I am leading a group of young adults who are tasked with the responsibility of leading other young adults on trips to Israel and Palestine in the next year and a half. These travelers will use their trips as starting points to engage in issues of peace and justice back home as it pertains to the ongoing occupation and violation of human rights happening in Israel and Palestine. Each night, we hold reflections and devotions as we consider what we have experienced throughout the day and how it not only impacts our knowledge, but more importantly how it impacts our calling as people of faith who are seeking to be change agents.
The other night, the young adults leading devotions last spoke about Christian pilgrimage and they got me thinking about this question – What does it mean to reclaim Christian Pilgrimage from being viewed as an internal spiritual experience to an external prophetic journey? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we are called to deepen in faith and do soul work that better informs our spirituality. However, it seems as though Christian pilgrimage has become mainly about visiting sites and growing in personal faith and less about connecting with a historic narrative that informs how one’s faith should impact their life in the world.
Coming to the Holy Land continues to impress upon me the importance of paying attention to the people currently living in the region and not just focusing on the the people who came before that have become more important than current realities. So what does this mean?
We are talking about starting a movement among young adults. Much like the phenomenon of alternative spring breaks, we are hoping to invite people to redefine what it means to travel and in this case, redefine what it means to embark on a pilgrimage.
Alternative pilgrimages will be defined as experiences that begin with a travel experience and are focused on relationship building for the sake of ongoing conversation and enlightenment that seeks to build love, justice, compassion and peace.
Alternative pilgrimages spend time attending to the historical faith narrative and seek to embody the gospel of Jesus Christ by walking alongside one another and paying attention to how the Spirit of God is active, living and breathing life into people and situations.
Alternative pilgrimages invite travelers to critically think about the lives they are encountering, the stories they are hearing and the sights they are seeing in order to more clearly see their home context and work for justice and peace in their communities.
Alternative pilgrimages invite those traveling to consider how they use their newfound information and relationships to influence their circles of influence to broaden their knowledge and begin to have conversations that go deeper and attend to the heart of a matter.
I am seeking fellow travelers to embark on this lifelong journey. Are you willing to journey with me?