Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Quaker Pilgrimage

Last Saturday, I had an opportunity to lead and go on pilgrimage with a group of young high school students and leaders from Carolina Friends School, located near Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  The group was meeting at an week-end long lock-in, where some of the youth could go to one of three groups: a group on being a conscientious objector; a group practicing yoga; and a group on spiritual pilgrimage.

When we all gathered together, the first discussion we had was on the practice of making and carrying a cross.  While other groups--primarily Christian--that I have led have had no problems with the symbol of the cross, that was not the same with this group.  We had a fascinating discussion on the meaning of the cross, especially since some of the youth and leaders were either agnostic or atheists, or that the meaning of the cross had become a violent symbol of hate, used against groups because of their sexual orientation or the color of their skin.  And there was discussion of the roots of Quakerism, and the movement within and among Friends groups who are looking at the roots of Quakerism, such as the biblical charge to "let our light shine" and not be hidden under a bushel.  It was decided by the group that we would not use the cross.

We met at the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting buildings, near the cemetery on the grounds of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  Buried in this cemetery are the bodies of many Carolina alumni/ae, including Charles Kuralt of CBS-TV fame.  This would be our geographical grounds for our pilgrimage.  After the large cemetery markers (literally small houses) in Spain that we walked among on the way to Santiago de Compestela, our cemeteries seem so small and quaint.  Among the tombstones we walked as we ventured toward a gazebo in the middle of the cemetery.  Many of the litany of prayers I usually use on pilgrimage we changed to reflect the theology and philosophy of the group: thus, the trinitarian language of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" or "Creator, Christ, and Sustainer," was replaced by "We behold the light within them" and "We hold them up to the light."

By the end of our pilgrimage, as we reflected upon the pilgrimage, we were all amazed and in awe of the great discussion and consensus model of decision making we participated in, and were all thankful for the time to see, even with this new group of pilgrims that are not as Christo-centric or theo-centric, the way we live life as pilgrims amid so many different traditions.

Bien Camino!

Pilgrim Peace, 

Brett