We kicked off our pilgrimage with a Sunday liturgy at St. Mark’s Cathedral, a new experience for many of our youth pilgrims. The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered a wonderful sermon on the lectionary’s wisdom readings, readings about how the world works and what it means to live a good life. This includes, of course, how we care for creation. One piece of her sermon that would reappear throughout the day focused on the waste we produce. Waste is not inherently bad, she reminded us—but very serious problems arise when we don’t manage that waste well. The liturgy concluded with a blessing over the pilgrims, as The Very Rev. Steven Thomason sprinkled the group with a cedar limb dipped in the baptismal font.
Church of the Holy Cross, Redmond, have graciously loaned us two 15-passenger vans for this journey, which we’ve loaded with duffle bags and backpacks, sleeping bags and sleeping pads. We all drove down to the Seattle–Bainbridge ferry, and from the top deck, we watched the Olympic Mountains loom larger and larger. We’ll spend the week exploring this side of Washington State, appreciating new beauty and better learning how to care for it.
Grace Church, Bainbridge was our first waystation. A beautiful sanctuary in the middle of ten wooded acres, it made for a perfect place to settle into the ethos of the pilgrimage. Our three trail leaders got things going: Will Montei led everyone through a few icebreaker games, I explained the principles of “Leave no Trace” (again we faced the question: how do we deal with waste responsibly?), and Nicole Silvernail divided everyone into small groups that will meet throughout the week.
We then broke into those small groups to explore today’s daily theme of pilgrim. We performed a meditation exercise: focus on your breath for ten minutes. In, out. In, out. Nothing else. It sounds simple, but as expected, distractions came up. No one stayed focused. Ten seconds was about all anyone could manage, and then we’d realize we had started thinking about something else. We talked about those results in our small groups: What were those distracting thoughts and feelings? In the same way those thoughts intruded on our meditation, what distractions are we each bringing into this pilgrimage? By recognizing and accepting their existence, we can be better listeners to the places we encounter this week, to the other pilgrims, and to ourselves.
We spent the rest of the evening with a full, exciting program from Grace Church. We walked through the labyrinth, focusing on our intentions for this pilgrimage. A quick pizza break later, The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori shared about her family’s 150-year history in the Pacific Northwest and her own path to priesthood. We then watched Everything Connects, a short film by a local, 16-year-old filmmaker who fielded questions and engaged us in another discussion about the difficulty of dealing with waste. Each time, we learn new insights and hear new solutions, and we’re getting comfortable talking about our own ideas.
The night is now winding down with a campfire, s’mores, and music. We have a full day of kayaking and discussions tomorrow!