A 2012 Mayterm class,“Constructing Sacred Pilgrimage,” journeyed to Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Northern Ireland, Ireland and England to both understand and undertake a spiritual pilgrimage. Led by professors Deborah Dunn (communication studies) and Caryn Reeder (religious studies), the group visited a variety of holy sites, ranging from the beautiful or mysterious to those with historic or divine significance to places of terrible tragedy—not all holy sites are peaceful. Faculty, students, alumni, a staff member and a spouse all made the pilgrimage together—and made the ancient practice their own.
Sarah Bostick ’13 appreciated the different people she met.“There are so many different people, all made in God’s image,” she says.“Places change us, but I think more importantly that people change us. I did get closer to God on this trip because not only did I see his creation in the places that we went but in the people that he created.”
Josh Colfer ’12 agrees.“As I remember our pilgrimage, the lasting memories will be about those I met along the way,” he says.“Their stories and life-giving words have aided us in our travels; they have been the bread for our tired bodies and the hospitality in foreign lands.”
The journey continues for Brittney Walker ’13.“I’ve realized that this journey truly was a pilgrimage because it doesn’t end just because I’m home,” she says.“I’m trying to implement my experiences and the things I’ve learned in my daily life and walk with Christ. I’ve begun paying more attention to the international news. I’ve become more persistent in my prayers and taking steps toward growing deeper. I’m learning to serve those around me and accept help. I’ve realized that holy ground is everywhere.”
Bri Popineau ’14 saw the class as an answer to prayer.“God has shown me what it means to truly love one another,” she says.“I’ve prayed over and over again,‘Lord, help me to love people the way you love them.’ On this pilgrimage, God showed me what that looks like: We love people like Christ when we choose to sit down for tea with them, when we listen to them, when we show compassion, when we take the time to listen and understand their side of a story. When we offer our friendship, our sincerity, and our gratitude, Christ’s love permeates us.”
Ryan Stong ’12 sums it up when he says,“True pilgrimage lies in the meetings. We as Christians, as pilgrims, as (hopefully) healthy human beings, allow the personal risk of travel and meetings to change us. By ‘reconciling with others, we reconcile with God.’”