finally… the long awaited (and highly abbreviated) synopsis of our pilgrimage to ireland.
every year, as part of our 10th grade sunday school curriculum at church, a group of teenagers and teachers depart on pilgrimage together. it is a unique opportunity to leave the rhythms, rigors and routines of home behind. to come away, together, to a foreign land. to explore our surroundings and ourselves, and to draw closer to God and one another throughout our journey. it’s pretty awesome.
this year 37 young pilgrims and 6 slightly older pilgrims spent 10 days traveling around western ireland. you might think it’s impossible to have any kind of meaningful community with 43 people--i was definitely concerned. before i left for ireland, my boss (and head priest) asked what i was looking forward to most in leading this pilgrimage. having never lead a pilgrimage before, i told him i was looking forward to the things i knew i’d have no control over… the moments of grace. he said, “so… you’re basically excited about everything.” “yep,” i said, “i’m pretty psyched.” that was certainly the case with the community forged during our trip. it was nothing any of us could have controlled or planned for, and God’s grace was hugely evident as a result. again, pretty awesome.
so what did we do? we explored castles and forts. we walked around abbeys and cemeteries, thinking (and writing) about how we would want to be remembered. we hiked 4 miles along the cliffs of moher, mere inches from 800-foot drops to the rocky shore below, contemplating the sheer greatness of God, and how it makes us a little nervous and draws us closer all at once. we played golf (the monastery where we stayed had a pitch and put course). we bought loads of groceries and cooked meals for one other (iron chef style), we served and cleaned up after one other. we hiked up crough patrick, the second hardest climb i’ve ever done, in part because of the hail that rained down on us as we summated the slippery shale incline. we traveled to the smallest of the aran islands, a place called inisheer. we visited pubs and listened to irish music. some of our kids met up with local kids and went to an irish dance. we worshiped together in some really holy places, most memorable for me being kevin’s church, which is covered by sand every year, and every year dug out by the islanders on june 13. we shared ourselves in a way we will likely never share again, crying and laughing in spaces made safe by God’s presence. really, it was awesome.
i came home very exhausted, because really, it was a lot of work. but i also came home renewed, because really, it’s fun to watch God work.