their hopes and dreams for their children.

For this occasion, the J2A class members will be special guests at the dinner, and as guests they will not be expected to do any work during the evening.  All parents, however, are asked to host the dinner by bringing a dish.  In addition to being hosts, Rite 13 and YAC members and their parents will be asked to help with set up before and clean up after dinner.

2015-J2A Pilgrimage to Scotland, Day 9 (June 29)

Going Home 

The Edinburgh Hostel is centrally located in the city, only a 20 minute walk from the Royal Mile. The building sits on a corner where buses run on both streets 24 hours a day. There are a few hotels close by, as well as restaurants and drinking establishments. The hostel is a favorite of groups of many ages. We saw a group of Girl Guides as well as middle-aged men who came from Britain to play in a soccer tournament. In the wee hours of the morning, we could easily see the street scene outside our open windows (no air conditioning), and it was easy to hear the group of young men coming back from the pub at 1 am on Monday morning. Our call to load the van was for 5:15 am. Several pilgrims just gave up on sleeping and headed to the reception area early. As we loaded the van we congratulated each other on our success of getting everyone gathered together downstairs, exactly on time. 

 The control tower of Edinburgh Airport

The control tower of Edinburgh Airport

We prayed one last time in the van for a safe journey home for all, and a quiet group of pilgrims set off for the airport. We had heard of new security procedures that were causing delays, and so we arrived extra early - even before the United check-in staff appeared. Finally the staff was ready to begin the check-in process, and we split into several small groups to answer questions and have our passports scanned on a tablet device. The device works only as long as the WiFi system is up and running. Ah, the joys and perils of technology! We breezed through the next step, and all managed to squeak through the security line after rearranging a few gifts here and there. 

We had time for a bite to eat before boarding the plane to Newark and home. All the pilgrims were able to relax and read or people-watch. We took turns watching our for each other and our carry-on luggage. Our eyes were on the prize of a seat on the plane going across the Atlantic. We were going home! And maybe we could get some sleep on the plane!

 View from Terminal C, Newark Liberty International Airport

View from Terminal C, Newark Liberty International Airport

We are happy to report that the flight to Newark was uneventful. When we landed in Newark we knew that we had a 5 hour wait until our flight to Baltimore. The pilgrims found a place to recharge cellphones and stretch out to read or play cards. We found places to buy food and drink. And we found the "Departures" board, which we checked from time to time, happily reporting our flight's "On Time" status. Finally we moved to the appointed gate in Terminal C, and then began a lengthy waiting game. Around 5:00 pm we first learned that the flight was overbooked, and United was offering a $300.00 voucher and a guaranteed seat on a later flight. We encouraged the youngest chaperone to jump at the opportunity, and she was even routed to National instead of BWI. A win-win!! One pilgrim down, and 13 left behind. We knew we'd see her on the other end.


Around 5:45pm the gate attendant announced there was a mechanic problem, and the plane was being repaired. At 6:30 pm two mentors went to customer service to see if there were any other options. We learned there were 10 seats on a flight to National, but then we received a call from a chaperone at the gate that another plane had been commandeered and we would be boarding in a half hour.  We  all gathered our belongings, ready to stand in line to board. By 7:30 pm we came to the conclusion that we were not going to get to Baltimore on either of the two planes that were being repaired in the area where we were waiting. 

Two mentors gathered up the boarding passes and headed to customer service. We just missed an Amtrak connection, but snagged 13 seats on a 9:20 pm flight to National. Success! We rushed over to Terminal A (in a bus that runs between terminals, behind security), fed very hungry pilgrims a bite to eat, and contentedly sat in the waiting area for the plane to board. And sat. And waited. The flight to National was delayed, but finally the gate attendant called for passengers to line up, and we wearily got on a flight around 10:15pm. All of the pilgrims maintained their sunny attitudes and kept calm during the looong wait at Newark, and showed concern, but never any doubt that we'd eventually get home, safe and sound. We knew that some parents were waiting at BWI, and we were able to contact everyone about the change in plans. God was watching over us the whole time.

 Sisters reunited

Sisters reunited

At long last the plane lifted off from Newark, and we touched down at National a short time later, happy to see our families that came to greet us and scoop us up to take us to our homes and beds. Our luggage did not arrive with the pilgrims, even though the chaperones had spent considerable time with customer service to try to make that happen. We found the youngest chaperone's suitcase waiting to be claimed at National, and delivered it to her. 

The parents were very happy to see their exhausted and travel-weary sons and daughters. The chaperones were equally glad to rejoin their families. God was with us all the way. 

The pilgrims dispersed, as pilgrims do. We carry with us images of preparing food for one another, a rocky beach on Iona where Columcille landed with his apostles, a rainy hike, and prayers said every day to relieve the suffering of others. We wonder how we can make a positive difference in the world, or help those in need or want. We marvel that for one whole week, we lived in a close-knit Christian community seeking God, looking for Jesus, and found comfort in tight quarters and time for prayer and reflection.We wonder how we can bring those feelings with us from Scotland to home. Each pilgrim will have to figure that out individually. The journey is worth it when you understand what you found, and strive to ensure the continuance of the witness of Christ. It was a most marvelous and blessed pilgrimage.


2015-J2A Pilgrimage to Scotland, Day 8 (June 28)

Sunday, our last full day in Scotland! We meet in the dining room at the hostel, grab a breakfast consisting of a choice of meats (haggis is one of the  choices), and load up in the van to go to St. John's for the 10:30 am service. We arrive a bit early to make sure Markus knows that we're there and that the readers and chalice bearers know when to move from their seats to the lectern or go to the altar. We arrive in the sanctuary just as the prior service ends, and talk with people in the narthex and nave.

 Development Campaign fundraiser

Development Campaign fundraiser

There is a huge bulletin board in the back filled with magnets, a device used to solicit funds for St. John's development campaign. For 1 pound you can remove a magnet covering the face of a well-known humanitarian. Welcome brochures are placed at the end of each pew, making "Welcome" very prominent at St. John's. We see Mary and Bill, and Father Markus, and other congregants begin to engage the pilgrims. These folks are very good at welcoming the stranger! A Presbyterian choir from Houston sings the service music, so the church is filled with Americans and tourists and regulars alike. 

 St. John's nave prior to the 10:30 am service on June 28.

St. John's nave prior to the 10:30 am service on June 28.

The preacher is Sarah Kilbey, a team priest. She focuses on the Gospel reading from Mark 5:21-43. Sarah is profoundly deaf, and this reading struck a very personal chord with her. She preached how we can each use our gifts to touch one another and help heal our broken souls. And the fact is that each of us has a gift, though it may not be readily discernable. The pilgrims who volunteered to take part in the service perform their duties admirably. The familiarity of the Episcopal service engulfs us, making us feel quite at home. We retreat to the parish hall for the coffee hour, and spend time speaking with clergy and congregants, sharing experiences and life stories, and discovering common ground. 

Too soon we need to move on once again. The hours to spend in Edinburgh enjoying its sights and attractions are dwindling. There is one more mountain to climb, Arthur's Seat, and a few more gifts for loved ones at home to be bought. We overwhelm the attendant at the hostel cafe with our lunch orders, but discover that the food is quite delicious. Pilgrims who are going hiking give money to the group heading to the Royal Mile for some last minute purchases of shortbread. We split into two groups, and enjoy the partly sunny day with moderate temperatures, blessed again with dry weather. A bit breezy, perhaps, but we're not complaining! 

 A breezy climb to the top of Arthur's Seat

A breezy climb to the top of Arthur's Seat

At the appointed hour, all the pilgrims gather in the reception area to head to dinner. John has made reservations for the "celebration dinner" at an English Pub-style restaurant. Everyone likes the sound of this! Sure enough, there are choices such as the traditional fish and chips, and steak and mashed potato, but also scallops or salmon quiche. John orders bread with 3 different dipping sauces for the entire group. Each pilgrim finds an entrée to their liking, and we are all blessed once again with a terrific meal and opportunity for fellowship. Best of all, we have dessert, too, sampling a Scottish ice cream flavor.

At the end of this delicious meal, we retired to a conference room in the hostel for the final evening program. We lit a candle, and shared thoughts with each other about how Christ graced us with His presence during the week we spent together. The week was very special. Each pilgrim carries in their heart their own unique story and interpretation of the pilgrimage. Each will remember a moment that only they experienced and felt. But the group has a collective experience, too, that was lived by the community that came together on Sunday, June 21 at the sign on the side of Fort Hunt Road, and grew when John met us in Edinburgh. We grew together, learning that living in community has its ups and downs. Our love for Christ seems to be a bit stronger, and we gained new confidence in our faith and ability to venture away from home. We came home changed by the grace of God through our interactions with each other and with others. 

All the pilgrims were charged with packing that evening due to a very early departure time on Monday morning. Reality set in that we would leave Scotland within a few hours. 

2015-J2A Pilgrimage to Scotland, Day 7 (June 27)

Saturday, June 27 in Edinburgh - our busy, adventurous day.

 2007 - St Luke's J2A Pilgrims visit Platform 9 3/4 in London

2007 - St Luke's J2A Pilgrims visit Platform 9 3/4 in London

In 2007, St. Luke's J2A pilgrims spent their last day in London seeking out Platform 9 3/4, where Harry Potter catches the Hogwarts Express. In 2015, Harry Potter continues to cast a spell on this set of pilgrims as we follow the footsteps of J. K. Rowling by exploring the St. Andrews Building at the University of Glasgow earlier in the week, and talk about seeking out the cafe in Edinburgh called The Elephant House, where she wrote the first manuscript of the Harry Potter series. The pilgrims of 2015 are voracious readers, and have enjoyed the books and films from a tender age. As they mature, they continue to get a thrill from Harry Potter. They appreciate the creativity and resourcefulness of the author, and are in awe of the perseverance she demonstrated to pursue her dream of publishing her work. J.K. Rowling is a hero in their eyes, as well as a role model.

As soon as we finish breakfast, we pile into the van to go about our selected adventures during a "free time" in Edinburgh. Some choose to head to the Edinburgh Castle for an infusion of history while others begin the day at the bottom of the crag, at the Queen's Palace. John discovered that the car park closest to Holyrood was closed, and we see evidence of a special occasion. There are tents set up in the gardens of Holyrood and police barricades to control vehicle and foot traffic along the Royal Mile. We begin to speculate that Will and Kate are here! Excitement bubbles in the van as we anticipate a royal sighting. John drops offs the "lower Royal Mile" group and we set off in an uphill direction. Within minutes the group sees a military parade head in our direction, and the units stop in front of the Cannongate Kirk. It is the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and Armed Forces Day.

 June 27, 2015- 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and Armed Forces Day

June 27, 2015- 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and Armed Forces Day

All throughout the day the pilgrims see various military units and bagpipe bands march through the streets, proudly bearing their colors and pride in the rich history of Scottish military accomplishments.

 Lads and Lasses

Lads and Lasses

Finally we receive intelligence that the Duke of Kent will represent the Royal House at ceremonies marking the occasion. Not as exciting as Will and Kate, but the Duke of Kent is a first cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, and is known to be a kind man - a genuine member of the Royal Family. The pilgrims spot his motorcade and cameras click.

Stores selling shortbread, Christmas ornaments and woolens attract our attention, and as we reach mid-way in the Royal Mile we realize that we need to stop somewhere for lunch before our 1:30 meeting time.

 The Elephant House

The Elephant House

The Elephant House is the agreed upon next stop, and there we find lots of choices for an appealing lunch. This cafe is a mecca for Harry Potter fans, and the cafe does a brisk business in HP memorabilia. They also sponsor book-readings for aspiring authors in support of Edinburgh's thriving writing community. If you ever visit, make sure you head to the loo with a sharpie to make your visit complete! 

 We suggest you bring your own sharpie.

We suggest you bring your own sharpie.

At 1:30 that afternoon, we met our guide David for the "Underground City of the Dead Ghost Tour." A daylight ghost tour? Well, it turns out that David leads us swiftly down a set of stairs and further downhill to a place where vaults under the South Bridge were built within the arches to house the city's poorest and neediest, and most damned. And they were quite dark and scary. And dirty. (Did I mention dark?) As well as haunted. David told lurid tales of a hardscrabble life for thousands of poor souls whose life expectancy dropped dramatically when they entered the city limits of Edinburgh and came to live in the vaults.We were all touched by the feelings of complete desolation and abandonment that the vault dwellers felt, and grieved at the horrid conditions to which they were subjected. We said many prayers for the lost souls who lived under such abysmal conditions, and gave thanks that we are much more fortunate and blessed.

 David, our guide for the "Underground City" tour

David, our guide for the "Underground City" tour

One of the blessings bestowed upon the pilgrims was knowing that our evening meal on Saturday was provided for us by Emma's parents, Mary and Bill. We refreshed ourselves at the hostel, and met Mary and Bill at the rectory of St. John's. Along with the Mary and Bill, we were greeted and welcomed by the rector, Markus, and Andrew and Amanda, who had resided with the Iona Community for three years. Mary prepared the salad and main dishes, and fruit and ice cream for desserts. Markus made the most delicious cheesecake imaginable. The dining room at the rectory rang with conversation and laughter, and after the presentation of a few gifts to our hosts, we had to leave too soon to meet our next appointment, an evening walking tour of Edinburgh As we were preparing to leave, Markus met with the volunteer readers and chalice bearers to provide guidance in preparation for the service on Sunday. Amanda and Andrew taught us to sing a prayer they learned in Iona (in 2 parts!). We reluctantly left the comforts of the rectory to head to our evening walking tour.

 Saints and Sinners Tour, Edinburgh

Saints and Sinners Tour, Edinburgh

The pilgrims met Peter, the guide for the "Saints and Sinners" tour at 8:30pm. There was still plenty of daylight left in the evening. Our tour began at Charlotte Square in the New Town, and finished up several miles later at St. Giles. In between Peter revealed the ancient history of Edinburgh, a city founded on a crag, a defunct volcano. During Medieval times the residents lived within the city walls and knew little of the world beyond. (Hence the tavern named "World's End.")

 The outer boundary of Edinburgh - in the Sixteenth Century

The outer boundary of Edinburgh - in the Sixteenth Century

As the city grew, the building got taller, then city fathers built bridges over the sewage that flowed down either side, and added more stories to the existing buildings. There are some structures in the oldest parts of Edinburgh that are 14 stories high! Peter led us through the graveyards and along the King's Stable Road to the Grass Market, telling stories along the way that revealed life throughout the centuries in the city. We stood in front of Alexander Graham Bells's birthplace, and paused at the church where Agatha Christie was married (a bit clandestinely, apparently). We hear tales of hangings (some not as successful as others), literary figures, inventors, and robbers and thieves. Peter paints a vivid portrait of life in Edinburgh throughout the centuries, enlightened as well as murky. We are all fascinated by the stories, and come away with a better sense of the history of the city and its peoples. We bid Peter a reluctant farewell at the end of the entertaining tour, wishing there was more time to further explore the alleys and closes on either side of the Royal Mile. 


John tells us the van is nearby, and we gladly pile in for a short ride back to the hostel. We meet one last time for "Joy, Junk and Jesus", sharing our thoughts of thankfulness for the good weather, the blessings of our life (none of us had spend our precious childhood working as a chimney sweep), and the joys of community. The day has been filled with the sights and sounds of a vibrant city. We were blessed with the warmth and graciousness of a home-cooked meal and immediate affinity with the people of St. John's, and blessed by the talents of knowledgeable and entertaining tour guides who painted vivid images of times past.

We went to bed tired of body and feet, well-fed in food and knowledge and adventure. Tomorrow would be our last full day in Scotland. 

2015-J2A Pilgrimage to Scotland, Day 6 (June 26)

All the pilgrims stayed up a bit late Thursday night, and we appeared for  Friday breakfast like a groggy group of sleep-walkers seeking caffeine injections. Bed linens had to be stripped and brought to the reception area, and luggage brought out to the bus. We lugged and loaded, made a take-away lunch, met for a sleepy morning prayer and took our seats in the bus. 


Our only planned stop for the day before reaching Edinburgh was a hike in The Trossachs, a mountainous area between Glasgow and Edinburgh. John brought us safely to a parking spot at a trailhead in the park, and pilgrims prepared for a wet-weather hike. 

 The West Loch Lomand Cycle Path

The West Loch Lomand Cycle Path

A few decided early on to retreat to the cafe located one mile down the bike path that paralleled a brook. The cafe had toilets and a camp store, offering a welcome place to warm up and dry out. Strolling along the paved bike path at a leisurely pace, pilgrims were able to appreciate the sounds of the brook and falling rain and breathe in the fresh air. Apparently the common toad has to compete with cars in its rush from hills to water when it breeds in the spring, and an effort to raise awareness of the toad's plight appears on a signpost:

 Toad awareness campaign

Toad awareness campaign


The majority of pilgrims hiked into the heights of the hills, encountering beautiful vistas when the clouds lifted. But as the pilgrims ascended, they entered the cloud cover, and the temperatures dropped, so they reluctantly agreed that it was safer to turn around before reaching the summit. 

 Ferns cling to the steep hillside along the bike path

Ferns cling to the steep hillside along the bike path

All the hikers were happy to return to the bus, and we soon set off to pick up the rest of the group who were returning from the cafe along the trail. John took us all into the closest town for a cup of soup to accompany our bag lunches, and we ordered hot chocolates, coffees and teas to further warm ourselves. 


John pointed the van in the direction of Edinburgh, and soon enough the countryside gave way to the suburbs of the city, and quickly, we found ourselves right smack dab in the center, pulling up to the Edinburgh Central Hostel. Again we unloaded the luggage, trotted into the reception area, and received room keys for our last place of accommodation. Being so close to dinner time, the pilgrims opted to get settled and enjoy access to WiFi at the hostel before heading to the Indian restaurant for dinner.


John went in advance to the restaurant to choose a selection of appetizers and main dishes for the pilgrims to experience the richness and tastiness of Indian cuisine at Khushi's, a fixture in Edinburgh since 1947. Everyone found something to like, and tasted new flavors not before experienced. The pilgrims were open to stretching their palates as they ate papadum, relishes, and 3 different appetizers and 3 different main courses. We all agreed it was delicious. And some of it was HOT!

The group left the restaurant to buy ice cream at the Tesco just down the street from Khushi's. The ice cream soothed any burning leftover from the highly spiced dishes. We headed back to the hostel for a round of Junk, Joy and Jesus, and evening prayer. There was much joy to be found in the hiking and fellowship of the meal. Wet jeans engendered a little "junk". Jesus was with us, particularly when we supported each other. The pilgrims retired to our rooms for an 11pm lights out, happy to be in a place of dryness, warmth, and comfort, and thankful to be well-fed.

2015-J2A Pilgrimage to Scotland, Day 5 (June 25)

An account of the day: Thursday, June 25

Catered breakfast! Very hot coffee, very hot tea water, two types of potatoes, two choices of grilled meat, grilled tomatoes(!), scrambled eggs and toast. Oh, and cereal, yogurt, juice and milk. The pilgrims filled their plates and ate heartily in anticipation of a visit to a castle and an afternoon touring Glasgow.

 Craignethan Castle,  South Lanarkshire, Scotland

Craignethan Castle, South Lanarkshire, Scotland

We packed lunches to-go, piled into the bus and hurtled along the motorway toward the haunted  Craignethan Castle in the countryside. John S faithfully followed Tommy's (the Tom-Tom GPS) orders, making several turns and finally trundled onto a pothole-ridden driveway. We pulled up next to a farmhouse with a "beware of dog" sign posted on the gate, and wondered where the castle ruins could be. We stepped carefully around the nettles found just outside the bus step, and headed off down a path toward a corrugated building. There was no sign of a castle. We shrugged our shoulders, dusted off our feet and decided to look elsewhere.

With the pilgrims reseated in the bus, John headed back out to search for the last signpost to the site, determined to get us to our appointed destination. A few pilgrims had a vision of a castle and suggested a right hand turn at the end of the farmer's driveway. That proved to be the right direction, but the castle was set in a gorge at the base of a hill about 2 hills distant from the first stop. We discovered that on pilgrimage one's eyesight becomes remarkably stronger.

Craignethan Castle was the last medieval castle built in Scotland and was occupied for only about a dozen years by its owner before he fell from royal grace and was executed. A few decades later remnants of the family offended the king so much that the castle was torn down to prevent further occupation. The beauty and majesty of the remains are a testament to the vision of its builder who studied architecture in Italy. Its impermanence is likewise a testament to the choices and decisions one makes to live according to your own moral compass, and still be willing to face the consequences.

 Dew-soaked spider's web at Craignethan Castle

Dew-soaked spider's web at Craignethan Castle

One sincerely doubts that the original residents envisioned a frisbee being thrown from the Great Hall to the Musician's gallery, or that a frisbee would breech the castle's fortress walls. But on this day that came to pass.

 A Frisbee breeches the walls at Craignethan

A Frisbee breeches the walls at Craignethan

We turned the bus back toward Glasgow to explore the cathedrals of St. Andrew and Glasgow, and see the Necropolis. Rain fell steadily in the middle part of the day as we spent time at the two very different cathedrals. The St. Andrew's Cathedral building dates from 1819, but has undergone recent renovations to worship spaces that give it a very contemporary vibe. The prayer garden in an outdoor courtyard contains stainless steel columns etched with scripture verses and prayers. A water feature masks the sound of traffic from the busy street and reminds us of the significance and importance of this life-giving element.

 Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

The next stop was Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. Glasgow Cathedral dates from 1197. The pilgrims scurried between the raindrops to enter the Cathedral. They were greeted by a stark contrast to St. Andrew's. This building survived The Reformation so its interior retains a Scottish Gothic essence although it sported sets of contemporary stained glass windows. Pilgrims roamed the huge structure and wandered through its many levels and multiple/flexible worship spaces. In every corner there was evidence of recent worship activity. St. Mungo's episcopal seat was Glasgow, and his remains are in a crypt on the ground floor of the building. He and St. Columba are said to have met.

The pilgrims retired to St. Mungo's museum next door, mainly to escape the now driving rain and seek refreshments in the cafe (thank you, John and Wonder Voyage!). A view of the Necropolis from the top floor of the museum became our weather barometer. A majority of the pilgrims decided to forge ahead to climb the Necropolis and while those who stayed in the museum explored the exhibits displaying art from various religious traditions and an exhibit on the traditions involving the celebration of rites of passage by a variety of religious sects.

 Glasgow Cathedral (St. Mungo's) and The Necropolis

Glasgow Cathedral (St. Mungo's) and The Necropolis

It's not unusual for mysterious and wonderful things to happen while on pilgrimage. As the hours of living in community and being mindful of God's presence add up, the eyes of our hearts are opened. Sometimes we see castles, and sometimes we see gravestones. One gravestone in particular moved the group that walked through the Necropolis and they joined together to frame an appropriate response. Jesus was most present in their lives as they sorted through the circumstances and consequences of the loss of a loved one. They looked to the Lord for guidance and to each other for support. They prayed that those suffering from grief would find comfort from a seemingly inconsolable loss. This was a lesson that Christ's death brings us into everlasting life. We can be redeemed and consoled.

A short bus ride brought the pilgrims back to the hostel to enjoy a bit of free time. We broke into small groups to explore Glasgow before Team 1, nicknamed "Team Haggis",  reported for kitchen duty.

 Free time in Glasgow - an attraction listed on the map from the hostel

Free time in Glasgow - an attraction listed on the map from the hostel

At 8:30 all the pilgrims gathered at the table for Stone Soup Deux. After grace was said, the team presented plates of prawn with cocktail sauce. The main course was served family style, and the team marched the bowls and  platters of peas, mashed turnips, grilled tomatoes and haggis into the dining room while singing the tune of "Scotland the Brave". It was all very delicious. Dessert was shortbread with a topping of Nutella, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. All in all, a very equal reply to the gauntlet cast by Team Cockaleekie.

 Haggis, mashed turnips, peas and grilled tomatoes

Haggis, mashed turnips, peas and grilled tomatoes

An evening of sharing and compline completed the day. The pilgrims said additional prayers for specific people and causes in the hope that our prayers will help them in some way.

Despite the rain, the day was filled with Joy and Jesus. Junk seemed to be inconsequential today.

2015-J2A Pilgrimage to Scotland, Day 4 (June 24)

Wednesday was quite full of wonderful experiences for the pilgrims, culturally, personally and spiritually. Read on!

 Walking toward the Abbey for the last time.

Walking toward the Abbey for the last time.

Wednesday was a travel day from Iona to Glasgow. All were sad to leave Iona, but new adventures awaited.  The pilgrims were charged with meeting the 8:50 am ferry after the 8:am Eucharist. On Tuesday evening we learned about an opportunity to worship at the Episcopal church, located at The Bishop's House on the edge of the village. Rev. Gwyneth Murphy, from Chappaqua, NY, was in residence at the retreat center there for a week. Each morning visitors and residents gather to worship in the Anglican tradition. Our group woke early to ensure our bags were packed in time to walk the 25 minutes into the village. Our group of 15 soon filled the small nave, joining the 6-7 already there ahead of us. Rev Gwenyth bade everyone welcome and explained that our group may need to step out before the end to catch the ferry. But she lead us through the entire liturgy, not skipping a step, including a meaningful homily on the scripture reading from Matthew. Soon enough we were exchanging greetings of peace and introducing ourselves to Episcopalians from around the world. Then we all gathered around the alter to receive communion. After the dismissal, the pilgrims gave effusive good-byes to our fellow communicants and extended invitations to worship at St. Luke's in Virginia.  We felt so blessed to celebrate a Eucharist in Iona with the familiar words of our religious heritage. And the pilgrims were struck by Reverend Gwenyth's gold sequin slippers.

 Eucharist at The Bishop's House with the Rev'd Gwyneth Murphy and St. Luke's Pilgrims (Wonder Voyage photo)

Eucharist at The Bishop's House with the Rev'd Gwyneth Murphy and St. Luke's Pilgrims (Wonder Voyage photo)


The pilgrims moved on to the ferry quay and claimed our roll-on baggage that had been taxied to the dock. All felt a bit sad to leave Iona, knowing we will miss its serenity, beautiful natural setting and spiritual nourishment.

 Leaving Iona

Leaving Iona

The pilgrims loaded the van in Fionaphort for the ride to the next ferry to take us to Oban, where we had time to explore the heights of the town and browse its shops. As we traveled the one-lane road on the Island of Mull, we learned that on Wednesday and Thursday nights the pilgrims would prepare their own meals using the kitchen facilities at the Glasgow Youth Hostel. These are called the "Stone Soup" meals. The adult and youth pilgrims were split into 2 teams. Each team set a menu, developed recipes and a shopping list, and shopped for the items within a 45 minutes, with a budget of 75 pounds. To top it off, this was a friendly competition. Two adults were assigned to judge the results to determine a winner. Teams had to pitch their menu to the judges prior to shopping. The judges  awarded points based on originality of the menu, teamwork, presentation and tastiness. The game was on!

As we waited to board the ferry in Craignure, Team 1 members sat down in the local coffee shop with an elderly couple to talk food. Team 2 members consulted with ferry passengers. Everyone they spoke to suggested haggis.

Team 2 approached the judges first with a proposal for a four course meal, and also asked to serve on Wednesday. Permission was granted.

We made good use of our time in Oban, exchanging money, exploring McCraig's Memorial, shopping for souvenirs, and enjoying a lunch of fresh shellfish, smoked salmon or crab sandwiches. Supplemental Subway sandwiches filled up empty stomachs. Before the pilgrims left Oban, John S surprised us with a stop at a shop that makes their own ice cream each day. Lovely flavors tickled our tongues, making this stop one worthy of our time.

 Lunch in Oban at the Shellfish Shack

Lunch in Oban at the Shellfish Shack

The drive toward Glasgow followed Loch Lomand for many miles. Food buying and preparation was uppermost in our minds and the pilgrims made a grocery run before checking into the hostel. The teams raced through the aisles of Tesco in search of the ingredients needed for their dishes. Both teams finished at the same time and assembled at the checkout so John could pay. Both teams spent just under 70 pounds to feed 15 people.

 Pilgrims purchase grocery items for "Stone Soup" in Glasgow

Pilgrims purchase grocery items for "Stone Soup" in Glasgow

The pilgrims were happy to pull up in front of the hostel. As we unloaded groceries, luggage and backpacks onto the sidewalk, we chatted with a youth choir from Chapel Hill, NC.

The pilgrims took bags to their respective rooms, and Team 2 reported for kitchen duty.

At the appointed hour the pilgrims gathered for the evening meal and were treated to a magnificent and scrumptious feast. Bread and cheddar, cockaleekie soup, shepherds pie and fruit brûlée. Team 2's efforts are evidence of a truly outstanding undertaking and presentation.

 Delicious cockaleekie soup

Delicious cockaleekie soup

Team 1's spirits were not dimmed by the high bar set for the competition. They immediately took action, launching a social media campaign: #holdingoutforhaggis.

A well-fed bunch of pilgrims congregated in the TV lounge for a session of "Junk, Joy and Jesus" and evening prayer.

All of the pilgrims expressed joy felt during many moments of the day, and enumerated the many times Jesus had his hand on our shoulders. Creating a menu, shopping and cooking stretched the pilgrims and led us onto new paths of exploration.

The entire group benefitted from the exercise, and it brought us closer together.

The pilgrims were sent to our beds with a very pleasing directive: sleep late! Breakfast at 8:30am. Amen!

2015-J2A Pilgrimage to Scotland, Day 3 (June 23)

Our only full day on Tuesday in Iona was well spent. We attended a Morning Prayer service at Iona Abbey as well as an evening healing prayer service. In between, we ate a marvelous breakfast of scrambled eggs, sautéed mushrooms and toast at our hostel. We assembled  sandwiches to pack, chose a bag of "crisps"  and added a banana (they were huge!) or a tasty apple. After we filled our water bottles, we set off for St. Columba's Bay to visit the spot where St. Columba and 12 brother monks landed on Iona so many centuries ago.

 Dune I, the highest point on Iona

Dune I, the highest point on Iona

The peak of Dune I beckoned the pilgrims. The mountain filled our view from the Hostel's kitchen window, and as we walked toward the Abbey for the second time that day, its heights called out to the pilgrims' youthful spirit and energy. Views from the top are spectacular as reported by those who climbed to the tip-top.

After everyone regrouped at the base we strode along the one-lane road for only a few more minutes, past farm homes and fields of sheep and a Celtic cross. Our next stop was to tour the Abbey, its grounds and the small museum. A rich history of saints, famous and ordinary, was told through stone carvings, restored buildings and the ministry of the residents of the Iona Community.

 St. Martin's Cross on the Abbey grounds has stood on this spot for 1,200 years.

St. Martin's Cross on the Abbey grounds has stood on this spot for 1,200 years.

We walked through the ruins of the Nunnery and continued past the ferry landing to head to the southern end of Iona. We reached a beautiful field that stretched for hundreds and hundreds of yards. Indeed, it was part of the Iona Golf Course. Just past the sand trap for Fairway #3, our path rose a bit higher to overlook the edge of the island. We continued onward and at last were greeted with a most surprising site- a beach of smooth rounded stones, large to small, tens of feet high, overlooking a very small inlet. Hillsides on either side rose sharply from the beach, and one large rock outcropping  in the middle of the beach sent out its siren call to the adventurous. The acoustics of the bay are interesting. Pilgrims on the beach could hear conversations from the hillside, and vice versa. The stones were warm and colorful. The grassy area was soft and comfortable. We ate our sandwiches, chose rocks to bring home, laughed and talked, climbed hills, and rested our sore calves. We walked the narrow paths of two labyrinths made of stone, created by pilgrims who preceded us.

 Lunch at St. Columba's Bay

Lunch at St. Columba's Bay

As we left, we each chose a stone from the special place in the life of Christianity to add to a cairn, a "way marker" in formation. John Spencer, our most wonderful Wonder Voyage director, told us cairns were built along pathways to guide pilgrims to holy places, and mark thoroughfares in earlier times. He shared with us his tradition of offering a prayer for someone special or for a particular concern and placing a rock from the beach onto the cairn before leaving this beautiful bay. The pilgrims stood silently as each in our turn walked to the cairn, placed our rock onto the monument and quietly strode toward the path toward home, contemplating our prayers.

 Stones of Iona on the beach at St. Columba's Bay

Stones of Iona on the beach at St. Columba's Bay

Dinner in Iona awaited us, and we eagerly devoured our evening repast. Seafood at Martyr's Bay Restaurant is excellent!

After a beautiful evening healing prayer service, complete with laying on of hands, the pilgrims, weary but spiritually nourished, walked back to the hostel where our beds welcomed us. Before everyone retired, we went around the room for "Joy, Junk and Jesus."  Each pilgrim revealed a moment from the day that sparked great joy, the moment of deepest despair and the moment when the presence of Jesus was most evident.

We heard from John S. of the opportunity to celebrate Eucharist with an American Episcopalian priest in residence for one week at The Bishop's House at 8:00 am Wednesday morning. We agreed to an early start for the next day and headed off to our rooms to sleep for the last night on Iona.

2015-J2A Pilgrimage to Scotland - Day 1 and 2 (June 21-22)

An account of the journey by an adult chaperone

 Pilgrims pose for the obligatory send-off photo in front of the church sign.

Pilgrims pose for the obligatory send-off photo in front of the church sign.

On Sunday, June 21, the J2A Pilgrimage participants officially began our journey with a picture-taking, and a prayer.  The pilgrims were caravanned to BWI by parents and spouses. Nine youths and 5 adult chaperones arrived in Scotland at 11 am on Monday morning, and were greeted by John Spencer of Wonder Voyage. John took us well in hand, jammed our luggage into a 17-passenger van, and headed toward Iona, a few hours drive and two ferry rides from Edinburgh. Along the way he described the scenery, what to expect in Iona, and supplied useful information about Scotland and the coming week's itinerary. Most of the riders in the bus quickly nodded off.

 Isle of Mull

Isle of Mull

We stopped in Oban for lunch at a kiosk on the quay for authentic fish and chips. The weary travelers perked up at the thought of food and the feel of fresh air on our faces. We learned that the first ferry ride would be only 45 minutes, and the second a mere 15 minutes. We were taking an inner passage, essentially island hopping, so there would not be any open sea crossings. Several pilgrims heaved a sigh of relief since a few had never been on a ferry and had dramamine tablets handy. We were blessed with spectacular weather (no rain!), and ate our fish and chips outside at the Oban waterfront. The ferry was a large boat, capable of transporting lorries, hauling tankers and full size motor coaches. There were several levels where passengers could sit, inside or outside, and the ferry also had a sit-down pub, a cafeteria and a small gift shop. Best of all, there were toilets!

 Ferry from Oban to Craignure

Ferry from Oban to Craignure

The first ferry ride went smoothly, and John made sure we were all in the van before docking at Craignure on the Isle of Mull. Since our plane landed later than anticipated, any extra time built into the schedule to allow for cushion to catch the Iona ferry flew out the window. John had to traverse a one-lane road to catch the last ferry to Iona. We are happy to report that God blessed us yet once again with perfect timing, and we had 10 minutes to spare at Fionnphort. We unloaded our bags from the van (no tourist vehicles are allowed on Iona), John went to the local store for basic breakfast provisions, and we all walked onto the ferry to Iona.

 View of Iona

View of Iona


The crossing took only 15 minutes. John led us up the ramp to a taxi that had a small trailer attached to it. Lindsey, the driver, took our bags to the north end of Iona, to our accommodations at Iona Hostel. We shouldered our knapsacks and walked the 2 km to reclaim our suitcases and find our beds, passing Iona Abbey on our way to the hostel. 

 Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey

We settled into our rooms, and gathered together to walk back to the village for dinner at Martyr's Bay Restaurant. None of the pilgrims asked how long we had been up on our feet or moving, and we all enjoyed the delicious offerings of the restaurant. Most of the pilgrims walked back to the hostel, and a few took the taxi back. 

 The main highway on Iona

The main highway on Iona

We met in the great room/kitchen of the hostel for the Wonder Voyage "induction" and evening prayer. John had us make introductions, and he explained that Wonder Voyage was here to facilitate the pilgrims' experience, to make sure that accommodations, food and transportation were available so we could experience God and His wonder without having to worry unduly about basic necessities. (John did this extremely well!) He stressed the importance of safety, and gave us a preview of the next day's schedule. The pilgrims, by this point, were seriously nodding their heads after the many hours of vertical and seated movement, and the youth were sent to their rooms for much needed sleep. It was close to midnight in Scotland, but there was just a bit of sunlight in the sky so far north of the equator. The cool temperatures and fatigue helped all of us sleep well that first night. We felt grateful to be cared for by Wonder Voyage and John Spencer, to be nourished by the bounty found in the abundance of food on Iona, and to feel so close to God at the north end of an island on the western edge of Scotland.

St. Luke's J2A Pilgrimage to Germany

St. Luke’s J2A Germany Pilgrimage

Skip's account of the journey

June 22 – July 1, 2013

June 22:  Gathering and Blessing of the Pilgrims

Pilgrims ready to Depart

On a bright, sunny Saturday, the intrepid pilgrims of St. Luke’s 2012-13 J2A class gathered at St. Luke’s to begin our journey to Germany.  Fourteen youth and six adult advisors assembled with great expectations and much excitement.  We were about to lead these young adults on a voyage of discovery so that they could encounter God in a different way.

Tuck gathered us together for a blessing, reminding us that we would be ambassadors for St. Luke’s in a foreign land and asking for God’s blessing.  Unfortunately, my mind was focused on the logistics of the trip -- worrying about late arrivers, wondering about border crossings, praying that we would not become separated from any in our party in the many planned transportation connections during the trip.  I found it difficult in that moment to focus on Tuck’s message – not an auspicious start for a spiritual journey.

The transfer out to Dulles Airport went very smoothly, and all the pilgrims got checked in and through security with plenty of time to spare.  The flight was full, but otherwise uneventful.  With the pilgrims all safely ensconced and resting for our first stop, a 7 hour lay-over in Copenhagen, it became easier to relax and focus on the reason for the journey.  I reflected back on the story Tuck had told us of St. Alban’s martyrdom in Copenhagen – how he refused to renounce his faith, even at the cost of his life.  Pilgrims are not martyrs, but they are seeking to experience God in a new way.

I opened my carry-on and took out a book of meditations Marjy had given me some time ago to look at the section on the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard.  Kierkegaard writes about the unchangeable nature of God, that God loves us and all those around us, no matter what we do.  Remembering that this love is freely given by God, that we don’t have to earn it, in Kierkegaard’s view, helps us “triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for

Luther House- Wittenberg

the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment.”  He writes that, if a person could will one thing, one single thing to which the human heart and mind should strive, that would be to know God.  But as sinners, our search for God entails both promise and pain.

As I pondered those prayers of Kierkegaard, I recalled that, all morning long, the song “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” had been running through my head.  Now, in the darkened and hushed cabin of the aircraft, I suddenly understood why.

Hymn 171

1. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God

and his righteousness,

And all these things shall be added unto you.

Allelu, alleluia.

2. Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by ev’ry word

That proceeds from the mouth of God.

Allelu, alleluia.

3. Ask, and it shall be given unto you.

Seek, and ye shall find.

Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.

Allelu, alleluia.


June 23:  The LONG day

On the first LONG day, the pilgrims learned that feet hurt after a day of much walking, particularly over cobblestone streets. The pilgrims also

Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

encountered figures and famous locations from literature (Hans Christian Andersen), church history (St. Alban), philosophy (Soren Kierkegaard), and modern history (Adolf Hitler, the Berlin Wall, the new Berlin Holocaust Memorial, and Checkpoint Charlie). And then we rested.

We all arrived safe and sound; all but Dorothy's bag, which enjoyed Copenhagen so much, it decided to stay an extra day.

The trip over went very smoothly. We landed early in Copenhagen and easily were waved thru immigration. The only thing they wanted to know was, "why do you have to go on to Germany, there is so much to do here?"

Man, Copenhagen is dead at 8 am Sunday Morning!

Our first impression was "where is everybody?”  Copenhagen on an early Sunday morning is pretty empty, if you don’t count the parked bicycles. We visited the castle island which houses the impressive Danish Parliament building (center). With nothing open at that hour except McDonalds, we decided to walk through the off and on sunshine and gathering clouds to see the Little Mermaid statue. Quite a long (around 2 1/2 hour) walk through some charming parts of Copenhagen and along the shipping channel and canals.

Copenhagen Canal

The area around the statue itself was very crowded, with large numbers of Chinese and German tourists. We also passed swarms of Danish joggers on the way. One comment our pilgrims had is that most Danes seem to be thin and fit.  Another commented on how well all Danes of whom we asked directions spoke English (excellent, since none of us can speak Danish), and how friendly and willing they were to provide directions.

An idyllic site for our Sunday worship

After visiting the statue, we returned to St Alban's Anglican Church. Tuck had told us about the martyrdom of St Alban and of the church before we left, illustrating the point of conviction of faith (this will be an essential backdrop when we get to Buchenwald and talk about Paul Schneider and Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

The schedule of services unfortunately did not fit with our tight time window, but we did get to hear their choir practice in the nave and spend some moments in contemplation and prayer.  Outside in the park, we held our Morning Prayer service, competing at times with the ringing church bells.  Since we were in Copenhagen, we spent a bit of time contemplating some of the prayers of Soren Kierkegaard.

Pilgrims at site of former Berlin Wall

The short hop to Berlin was marred by the discovery of Dorothy's errant bag, but buoyed by the chance to meet Paul, his cousin Adam and girlfriend Jill, his co-worker Martina as well as Dean, the brother of one of the pilgrims, who is doing an internship in Aachen this summer, and happened to be in Berlin this weekend. After dinner at the youth hostel, we caught a bus to the Reichstag and spent the next two hours touring Berlin sites by foot with Aria, a friend of Martina's. Here the pilgrims are lined up along the former route of the Berlin Wall, just in back of the Reichstag building (old German Parliament).

Berlin Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial is amazingly simple and yet overwhelmingly powerful. A 4.7 acre mass on which an unevenly undulating cobblestone base has been laid, like random waves, topped by 2711 simple granite blocks of identical top surface area (about 4x7), but vastly varying height (from flush with the cobblestones to over 7 feet high).  Although all blocks are laid out in straight rows and columns, the unevenness of the base and varying height of the blocks creates a confounding sense of disorientation. One pilgrim commented this struck her as an oppressive maze, which brought to her mind a sense of Holocaust victims seeing no way out of their terrible situation.Checkpoint Charlie was also an eerie lesson for many pilgrims who never experienced the tension of the Cold War.

When we finally returned, footsore and bone-tired, to our hostel, we all knew more than fatigue and aching arches had challenged us. It was a day truly to be remembered.

June 24:  Berlin and Wittenberg

Fun at Dinner

Yesterday’s lesson about pilgrims risking sore feet and tiring journeys was reinforced today. However, we also experienced God in places we probably could not have imagined before heading off for the trip. And we had the opportunity to spend a very pleasant evening in a charming "hof" sitting outside in a tree and umbrella-lined courtyard for dinner.

We started our day off with a quick trip to the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche (Church in Memory of Kaiser Wilhelm). When I visited in the 1970s, I remember little more than a small, modern worship space at the base of two ruined (by allied bombing) church towers of considerably older vintage. The church, like much of Berlin, has changed much from what I remembered from 40 years ago. Although sheathed in construction scaffolding now for renovation, the towers are surrounded and tied together with a glass and steel building that produces a curious mixture of tradition and avant garde. The octagonal worship space is lit from light coming thru walls of dark blue stained glass squares and the focal point on the front wall is a giant, suspended bronze figure of Christ on the Cross, without the cross.

Church in Memory of Kaiser Wilhelm, Berlin

We took in the stark beauty of the space, then had a wonderful service led by Kelly that tied in themes of responding to God's call to love your neighbor, even when inconvenient or at some considerable risk to yourself. Kelly read us the remembrances of a Jewish youth whose grandmother was saved by the quick-thinking actions of a German man randomly sitting next to her on a bus when Gestapo troops stopped the bus to check papers and arrest Jewish riders. She did not know the man, and never saw him again, but his willingness to engage in a clever way for what was right had a lasting impact on the family of the girl telling the story. We seldom are faced with moments so dramatic and immediate in their impact, but we face choices daily about how to act in situations large and small in a manner that responds to our call to love God and love others as Children of God.

Wittenberg Town Square

After working our way through the subway system, and finding a few things for Dorothy to wear, we caught the train for Wittenberg. Many of the pilgrims spoke of the beauty of the city and the architecture, some contrasting it to the cosmopolitan large city feel of Berlin. One added that Wittenberg is the type of city that Americans want to experience in Germany.

We walked about 20 minutes to the local YMCA, guided by the very timely discovery of a city map on the outskirts of town. After a very friendly reception at the Y, we were treated to a fascinating tour of Wittenberg by a German grandfather (about my age, I would guess) named Dieter, in 16th Century costume.

This is where it all began

Here he is showing us the current bronze doors at the Schlosskirche (Castle Church), the site where Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses to the earlier wooden doors that kicked off the Reformation. Dieter and our guide for the evening tour, Barbara, reminded us of some of the key issues that had given rise to the call for reform of the church, the selling of indulgences, the focus on the need for intercession to earn God’s grace rather than realization that it is freely given, the reluctance to expose believers to the Word of God in their own language.

Many of the youth pilgrims spoke of enjoying the tour and learning first-hand about Martin Luther and his taking a stand in support of what his conscience told him he could no longer abide. Seeing the spot where the 95 theses were supposedly nailed to the door seemed to have driven home what they had learned in school or at church. Several of the pilgrims picked up on how the two, Dieter and Barbara, were able to weave in personalized stories, for example, tales, real or imagined, of rivalries between Luther's and Melanchthon's wives. Per the pilgrims, "16th Century Desperate Housewives"!

"Jewish Pig" on City Church wall, Wittenberg

Among all of the information about Martin Luther, the reformation and the people around him, the pilgrims got a good tie-in to the next day's program when Dieter pointed out that Luther had done little to counteract the mistreatment and negative stereotypes of the Jewish people in his time, while his colleague Phillip Melanchton took a much more enlightened view. To reinforce this, Dieter showed us a stone carving of a “Judensau” (Jew pig) dating from 1305, high up on the outside wall near the back of the Stadtkirche (City Church), where Martin Luther had preached. The following is from the Wikipedia entry for Wittenberg’s Judensau:

“It portrays a rabbi who looks under the sow's tail, and other Jews drinking from its teats. An inscription reads ‘Rabini Shem hamphoras,’ gibberish which presumably bastardizes ‘shem ha-meforasch’ (the complete name of God). The sculpture is one of the last remaining examples in Germany of ‘medieval Jew baiting.’ In 1988, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Kristalnacht, debate sprung up about the monument, which resulted in the addition of a sculpture recognizing that during the Holocaust, six million Jews were murdered ‘under the sign of the cross’.”

Holocaust Memorial, Wittenberg

This sculpture, pictured at left, recalls the mass genocide inflicted upon the Jews of Europe during Hitler’s reign, and matter oozing up from between the bronze squares is intended to represent hope that man’s basic humanity will bubble up even in the face of extreme evil.

Returning to the Wikipedia entry regarding the Wittenberg Judensau:

“In Vom Schem Hamphoras (1543), Luther comments on the Judensau sculpture at Wittenberg, echoing the anti-Semitism of the image and locating the Talmud in the sow's bowels:

Here on our church in Wittenberg a sow is sculpted in stone. Young pigs and Jews lie suckling under her. Behind the sow a rabbi is bent over the sow, lifting up her right leg, holding her tail high and looking intensely under her tail and into her Talmud, as though he were reading something acute or extraordinary, which is certainly where they get their Shemhamphoras.”

I think the pilgrims will have a lot to chew on when we get to Weimar and Buchenwald about what it means to be a person of faith, even in trying times.

Sharing a Laugh with our Guide at the Luther House

One unexpected and fascinating addition to our program came from Dieter’s frank comments about life in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) as opposed to life in the West. He had grown up in East Germany and was willing and able to go off script extensively to answer questions from the youth about life under the former Communist regime. He did not describe life after reunification as uniformly better. He talked about things which he had found good and bad in East Germany, and things he found good and bad after reunification, which he described with pride as one of the few, or perhaps the only recent example of the successful, peaceful integration of two separated and fundamentally different political entities. His basic message was that people are people with similar hopes, joys and sorrows, and make the best of what they have. A very interesting detour from the 16th into the 20th and 21st centuries.

Evening Ice Cream in Wittenberg

We also learned today that pilgrims have their limits. It is hard work traveling to a different land and being presented with a large amount of new or at least very direct information about something so fundamental to your faith. Add to that the jet lag that comes from flying all night and being on the go once you land, and I have to say the pilgrims have been really trying hard and doing very well. In the middle of today's tour, however, they reached a wall that only a stop at a German cafe, and kaffee und apfelstrudel, could surmount. Actually, it made a big impression on the youth that the cafe staff insisted that the youth switch their orders for donuts and other familiar treats for the unknown - apple strudel. Another small triumph for "pilgrim hood"! Stopping at sidewalk cafes was frequently also a chance for the pilgrims to make music together, as the above picture of an evening foray to another Wittenberg ice cream parlor shows.

Pilgrims at Work in Luther House

Another opportunity to encounter God in different ways came in the context of the magnificent art we viewed throughout our trip.  One expects traveling in Europe to have the joy of experiencing religious and secular art in museums, churches and public spaces. Here the youth are engaged in puzzling out the Ten Commandments, done by Lucas Cranach.

Cranachs Ten Commandments, Luther House, Wittenberg

This pictorial depiction of the 10 commandments (above) really grabbed their attention, as they tried to put themselves in the place of people who suddenly had access for the first time to the word of God in their own language (a key touch point during the Reformation), but could not read. Art in the form of paintings such as the one by Cranach served as a graphic reminder of the lessons they heard about in Church -- tough to miss the point of the ten panels pictured here!

Dinner in Delightful Wittenberg Courtyard

Dinner that evening was a charming event. Michael, the YMCA director, had told us about the Altes Brauhaus (old brew house) that had a lovely tree-lined courtyard with large umbrellas to ward off sun or rain. According to Michael, this is one of the few spaces in this relatively small town that could easily accommodate a group of 20. They reserved two large tables for us and, per our choices, brought large quantities of pork and potatoes in any one of about a dozen different delicious varieties (one or two of us actually managed to find a tasty, non-pork option from the menu). The food was excellent, the service attentive and the atmosphere was "sehr gemuetlich" (very convivial). An authentically German experience in a space that added considerably more ambiance than the somewhat austere surroundings of the youth hostel the night before, where the pilgrims had nevertheless feasted on a tasty dish of spaetzle and goulash.

And the highpoint of the dinner in Wittenberg was the call from SAS airport services that Dorothy's bag had gotten tired of Copenhagen and finally showed up in Berlin. This was about 1 hour after we returned from H&M with some basics for her that we could not find in the Berlin train station. We were promised that the bag would be delivered to the youth hostel in Weimar. Warten wir mal ab!  (We'll see about that!).

A Mighty Fortress is Our God,  Tower of the Castle Church in Wittenberg

After dinner, half of the pilgrims headed back to the Schlosskirche (castle church) to meet for an "into the 16th Century" tour. This was led by Barbara, who played the role of the wife of Lukas Cranach, the painter, art teacher, pharmacist and owner of the 100 room house, the largest private residence in Wittenberg at the time. Her explanations went deeper into the complaints Luther had about practices in the Catholic Church in his day.

The pilgrims were impressed that Luther had brought participatory music (hymns) to the service. As Luther put it, hymn singing is a form of praying twice. That thought is reinforced by the inscription around the tower of the Schlosskirche (left) “Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott” (A Mighty Fortress is our God).

Pilgrims Making Music

This particular group of pilgrims is quite participatory when it comes to praying twice, whether that was a cappella renditions of "What if God was one of us" in the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche, to informal ukulele jams in the Berlin train station, to a heartfelt rendition of Amazing Grace in this morning's worship service.

And on that note, I think that's about all for now.



June 25:  Wittenberg to Weimar

Buchenwald Crematorium

Day 3 was a very tough day for the pilgrims on a number of levels. We learned that pilgrims can and must deal with adversity, that seeking God is not always a picnic (as Kierkegaard put it, it is a combination of promise and pain). I am happy to report that we all came through, well as it seems with a bit of hindsight. And we were challenged to think about a fundamental question: Where was God in a place like Buchenwald?

First, the day was hard because we were all tired. Jetlag often hits hardest the second night, and it is difficult to sleep under the best of situations.  There were at least several challenges the previous night.  We were awake enough to be aware of unfamiliar sounds of an old building shifting and settling. Ask the pilgrims about the “haunted hostel”! In addition, the heavy rains that had plagued the area just prior to our arrival had yielded a bumper crop of mosquitoes spawned in the Elba's soaked floodplains. This posed the tough choice in the YMCA of being rather warm with bedroom windows closed, or opening the windows and fighting off the bugs. As a consequence, a number of us spent until the very wee hours that morning staring at the ceiling rather than sleeping peacefully.

Second, the day began with ominous, leaden skies - cool, damp and blustery -and only got worse. We walked to the train station in Wittenberg under a steady, light rain. By the time we were leaving the toughest part of the Buchenwald tour, the cool had turned cold, the rain had intensified, and the wind was turning umbrellas inside out.

Third, this was a challenging day logistically; all the connections had to go just right and the pilgrims had to remain sharply on focus all day to make everything work. Tiring in and of itself.

Gate at Buchenwald "To Each His Due"

Finally, there was Buchenwald. We knew this would be challenging, and we were not mistaken.

The trip from Wittenberg to Weimar was surmounted with aplomb. We were so efficient moving as a group of 20 that we had some time to spare, and that gave rise to the only momentary lapse of focus of the day. One backpack tried its best to stay behind on the platform in Wittenberg, but fortunately an observant German passenger called this to our attention in the nick of time. All other logistical arrangements came off OK, although a slow first train ate up all of our margin of safety at our transfer point.

Upon arrival in Weimar, we encountered a very helpful Youth Hostel employee, who facilitated bag storage and made dinner recommendation and reservations for us before we left for the bus to Buchenwald.

Buchenwald, Assembly Place for Forced Laborers

And then we were there. On top of a wind-swept "mountain" outside of town.  As a "labor camp", the site may not be quite as oppressive as Dachau or Auschwitz or others of the extermination camps. That being said, however, the history presented made clear that the "workforce" there was viewed by the Nazi administrators as being entirely expendable. There are few original buildings left at Buchenwald, but one grasps the inhumanity of the forced laborers being compelled to stand at muster for hours on end on this plaza, rain or shine (longest recorded muster was 19 hours) after working a full day, clothed in only the thin, pajama-like clothes they were compelled to wear.  And this was not the worst part of the history learned there, by far.

Genocide, the pilgrims learned, can occur in a number of direct and less direct, but no less intentional, means.

I am very proud of the pilgrims for all being willing to learn this awful lesson of history first hand. They made the connection that standing out on a wind- and rain-swept mountaintop for 1 1/2 hours was a minor inconvenience as compared to the unending, dehumanizing treatment endured by the inmates. They made the connection that being confronted by horrific examples of man's capacity to be brutal and inhumane in the treatment of others was a life lesson worth learning, so that history does not have to repeat itself. They made the connection that each person who really forces her/himself to deal with a site and a history like this will be aware in a concrete and compelling way of our responsibility as persons of faith to see and respond to the God that is in each one of us. And they really wrestled with the very difficult admonition to all Christians not to forgive 7 times, but 7 times 70, and what that actually means in a context like Buchenwald.  Difficult questions, for which no one but God really has the answer.

Yes, the pilgrims certainly encountered God on that mountaintop. I pray that encounter will stay fresh and help guide their actions and life-choices for the rest of their lives.


 June 26:  Weimar

Today was a recovery day for the pilgrims. No up, out and on to the next city, no "three hour tour", no strict timeline to meet in order to make things work. For that, among other things, the pilgrims thank thee, oh Lord! But this was not a day of rest. In fact, the pilgrims did their most significant work to date, wrestling with what they had experienced and how that relates to their faith.

Weimar Reflection Churchyard

This was the stop in which men and women were staying in separate youth hostels (they were sufficiently full that neither had enough space free to house us all). In the morning, the men walked through the city towards the other hostel. On the way, we scouted out places to hold our debrief session. The original plan had been to find a sunny spot in one of Weimar's parks, but the unrelenting grey forced a change. We found a church tucked into a quiet spot, surrounded by a tree-shaded graveyard. A sign by the Jakobskirche said this was the site of Weimar's oldest marked graves, dating back to the 12th Century.

Organ in the Jakobskirche

After picking up the women, we headed back to the Jakobskirche. It is an Evangelical (Protestant) church with a traditional, rectangular nave layout -- center aisle and two side aisles. One enters from the west, under the bell tower, which is roughly as high as the church is long. The altar is very simple, as is the rest of the church, with Christ on the cross hanging on the east wall, behind the altar. One’s gaze is drawn upwards by the three levels of balconies extending along the narrow west end and roughly 2/3 of the way down both north and south walls. The paneling on the low balcony railing walls is surrounded by a thin strip of gilded piping. On the third balcony level sits the pipe organ, taking up about half of the roughly 10 meter width of that west wall. The pilgrims found the church beautiful. A church attendant kindly allowed us to use the nave for our reflection and service. For the next two hours, the pilgrims chewed on what they had seen the day before, what it meant in history and what it meant for them personally.

Pilgrims Preparing for Discussion of Buchenwald Experience

The conversation, in which all participated, was thoughtful, respectful of others' opinions, sensitive to both the personal and the societal impact of the Holocaust, and deeply probing into the theological implications of this horrific event. The pilgrims worked very hard in those two hours. While wishing to respect the confidentiality of the discussion process we have in the J2A program, I did foreshadow some broad outlines of the conversation held by the pilgrims in yesterday's report. Again, the pilgrims did St. Luke's proud.

When we had finished our discussion, several pilgrims led a short prayer service in which we concentrated on prayers of intersession. It occurred to some that the rain of the previous day might be seen as an allegory of sorts - God's tears for the brokenness of his people, whom He loves. The pilgrims leading the service also reached back to a recent reading, Luke 7: 25 to 37 (Jesus being anointed by the woman) to illustrate the theme that those whose sins have been greatest are also in need of the greatest forgiveness, and that God’s forgiveness is available to all.  This is the wonderful thing about being a youth leader, one never ceases to be amazed by the perceptiveness and depth of thought and faith our youth exhibit.

Meal at the "House of Potatoes" Restaurant

All of that hard work left the pilgrims hungry. We searched for something typically German (the previous evening we had an excellent meal in a tapas restaurant directly across from the hostel). We landed at the Potato House and were well satisfied.

Striking a pose in Weimar City Park

That afternoon we split into two groups and just wandered around town. Some went to the Liszt house and for a walk to in one of Weimar’s many parks ( left) to see the Garden house in which Goethe did some of his writing.

Poets Plaza (Goethe and Schiller) in Weimar

Others encountered a film crew working on an action movie (star signatures were reportedly collected). The picture to the right shows the film crew working in the “Poets Plaza”, next to the statues of Goethe and Schiller.

Boy, that food was GOOD!

In the evening, we met at a half-timbered house near the St. Peter and St. Paul Kirche, where the staff had set aside a separate room for us and we enjoyed specialties from the Thueringen region.  Here, Kelly and Claire comment on the quality of the food and the overall ambiance of the restaurant.

After returning to their hostel, the female pilgrims were delighted to see two German female groups who had arrived on their floor earlier in the evening. A few of our ladies immediately struck up a conversation with them and soon almost all were in the common room engaged in conversation, laughter, and singing with their new European friends. A wonderful cultural exchange after a reflective and enriching day and an experience they won't soon forget.

And in the 23rd hour, we rested.


June 27:  Weimar to Kassel and Wolfhagen

 Day 5 saw the end of the tour portion of the pilgrimage, where we dealt with reformation and holocaust, and the beginning of the Julie Andrews ("getting to know you") portion of the trip, where we will be spending time living, talking, recreating, and worshiping with German families.

This day sort of reminded one of a John Candy movie. Before the day was done, we had walked for miles, been on four different trains, two different streetcars and one (women) or two (men) buses and ridden in private autos on the way to our guest families. (The men had to take an extra bus in the morning to get over to the other hostel, where the women were staying.)

Our morning reflection, carried out in the Aufenthaltsraum of the Youth Hostel Germania, centered around prayers of thanksgiving. Among other things, the pilgrims were thankful for the support of their families and the greater St. Luke's family in helping to make this spiritual journey possible.

Bernd and Simone

The train connections from Weimar over Bad Hersfeld worked well, and awaiting us on the platform in Kassel-Wilhelmshoehe were Marjy and Bernd (the father of Sjard, the German exchange student who was active in St Luke's during the 2008-09 school year). Bernd and his wife Simone are pictured here.

South end of Hercules going North, Kassel

Once in Kassel, we first traveled by streetcar and bus to the statue of Herkules and the castle water gardens. The former is made up of a massive stone platform topped by a tall pyramidal base on which rests the ginormous statue of Herkules standing with one hand resting on his proportionately enormous club. This structure sits on the ridge of a tall hill overlooking the city of Kassel and the Fulda Valley. When you finish climbing the 330 ever-narrowing stairs to the top of the pyramid (just under Herkules), you have a magnificent view of the city and valley, and also a pair of aching legs!

View from Herkules, Kassel

Descending from the Herkules statue was just the start. Beginning at the statue and proceeding down the hill for about 2 - 3 km is a water park, where water released from reservoirs at the top cascades down the hill through raceways alongside the steps, dropping in 2 meter falls every 3 or so linear meters of run. When the steps end, the water courses through stone-lined races onto a lengthy, Romanesque aqueduct until reaching an abrupt end and diving some 25 meters into a final creek-bed, which in turn winds down to a final broad, stony fall spanned by an arch-shaped "devil's bridge".

Pilgrims in the Park at Kassel, Wilhelm's Heights

The entire park is a fantasy come true, built by the prince for the amusement of his summer guests. The whole grounds, including also the former summer castle in pseudo classical style (much had to be rebuilt after WWII), now an art museum, and a fairy-tale castle without real function were designated only last week as an UNESCO world heritage site.  One of the pilgrims considered this part of the trip to be her personal highlight.

Another significant stretch of walking followed by a streetcar ride took us to the Brothers Grimm museum, which unfortunately was closing just as we arrived.  The pilgrims consoled themselves with tea and coffee at an outdoor cafe with a beautiful Talblick (view of the valley).

Simone, whose planning made the trip possible

Two short train rides later, we arrived in Wolfhagen to find our guest families anxiously awaiting us.  Pictured here is Simone, without whose hard work setting up the magnificent program for our pilgrims we truly would have been lost. As always, the friendly, warm, heartfelt village greeting enveloped me, drawing me instantly into their loving fellowship as easily if I were only returning from the day's labor. No matter how short or long the intervals between my arrival here in the villages, I can be certain of the welcome to my home away from home. The other pilgrims were similarly embraced in this gracious "welcoming of the stranger" and could relax in the comfortable surrounding of hospitality and interest in their welfare.

The pilgrims had truly come to a land of milk and honey, evident to them through all their weariness, where they could relax and enjoy the company of fellow children of God.


 June 28:  Bad Arolsen, Ehringen and Nothfelden

 Today the pilgrims traveled from the 21st to the mid 20th, then back to the 18th Century, bouncing around a bit on the cultural timeline. We started the day at the International Tracing Service (ITS), also sometimes referred to as the Schindler's List Society. This is an organization set up by the allied governments and the International Red Cross after the War to help displaced persons return to their homeland or emigrate to a new country.

The organization also took on the responsibility for collecting and organizing documentation concerning holocaust victims and survivors to be able to help reunite families or trace what had happened to family members. While the latter function is still active, it appears that the future role of the ITS is likely to be more of an archive. The funding for the organization comes entirely from the German government in a gesture of continuing contrition.

First Outing with Guest Families

After a short noonday service in the parish hall of the Evangelical Church (it is nice to know the regional choir Director, Bernd, as this opened many doors for us - quite literally), the pilgrims feasted on a delicious lunch organized by the host families.

Castle at Bad Arolsen

Next we moved on to a tour of the princely palace, where 1/3 of the extensive building is a personal library and family archive, 1/3 is open for public tours and the remaining third is occupied by the current Prince and family.

A quick train ride back in the direction of Wolfhagen took us to the tiny village of Ehringen, where we were met by Simone, Frau Neumeyer (one of the guest parents) and Marjy with coffee and cakes.  Afterwards, we were joined by

Evening of Music with German Youth, Ehringen

some 25 local youth from a Christian fellowship organization known as Ten Sing. Groups all over Europe and now beyond meet weekly for music, drama and fellowship, working towards putting on an annual "show" of some type in their region. It is also possible for members to attend an annual international Ten Sing convention to share experiences with groups from all over. That evening, the Ehringen group engaged in two hours of fellowship, that included song, dance, drama, and band (rock & roll), followed by a devotional reflection.

A caravan of guest families' cars then conveyed the pilgrims on the last 5 miles of their day's journey, to the Nothfelden Grillplatz (communal outdoor barbeque) for the Johannesfest.

Festival of St. John, Nothfelden

While the origins of the festival remain shrouded in mystery, at least to the pilgrims, this was an opportunity for the village community to gather for fellowship, eat sausage and salad, light a bonfire and gather to sing German folk songs, accompanied by guitar and accordion. The pilgrims dove in on all aspects, following along in the German songbooks with gusto. They even presented several ukulele-led renditions of current American pop songs and then joined the guitar/accordion duo for an impromptu Beatles jam.

Today the pilgrims learned things about civic responsibility, youth-led Christian fellowship and intergenerational community fellowship. And by the looks on their faces, they had a lot of fun doing so.


 June 29:  Niederelsungen

Niederelsungen, Half-Timbered Houses

 The pilgrims had a chance today to spend the morning with their guest families. Nothing planned on the schedule until afternoon. Both hosts and guests welcomed this opportunity alike, as the two got a chance despite language barrier to start to get to know each other a bit better. Some took a simple walk around the village to look at the gardens, while others lingered around the breakfast table for a chat, or helped with the preparation for the next communal meal.

One interesting thing this pilgrim learned was the origins of the Johannesfest (see yesterday's report). It is a festival to honor the summer solstice. Like many other cultural/religious holidays in the Western tradition, this festival of St. John the Baptist (held on the Friday after the feast day of St. John) hearkens back to and incorporates customs from the pre-Christian era into a Christian context, an approach that provided a certain legitimacy for nascent Christianity by allowing new believers to continue long-established customs and practices with a new spin or twist. A clever way to co-opt earlier belief-systems and spread Christianity.

Bonfire at Festival of St. John

In this case, the historical custom of the Johannesfest apparently either did not develop or was not maintained over time in this central German area where we were staying. Rather, it was introduced or perhaps re-introduced by a clergyperson in the Nothfelden village who had experienced the festival in Estonia. This makes sense, since the areas in the far northern parts of Europe certainly do have many reasons to celebrate the long Midsummer Day, in contrast to the short-dark days of winter.

Interestingly, my seat companion on the flight back from Copenhagen to the States had just experienced mid-summer festivals in both Denmark and Sweden on her trip. In Sweden, the festival was marked by weaving of garlands of birch leaves, decorating crosses with wild flowers, and the gathering of village folk outside for food and song. In Denmark, bonfires were lit all along the coast with figures of witches on top. (Fortunately, the custom has changed, and it is only figures that are burned these days, and not people accused of witchcraft.)

Lunch with Skip's AFS Family,  Mutti, Dorothy and Timm

Coming back to day 7, the pilgrims all met at the home of Elfriede (or “Mutti” to me), my German host mother from the family that had hosted me 40 years ago as a high-school exchange student. She, her daughter-in-law, granddaughter and several friends had prepared a wonderful feast for us: gulash served over steamed potatoes or noodles, peas, carrots and cauliflower, tomato and cucumber slices with a yoghurt-based dipping sauce, and cherry and "waldmeister" flavored Jello (in German, “wackelpudding” or “shaky pudding”) with vanilla sauce for dessert.

We sat around two large tables in a party room that my German father had converted from a space in which, when I was first there, farm equipment and hay for the cows had been stored. While carpentry and construction had been my German exchange father’s profession, he, like most others in the village had done some subsistence farming on the side.  My German mother also had run a "pension", taking in and cooking for vacation guests for the spring and summer months of the year. I was always amazed at their industriousness, and truly blessed that, on top of that all, they had been willing to take on one additional chore -- caring for this clueless American who didn't know the language, didn't know the customs, couldn't tell a field of potatoes from a field of sugar beets and ate enough for two additional mouths. That year was my first real experience with distant pilgrimage (other than church summer camp or cross-country camping trips or other vacations with my family), one that was as much cultural/linguistic as religious.

After the pilgrims presented Elfriede with some gifts of appreciation, we headed down to the community center to briefly practice the two hymns we would sing the following day at the church service in Wolfhagen. We then walked up to the Waldbuehne (theater in the woods) for our tour and show.

Niederelsungen, Theater in the Forest

The Waldbuehne sits on the north side of a hill overlooking the town of Niederelsungen. Every two years, the villagers put on a play, completely by themselves. They build the sets, set up lights and sound, build dressing rooms for the cast, rewrite the chosen piece to fit the space, choose parts, rehearse and then put on a number of performances during the summer (weekend nights).

The history of the theater is interesting. In the immediate post-war period, there was apparently a lot of tension in the village (now about 700-800 people), as prisoners and other displaced people returned to the village and tried to pick up "normal" life again. The left could not get along with the right, people who had been in positions of responsibility came back to find new people in those positions, the role of women in society had changed somewhat during the war.

Production of "Romeo und Julia"

A teacher living in town (the grandfather of one of my schoolmates for the year I spent there) got the idea to found this theater company to bring people together to work on a common project. Although the idea took some years to fully take hold, the operation has grown and matured over the past 65 years until it is now one of the largest amateur theater productions in Germany. We saw a wonderful production of "Romeo und Julia", in which a large number of our guest families participated in one fashion or another. Despite the German dialogue, we could all follow the story line, and the pilgrims remarked how well Shakespeare's verse had been translated into German rhyme. Of course, if you are a Star Trek Next Gen fan, you know Warf's famous line, "Yes, but have you had the pleasure of reading Shakespeare in the original Klingon?"


 June 30:  Wolfhagen, Nothfelden

On Sunday, the pilgrims gathered at the evangelical (protestant) city church in Wolfhagen, where Bernd (Sjard’s father) is the church musician. We had

Pilgrims practicing for Sunday Service in Wolfhagen Stadtkirche

rehearsed two hymns the day before, and we practiced them once again Sunday morning with the organ accompaniment. The first was Hymn 171, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”, described above. As mentioned, this seemed truly fitting, as it formed a leitmotif for the trip as a whole, in addition to being hauntingly beautiful. The German congregation knew this song and joined in heartily on the “alleluias”.

The second hymn was a favorite of several of the pilgrims: “Is it I Lord” from the Wonder Love and Praise Hymnal. One of the German host mothers told me later that when she had dropped off her daughter and American guest, she had not really intended to stay, but she was glad that she had done so. She said the service in general and this particular hymn had touched her deeply, hearing the youth ask this simple but profound question, Lord to what are you calling me? She said she cried all through the song. I guess this was a concrete manifestation of Luther’s precept that the inclusion of hymns in worship (something introduced during the Reformation) is like “praying twice.”

Eucharist was held with groups of parishioners gathering in the large space around the altar and passing the bread and white wine. The church choir also sang several songs that we knew, including “Now Thank We all Our God” (Number 321 in their hymnbook, in Luther’s original German, of course). We were able to sing along, in German or, as some pilgrims chose, with the English words.

View from City Church Tower in Wolfhagen

After church, many of us climbed up to the bell tower to get a splendid view of Wolfhagen and the rolling hills surrounding the town.  The area is vaguely reminiscent of the area around Lancaster, PA, only with many half-timbered (Tudor style) houses still standing that had been built in the 17th Century or even well before.

German and American Confirmation Classes

Later, we walked over to the Parish Hall and had a lunch with the German confirmation class. They were all mainly 13 to 15, so a little younger than our youth. Nevertheless, we had a very good time working through several exercises prepared by their youth pastor and exchanging views on perspectives from both sides of the Atlantic on issues and concerns of the youth.

Wolfhagen Newspaper Article

Following the lunch, we were treated to a walking tour of the beautiful town of Wolfhagen, led by one of the host parents, a teacher who does this as a hobby.  We were met at the town square by a local reporter, who took pictures of the group at the Brothers’ Grimm fountain (complete with wolf statues), which gave rise to the newspaper article that Erika and her dad translated for the Pilgrimage presentation at St. Luke’s upon our return.

Celebrating Final Evening by the old Mill Wall, Niederelsungen

After a final ice cream, we travelled back to Nothfelden for a debrief of the week and then rejoined our families for a final evening of thank-yous and good- byes. A group of youth and host families came together at the baker’s house in Niederelsungen (one of the host families), where they had a small campfire by the old mill wall (the oldest intact structure in town, dating back hundreds of years) and ate, sang and talked until late in the clear, crisp evening.

July 1:  Wolfhagerland to DC


Very early the next morning, the entire group gathered in Wolfhagen to get on the bus to go to Frankfurt airport. The 4 am meeting time did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the youth and host families, all of whom expressed their joy at having had this wonderful opportunity to get to know each other. Several host families told me, “The next time you arrange this, please plan to have the youth stay longer. We were just starting to get to know them and now they have to be on their way. It has been such a wonderful experience.”

We couldn't have done it without their help!  Pastor Katharine Ufholz and Simone Geiersbach

After circling up for a send-off prayer by Pastor Katharina (pictured here with Simone), we boarded the bus and headed off for Frankfurt and home. The pilgrims tried valiantly to watch as the lovely and welcoming town and new friends slipped away into the dark. As beautiful as the area is, one by one the pilgrims soon succumbed to fatigue as the bus wound through local roads towards the Autobahn.

By the time 20 minutes later when we joined the highway, most of the pilgrims were sound asleep, dreaming of their experiences and home.


You are the light of the world.

Our church recently held its fifth biannual J2A dinner. The newest J2A class sat down for a meal with their parents and mentors, joined by members of the newly formed Rite 13 class, and a few teens from the YAC class to begin their next phase of the Journey to Adulthood program. The 9th and 10th grade-age youth will continue their quest over the next two years to find out more about their place in society, learn more about themselves, explore their spirituality, and be guided in lessons on  sexuality. Below is the meditation I delivered on the passage of Matthew 5: 14-16: “You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Jesus spoke these words in the Sermon on the Mount. Light is nature’s way of sending energy through space. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus used light as a metaphor of energy, encouraging us to use this energy to perform “good works and give glory to our Father in heaven? I hold an image of rays of light coming from a crowd of people as they help their neighbors in need to raise a roof or clear up after a flood. In just a few short descriptive phrases, he helps us understand that light represents the energy of life, one of the most significant gifts that God grants us. How we use each gift that God bestows upon us is part of the covenant we make with Him. Jesus tells us in this passage explicitly and simply what to do with the gift of light, this gift of energy. We cannot hide our light, because light bends around corners, seeping out from under the bushel basket. No one or any thing is able to keep light from streaking along on its path to infinity. If anyone here has ever tried to develop a photo in a darkroom, you know how difficult it is to make a room truly dark.  The energy of our life force is just as insistent. God demands that we tap into this life force to breathe, love one another, live in community, and glorify Him.

This passage holds special meaning for me. Navigating life during the crucial years of 12 – 18 can be particularly challenging as a teen stretches toward adulthood, experiencing emotional turmoil, steering through intellectual potholes, and becoming an individual distinct from parents and siblings and friends. During my teen years I lost several close relatives in rapid succession. The culmination of events threw me into a very fragile, dark and moody state of mind. Life seemed pretty bleak, unexciting and colorless. What finally brought me permanently out of that state? I attribute my acceptance of God’s gift of light to the opportunity to work with the youth of St Luke’s. Young people naturally embody light, and throw off huge amounts of it, and sharing it freely. They know how to let their light shine! They truly do light up everyone’s life. They laugh, ask questions profound and ridiculous, enjoy music and make music, demonstrate unbounded enthusiasm for almost everything, and practice compassion. All the while, energy emanates from their inner light. Take heed! Be warned! There is no place to hide from that light! Praise be to God for giving us the light to glorify Him.

Journey to Adulthood Pilgrimage, Saint Luke's, Alexandria, June 2007

Journey to Adulthood Pilgrimage, An Account by Skip Jones “Then people long to go on pilgrimages,

And palmers to take ship for foreign shores,

And distant shrines, famous in different lands;”

(Prologue to Canterbury Tales by  Geoffrey Chaucer)

The first ever St. Luke’s Youth J2A Pilgrimage was a huge success!.  Rather smashing, actually.  Thank you so very much for all of the efforts of the entire parish to get us there and back.  The planning and raising of funds and preparation of the youth and drafting of reflections and holding the group up in prayer all paid off. We had a blast, and I would venture to say encountered God in a number of surprisingly different ways.

The Pilgrimage marked the end of the first session of the J2A program.  This capped the work of what are now the rising high school sophomores, juniors, seniors and college freshmen over the past two years.  We have examined many aspects of our lives and outlooks, dealing with issues such as:

  • How do I find my true self?
  • How do I currently perceive my purpose in life, how is that likely to change?
  • Practicing skills needed for adulthood:  active listening, negotiation, assertion, research/information management, partnership, leadership.
  • What does it mean that we are all children of God?
  • What does the Great Commandment actually mean?
  • Ours is a passionate, loving God.  How/why is it then that evil exists and that bad things happen to good people?  What can I do?
  • Reflections on sexuality and interpersonal relationships
  • Reflections on repentance, forgiveness, salvation

We went on an Urban Adventure last June to test the skills we were practicing, successfully navigating around New York City for a day, working together in small teams to accomplish a common objective.  Over the past two years, we have worked together, played together, laughed a lot, cried together, broken bread together, prayed together.  We have gotten to know each other very well, and have built up a good level of trust and mutual respect within the group, youth and adult leaders.

So, the Pilgrimage was a chance to take ourselves out of the daily routine, out of our familiar surroundings, away from the charms and distractions of home and hearth and head off to somewhere that faithful people had gone before us to experience God in a new and different manner.  How did that work out?  Well, just ask Tom McPeek or Erin Ronayne, Sam Monteith or Michelle Gilmore, Phil Huston or Meredith Maple, Greg Hancock or Caroline Odom, Justin Rajadhyaksha or Megan Maple, Jonathan Stevens or Maddie Tindle, Riley Randall or Tiffany, Hugh Smith or Ketlen Solak, Alex Gheesling, David Ayres or Skip Jones.  We will each have a different story, something in particular that stands out from the trip.  Here are a few of the things you might hear.

J2A pilgrimage 2007
J2A pilgrimage 2007

You mean we can dance in church? Tired after flying all night and slightly soggy from our constant companion – the summer rains – we stumbled almost by chance into a charismatic, multi-media church service built around the theme “God is giving a party and everyone is invited.”   Rock music, dramatic re-enactment of scripture, faux boy band, beach balls, learning of a Bible verse by rap (not rote). Who would have thought when we looked at prayer by dance in our J2A lessons that we would actually experience the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit in this manner?

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J2A pilgrimage 249

Never knew a joyful noise made unto the Lord could be this incredibly beautiful! Evensong on Monday evening in the Canterbury Cathedral and a visiting choir at St. Paul’s were both awesome.  A wonderfully beautiful experience.  In Canterbury, the amazing sound of the men and boy's choir echoed throughout the building. The young voices seemingly climbing to the very heights of the vaulted ceiling far above and then crashing down upon us seated in the elaborately carved choir stalls.  Tom described the music in St. Paul's as the most beautiful thing he had ever heard.  The beauty and simplicity of this honoring to God was strongly moving.

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J2A pilgrimage 245
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J2A pilgrimage 265

History doesn’t have to be boring  Our guides throughout the trip brought a wide variety of interests and enthusiasm to their presentations. At St. Martens, the longest continually operating Christian church in England, we heard the story, recorded by the Venerable Bede, of how Christianity became reestablished in England between 580 and 600. This, naturally, led to the christening of the Rite 13 Class’s rubber chicken (who had stowed away in Ketlen’s carry-on) as Ethelbert, after the King at the time. The modern sculpture here marks the site where St. Thomas a Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by four knights, acting on what they perceived to be a request from King Henry II. See the four swords (two in bronze, two in shadow)?

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J2A pilgrimage 006
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J2A pilgrimage 011

Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience  On Tuesday, we exchanged Chaucer ("And most Canterbury they come, The holy blessed martyr there to seek, Who gave his help to them when they were sick...") for Shakespeare ("get thee to a nunnery").  We traveled across much of the south of England, stopping to view the white cliffs of Dover and arriving towards late afternoon at an Anglican community of St. Francis. Interesting to hear the story of how one of the sisters discerned her call to a life as an Anglican Sister. After evening prayer and a Eucharist, we pressed on to Tauton. We lodged at a Holiday Inn (back to Chaucer "Our host gave us each and all a warm welcome, And set us down to supper there and then, The eatables he served were of the best; Strong was the Coke; we matched it with our thirst").

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J2A pilgrimage 049
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J2A pilgrimage 069

Cathedrals and more cathedrals  We toured Salisbury, with the tall, tall spire and Winchester with the long, long nave. We learned more about cathedral architecture than some in our group cared to know.  On a more off beat note, we learned that stone bends, that deep-sea divers sometimes work on cathedrals (complete with helmet and diving gear) and that it is not only in Spain where the rain falls mainly on the plain. And seeing one of the 4 original copies of the Magna Carta (in Salisbury) was a definite plus.  Our breakthrough moment of Wednesday came in late evening discussions of what it means to perceive a calling to some type of ministry and how God does not issue such a call without also promising to be present in our lives.

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J2A pilgrimage 085
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J2A pilgrimage 115

Science and religion are not necessarily in conflict  Thursday morning, we stopped at Stonehenge and contemplated what might have motivated prehistoric man to drag these massive stones vast distances to set them up in this particular order.  We reflected on the meaning of "progress" and the scientific era against the backdrop of societies 3000-5000 years ago that appeared to have no problem reconciling science and faith. Perhaps this visit should be required for the Kansas board of education!  Later, in London many of the group indulged in a truly modern pilgrimage...a visit to Harrods, while others marveled at the gardens at Hyde Park. Then, back to the Thames for a dusk "flight" on the Millennium outstanding birds-eye view of the city.

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J2A pilgrimage 123
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J2A pilgrimage 240

A day rich in history of church and state  Friday we immersed ourselves in centuries of British history, visiting Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s and the Tower of London.  It is hard not to be moved by the sheer sweep of human accomplishment that is memorialized in Westminster Abbey.  From Kings and Queens to Scientists and Poets. From Unknown Soldiers to Decorated Admirals. From Politicians to Movie Stars. Queen Elizabeth buried atop Mary Tudor. They are all represented in this magnificent church.   At St. Paul’s, many chose to take the memorable trip to the very top of the cathedral dome.  Ask Greg how tall the average Brit must have been when the stairway was first built!  We took time for a structured reflection before leaving.  We used as our text the wonderful meditation on the transformative nature of an encounter with God, based on Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Adam Thomas, who was ever with us in spirit, had prepared a wonderful book of daily reflections for the pilgrims’ use. In the small world category, we bumped into Joel, Liza and Miles Gheesling while visiting the Tower of London.

And through it all, we had fun! Not all the rain in England could dampen our spirits. Whether it was in strolling the streets of London, tumbling on the incredibly green lawn at Old Sarum, following in the footsteps of Harry Potter, or inventing games to pass the time on the bus, the Saint Luke’s Pilgrims were quick with a smile.

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J2A pilgrimage 098
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J2A pilgrimage 154
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J2A pilgrimage 149
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J2A pilgrimage 009

And we want to thank you all, from the very bottom of our hearts, for your collective support, love, patience, understanding, prayer and guidance that helped us experience this wonderful journey.  God bless us, everyone!

Makoli's Reflections- A Pilgrimage to Hawaii

FINDING THE BEAUTY OF GOD IN NATURE A Reflection on a pilgrimage to Hawaii by the J2A Youth of St Luke’s Church, Alexandria, Virginia

These are the things that I, Makoli, learned. What I write here are my thoughts and feelings based on the experiences of spending time in close quarters with eight other pilgrims.


Saturday, June 20 “Travel-to-Hawaii” day! We gathered at the church in the early morning. Ketlen handed out the t-shirts, which had our names in Hawaiian on them. We said good-byes to parents, pets and good friends, and loaded ourselves into the vans after praying a Native American prayer led by Tuck. Keke (Ketlen) took charge at the airport, checking us all in at the ticket counter. Savannah retrieved her wallet before boarding the plane, and I reviewed the material that Kokonui (Scott S.) gave me about King Kamehameha IV, Queen Emma and Father Damien. The pilgrims brought a large amount of reading material with them, and they bought even more in Hawaii. I learned that pilgrims are voracious readers.

I was the only pilgrim without a boarding pass on the flight from LA to Honolulu, so I stood in line over an hour waiting to get on the plane. Keke got on the plane, but came back into the terminal to make sure I made it on the plane. She was not going to allow the plane to go Hawaii without all the pilgrims! I learned that Keke takes very good care of her flock.

We arrived at Camp Erdmann on the North Shore of Oahu very late at night, and were thrilled to see the pile of goodies and supplies the Weavers had procured for us: pillows, jugs of water (refreshing!!!), beach blankets, and breakfast bars. We made up our bunks and tumbled into bed. I learned that pilgrims fall asleep quickly after a long trip.


Sunday, June 21 The worst thing about traveling from the East Coast to Hawaii is the time difference, 5 hours. Alternatively, the greatest thing about traveling from the East Coast to Hawaii is the time difference, 5 hours. Waking teens for an 8 o’clock service on any Sunday is a dreaded task for parents, and waking 6 teens after a full day of airplane flight seemed improbable to impossible. But since it was the equivalent of 1 pm body time, all of the pilgrims arose and were ready to attend the 8 o’clock service held at the Cathedral Church of St. Andrews in Honolulu, 35 miles from our camp. The Weavers met us just outside the church, a welcome connection to our familiar Virginia parish. We sat in the third pew from the front, and we comprised about one-third to one-half of the early morning congregation. Just as we got settled in the pews in the beautiful nave, I heard three long eerie, breathy sounds. I realized that the celebrant was blowing a conch shell just as we would ring our bell, calling all worshipers to enter the sanctuary. It sent shivers up my spine. Then, instead of a resounding chord from the organ, the solo voice of a woman chorister began the processional chant, singing in Hawaiian. I turned around to watch the procession and was greeted with the most amazing sight of the full-wall stained-glass window soaring to the roof line. Sunlight streamed through the window, a riot of color and stunning beauty. Lectors read the lessons in Hawaiian. The psalm was chanted. It seemed especially appropriate that it was Father’s Day, a day to think about our relationship with God, the Father. This is what I took away from Father Tim’s homily: “Open my heart, Lord.” As the service drew to a quiet close, I realized that the choir was humming very softly, gradually growing louder, but still only approaching mezzo piano. They sang the recessional hymn a cappella, in Hawaiian, a gentle closing to a meditative service. I was very moved by the way the service ended, and every time I think of it, or tell someone about it, my heart feels glad and full of love, and it brings tears to my eyes.

I learned that attending a worship service anywhere brings me closer to God and allows me to hear The Word anew. I learned that attending this service should be on every Episcopalian’s bucket list. I learned to pray, saying, “Open my heart, Lord.”


After the service we were showered with welcome kits, kind wishes, shell lei (the plural of “lei” is “lei”), and invitations to the coffee hour, the rummage sale, bell ringing in the tower and tours of the cathedral. Every member of the congregation was bursting to tell us of the history of the church and Hawaii, and it was obvious that it meant a great deal to them to share this with us. Everyone took their ministry seriously, with a great sense of fun and adventure. We learned about bell ringing, spending an hour in the bell tower, and we learned about the founding of the Anglican Church in Hawaii through the invitation of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, and Queen Liliuokalani’s role in the church.

We walked to Chinatown, a few blocks from St. Andrew’s, and feasted on Chinese food. After lunch we returned to the van, still parked at the church, and changed into swim gear. A parishioner showed us where to change and then gave us directions to a less-crowded beach at the east end of Waikiki, almost to Diamondhead. We drove back to Haleiwa for dinner, eating at Killer Tacos. We did not find Kua Aina that night. We held evening prayer outside our cabins.

I learned that typos can happen anywhere, even in tour guides.


Monday, June 22 We ate breakfast and gathered for Morning Prayer, and reflected upon King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma’s contributions to Hawaii. Our goal today: snorkeling! We stopped along the way for shaved ice at Matsumoto’s Store. All the colors and flavors of the rainbow greeted our tongues! On the road again, our destination was Pupukea, a sacred place to Hawaiians where human sacrifices took place. The twelve-passenger van was put to the test as the narrow road quickly climbed up from the ocean and met a truck at a 270 degree curve. Ketlen did an amazing job getting us to the top. “It’s just like driving in Haiti!” she sang out. I thought we were going to have to install a hinge to get the van around the curve. Pupukea covered a hilltop above Waimea Bay, and the ground was red-blood clay. It was raining at the top of the hill, and the clay stuck to flip-flops, sneakers and bare feet, with no discrimination at all. Later, we found out that it rains constantly at Pupukea. In the afternoon we rented snorkeling equipment and sent everyone into the water to see the fishes and turtles. We explored beaches on the way to Kohuku. We ate at Giovanni’s shrimp truck, where Evan wrote “Evan St Luke’s Pilgrimage ‘09” on the truck with a sharpie. At Compline that night we discussed worship styles, the different daily services, and the length and tone of services. We talked about nuns and monks who pray for us all the time. We listed many things we are thankful for.

I learned that our pilgrims are thankful for turtles.


Tuesday, June 23The morning began for me just after sunrise. I joined Scott S. who was talking with Naomi, who was visiting with her daughter. She was quite the story-teller and had lots of interesting stories! She told us how her 4-year old granddaughter let her know that she knew that Naomi was old. Naomi asked her granddaughter to explain, and she said, “Nona, I know you’re old because your band aids don’t have pictures on them.” After our morning devotion, we set off for Pearl Harbor. Taylor Skardon called in advance to reserve tickets for a tour. We had time to tour the exhibits at the visitor’s center before watching the film and taking a boat ride to the Arizona memorial. The film was introduced by a WWII veteran who added personal reflections and set the proper tone for viewing the film. The Memorial is a sobering, quiet and reflective place. So many people sacrificed their lives for our future. It’s difficult to put into words exactly what I felt, but I was thankful for the opportunity to feel the enormity decisions made by governments that create chaos in people’s lives, and to understand that it is individuals who must work through the chaos to create harmony again.


We ate lunch at Schooners, a place recommended to us by Taylor and the Weavers, and we stopped off at St. George’s, the church that the Skardons attend. We learned from Taylor that Tom Stallman helped to install the cross atop the church. We stopped at a drugstore to buy water and Band-Aids with pictures on them. We worshiped together in the morning and in the evening.

I learned that positive lessons can be learned from destruction. I learned that only old people wear band aids without pictures on them. I learned that parishioners from St Luke’s leave lasting impressions in places far from Alexandria.


Wednesday, June 24 Wednesday went by in a blur. We arose, ate breakfast, worshipped outside the cabins at the picnic table, and set off for the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, a point on the Windward side of Oahu. If Oahu is a clock, we were staying at 10, and Makapuu was at 4. It was a very sunny day, and we had heard that the trail offered no shade cover at all. We talked about how much water to take with us, how to carry that much water, and how much suntan lotion to use. As we scooted down the H1, we decided to stop off at the Lyon Arboretum, just north of Waikiki on the mountain sides perched above Honolulu. The Lyon Arboretum is located within a rain forest, and it was beautiful. There are miles of trails through lush vegetation and stream valleys. The pilgrims split into 3 groups and soon we were all exploring gardens full of native plants that were exotic to us. We eventually regrouped and ate lunch at the arboretum in a gazebo, joined by a dog named Kona.


Apparently, we soon decided to abandon the lighthouse walk, and we drove through the central part of Oahu to the Pali, a sheer cliff that divided the windward from the leeward sides. Until the late 1950’s, there was no direct route from Honolulu to the windward side. The Pali Road was a dangerous, windy, curvy donkey trail widened to barely accommodate 2 cars in the 20th century. In the 50’s a tunnel was built through the cliff to directly connect Honolulu with Kailua. A park sits atop the cliff, and it is the windiest place on earth. The Pali is a narrow gap between 2 higher mountain tops, and it becomes a wind tunnel. Evan, Scott and Kyle climbed above the Pali Overlook and felt the wind at its full force. Caitlin, Savannah and Julia walked on the old road below the Pali Overlook and felt the wind at its full force. I stayed on the Pali Overlook and was almost blown over any number of times. I also saw images of pilgrims’ lifeless bodies at the bottom of the cliff as my over-active imagination kicked into overdrive, and dreaded making the call to their parents. All pilgrims regrouped safe and sound, excited by their adventures. I have to admit that letting out the rope and allowing them the space to learn their limits and use their judgment to gauge their safety is an important component of mentoring.


Our destination in the afternoon was the Valley of the Temples, a huge cemetery on the windward side. We visited a replica of a Buddhist temple. The temple was beautiful. There was a large temple bell that several of our pilgrims rang. Its sound was gorgeous. Peacocks ruled the roost and harassed Savannah. The place was peaceful and quiet. The temple was only a small section of the cemetery, and the visit made me think about what we do with our human remains. What does it mean for our families? This was a place of life, abundant; death, abundant. What did it all mean?


We followed the main road around Oahu in a counter-clockwise direction, and ate at Romy’s shrimp shack for dinner. We stopped off at the Foodland, and caught a rainbow! Sunset on the beach at Shark’s Cove was a great way to end the day. We gathered for our evening worship and prepared for the service at the River of Life Mission to be presented the next day.

I learned that I feel the presence of God when I am surrounded by natural beauty. I learned that I need to believe in a youth’s ability to care for their self (ie: chill!). I learned that silence and peacefulness are comforting.

Thursday, June 25 As usual, we’re up early. We eat breakfast, and worship, but also make a call to Taylor Skardon to consult about the availability of doctors and emergency care physicians. Julia has an earache, and we find out that there is a walk-in clinic close to the airport. Good, we already know where this place is!! It didn’t take forever to see a doctor, and Julia came out with 2 prescriptions.

We headed to River of Life Mission, just prior to noon and set up for a worship/praise service before serving lunch to the clients. Scott S. picked out several hymns and Mission favorites for us to sing, including a mission favorite called “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” The youth acted out the gospel reading, and Ketlen delivered a knockout message. The clients told Evan that they thought we sang like angels. The staff directed several of us to go into the food line area to put food onto trays, while other stayed in the dining room to deliver trays and pour drinks. Scott S. sat at the piano and played for more than 2 solid hours. It was quite a blessing to hear music the whole time we were serving others. It didn’t feel like work at all.

After the lunchtime cleanup was completed, the staff took us on a tour of the River of Life Mission building and told us about their programs. We heard the stories of several clients, but one in particular has stayed with me, and I think of him every day. Chris told us his story of redemption. His was a long story, and I lost count of the number of times he went through drug rehab. But he kept on trying to find the right path. If you ever want to see a truly happy person, meet Chris. He glowed with joy and happiness in the security of the Lord’s grace. He is happy because he chose to believe in Christ. Chris does not have an easy life; he has overcome many challenges, and has many yet to conquer. But Chris has an incredible inner happiness and calm to him that can only be attributed to the grace of God. Seeing and hearing him filled my heart with gladness. He reminded me that I, too, have chosen Christ, and I need to be conscious about how this choice governs my actions.


I only have a few pictures of that day, taken late in the evening. Our valuables were locked in a file cabinet drawer as soon as we entered the mission. After we left the mission, we filled Julia’s prescriptions. We visited Walgreen’s and Wal-Mart before getting the right mix that would work. It was bonding kind of day, I would say… We ate dinner that evening in Haleiwa, and returned to the camp for our evening worship.

I learned that there are people who really, really, really believe in Christ and are not shy about sharing that belief. I learned that caring for others and caring for each other is equally important. I learned that I am truly blessed by God, I learned that music is a powerful ministry.

Friday, June 26

Quotes from my journal on this day: I notice when I go out to the beach in front of the cabins at sunrise that more rocks are exposed than earlier in the week at the same time. Ah, the joy of staying in one place. The unknown becomes familiar, just like we learn to know Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. But we always discover new surprises. The level of the tide, the depth of our faith, they are ever changing. Stay in one place long enough to get to know it. Stay with Christ long enough to feel His love. Ever changing. Alpha and Omega. Evermore and Evermore. Get to know a place so that when you leave, you will miss it. Learn to love and respect Christ enough to know how much you need him.


We follow the pattern set during the week: view the sunrise, walk along the beach, eat breakfast, gather for Morning Prayer, and get in the van. Today is the day we learn to surf!! We go to Barber’s Point, close to where Bobbie Bruce stayed when she taught school in Hawaii. Scott S. and Ketlen decide to stay on the beach to observe and cheer. The rest of us put on reef shoes and rash guards (a long-sleeved t-shirt) and watch the first class of the day finish. It looks like fun! The instructors are all very fit. They guarantee that we WILL stand up on our board, or get our money back. After some demos on moving the board through the water, and the theory behind standing up on the board, we drag our board to the edge of the surf and swim out to an area between 2 pink buoys about 150 yards from shore. Here is the truth—Surfing is a lot harder than it looks!! You know the wave that knocks you down? Well, when you hold a surf board, the wave has even more surface to hit and knock you even further and harder. Savannah, Caitlin, Julia, Evan, Scott and Kyle all had a great time surfing. I had a great time surfing, I just didn’t do it as long as they did. The instructors actually pushed me out to catch a wave, and sometimes they hooked their toes over the front of my board and dragged me out. Did I mention they were fit? I stood up once. I screamed as I stood so everyone could see me stand up, because I figured it may be the only time I did it. I can say that I did it. I admire the tenacity of all the pilgrims as they surfed for 1 ½ hours. They were awesome!!


That evening we drove to Turtle Bay Resort, east of the camp, on the North Shore, for a Polynesian luau. It was our last night in Hawaii, and we all dressed up for the occasion. The luau was held outside, and the sunset that evening was gorgeous. The luau also featured dances from Polynesian regions. The music and dances were unique and beautiful. Evan learned a hula. We had an opportunity to sample native foods from the buffet. Our evening ended, as usual, with a brief worship service. We bid each other good night and agreed on a time to rise to pack and clear out the cabins. We also agreed to rise in time for a sunrise Eucharist.

I learned that anyone can surf, if you have the right equipment, good instructors, good waves and the willpower to do it. I learned that sunrises and sunsets in Hawaii are especially beautiful.


Saturday, June 27


Departure day. I wake up early, or so I think, but Kyle and Scott M. are already on the beach before sunrise. The others gather, and Ketlen leads us through the Eucharist. The youth are sleepy-tired, but they all participate in the service to the best of their ability. The daylight continues to brighten the beach, and it becomes easier and easier to distinguish the hills behind the camp, the rocks along the beach, and the bright yellow paint on our cabins. We greet the day with the blessing of the Lord upon us.

I now know since I can’t stay in Haleiwa, I must return at some point. That was before we ate breakfast at Café Haleiwa. After that breakfast, I wanted to cash in my plane ticket. We spent the morning hanging out in Haleiwa, eating coconut ice cream for the last time, and then headed down toward the airport. Where were we to park the van with all of our belongings? We headed to the relative safety of the Ala Moana mall parking garage, where we could take care of last-minute souvenir shopping and also eat at the food court before dropping off the van and boarding our plane. Ketlen ministered to a lost soul in the Sears store who desperately needed to hear the word of Christ.

Ketlen and I dropped off the van that had served us so well during the week, and returned to the airport. We managed to run several bags multiple times through the Department of Agriculture machine (never did figure out exactly what was going on there…) and we all made it through security to the gate, to find that our flight was delayed by an hour or so. Our seats were scattered throughout the plane, and since we left at 10pm Hawaii time, we all looked forward to sleeping on the plane and waking up in Denver.

We ate breakfast in Denver, and just before boarding the plane, Ketlen served a Eucharist. I said goodbye to the pilgrims in Denver. I feel very fortunate to have spent the week in Hawaii with Ketlen, Scott S., Caitlin, Scott M., Savannah, Evan, Julia and Kyle. They have all taught me many lessons, about myself, about them, and about God. Bless you all.

I learned that taking a wrong turn is not terminal.

I learned that to be a good pilgrim you need to open your heart and all of your senses to the possibility of meeting God.

Makoli (Marjy)