About the School of the Pilgrim
What we do and why we do it..
Background of the Mission:
When people of faith come to understand that change and growth occurs when we begin to see, hear, and sense that our life together, as members of a faith community, is a life-long pilgrimage real change happens. Whether we are on an actual pilgrimage, or practicing the pilgrimage rituals at home, we grow in our understanding that we are but the most recent participants in a long train of pilgrims who have preceded us in life.
The mission embodies the gospel model of simplicity filled with divine mystery. First, individuals become acquainted with the tradition of pilgrimage through familiarity with the literature and resources on pilgrimage, as well as participating on an actual pilgrimage. Second, pilgrims flourish through the rich interchange and journey to authenticity with other companions, both on an actual pilgrimage, and also in returning to our homes where we can now see—in our worship, fellowship, service, and prayer life—that the spiritual life is a pilgrimage.
The Foundation of the School of the Pilgrim:
In the Jewish and Christian traditions, the models for pilgrimage are Abraham and Sarah, who were called by God to leave Ur four thousand years ago. In some ways, God traveled with these nomadic people in the Ark of the Covenant. Moses and the people of Israel wandered for some time in the great Sinai peninsula, making their way to the land of Canaan. Jesus, often called the Pilgrim God, was, himself, on a pilgrimage from his very birth as his family fled Bethlehem to Egypt. Our Holy Week follows Jesus' pilgrimage in and around the streets of Jerusalem as his life came to a tragic conclusion, leading to a glorious resurrection. And Paul's mission trips were themselves pilgrimages in the ancient world as he taught and lived the Gospel in alien lands.
In earlier Christian pilgrimages, being on pilgrimage was seen as a sacred time when Christians would go on a journey for a variety of spiritual reasons, from asking for absolution of a sin, perhaps seeking a miracle, to learning to walk in a master’s footsteps. Lives were irrevocably changed while on pilgrimage as people came to embrace the unexpected God along the pilgrims' way. Coming home to their parish or congregation, the pilgrims were never the same people who left, for the experience of the Holy along the pilgrims' way, as well as reaching the destination, was life-changing.
Ways of Experiencing and Embracing the Christian Life as Pilgrimage:
As was stated in the Mission Statement, the School of the Pilgrim is a way of educating people in the intricate ways of living faithfully, as the Holy One’s pilgrim people, in this modern world. It is based upon the assumption that as people of faith we are on a life-long pilgrimage, headed toward and embraced by the realm of the Holy One's love.
Coming to believe that the spiritual life is a life-long holy trek may be experienced in various ways. We may come to see that life is a holy pilgrimage in our daily life in the context of where we live and worship.
People of faith may go on an actual pilgrimage, which will mean leaving our homes and faith communities to a place that we are not familiar with. What is still important is the act of process and translating the experiences of being on an actual pilgrimage into the daily-life we participate in as members of a faith community.
Either way that one participates in the pilgrimage life—whether it in our home congregations, on a weekend retreat, or visiting a holy site—the goal of the School of the Pilgrim is to enable the people of God to realize that the totality of our human life, as members of a faith community, is a life that can be structured and perhaps best known as a holy pilgrimage.
The staff of the School of the Pilgrim will be incorporating old practices and rituals of pilgrims, along with creating new rituals, prayers, songs, and other artistic and creative practices that will reveal how we may all live a pilgrim-life right where we live. The hope is that the lives that are changed for the good through pilgrimage moments with other pilgrims in this modern world, encouraging others to embrace the pilgrimage practices right where we live, both as individuals and as members of religious communities. The School of the Pilgrim is inclusive of all people: young and old, rich and poor, of all ethnicities, nationalities, and heritages; of those who are able-bodied and those with disabilities; of people of all sexual orientation, women and men. We hope to include in the future not only all denominations within the Christian tradition but those who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or practice Shinto traditions. In a very real sense, the ancient practice of pilgrimage is a meeting place for the world's religions as most of them have included pilgrimage as a core practice in their respective faith traditions.