People have journeyed to sacred places to explore, deepen, or re-kindle their faith for centuries. They often travel in community with others, singing, praying and celebrating their shared journey.
A pilgrimage is about transformation: it’s not a vacation or a tourist’s adventure. Pilgrims open themselves up to the people, the place, and the Holy Spirit as they become vulnerable to the journey. The sense of accomplishment and experience of finding a new understanding of the Holy can be life-changing.
Just as ancient pilgrims prepared for their travels with both heart and mind, participants in Forest Hill Church pilgrimages engage in pre-travel meetings and readings in preparation for each journey.
Memphis & The Civil Rights Museum ~ 2016
Twenty-seven pilgrims from Forest Hill and two from Church of the Saviour crowded onto a bus to Memphis, Tennessee for an unexpected journey of discovery. Beginning with the stark reality of the Lorraine Motel where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the group toured the massive National Civil Rights Museum built around the motel that recently received a $27.5 million renovation. The next day they sat down with three iconic leaders of the radical Invaders group who met with Dr. King shortly before his death: Fred Davis, attorney Julian Bolton, and Dr. Coby Smith. The three spoke and answered questions about the Civil Rights movement before and after King’s death. They were joined by 27-year-old anti-blight activist Brandon Gaitor, Special Projects Manager for Neighborhood Preservation, Inc. and member of the board of the MidSouth Peace & Justice Center. A worship service and opportunities to experience the cultural heritage of Memphis rounded out the pilgrimage.
Detroit & The Underground Railroad ~ 2015
The Underground Railroad Living Museum Flight to Freedom Tour presented a “storytelling” re-enactment of the original Underground Railroad passage that operated between 1840 and 1863. Our pilgrims were shackled with wrist bands at the entrance of the tour and transformed into passengers on the Underground Railroad. A moving and powerful experience for the 20+ participants.
Early Christian Roots in Rome and Italy ~ March 2013
Building on past pilgrimages to the Holy Lands of Israel and Palestine, and tracing the Apostle Paul’s footsteps through Turkey and Greece, in 2013, a group of 25 pilgrims explored the roots of the early Christian church in Rome and Italy.
The 8-day trip included 6 days in the extraordinarily beautiful city of Rome and the Tuscany region.
Washington D.C. ~ October 2012
Continuing the journey of the Courageous Conversations on Race, the pilgrimage to Washington D.C. included visiting: the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the African-American Civil War Museum, the exhibit of African-American history and culture at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and other civil rights sites.
The trip was more than a sight-seeing expedition. It was a journey of on-going transformation to become a more hospitable, inclusive and diverse church family.
Participants joined Pastors Clover Beal and John Lentz, Ph.D. in New Testament scriptures, along with Dr. Timothy Beal, Ph.D. in Hebrew scriptures, for a pilgrimage to the cradle of Christianity in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and Greece.
2009 ~ Israel/Palestine Holy Lands
The 32 members of the pilgrimage team to Israel/Palestine prepared for their trip by studying the Middle East with Dr. Peter Haas, attempting to get a better sense of the complicated issues between Israel and its neighbors. They met as a group to get to know each other better before embarking on the journey.
The participants envisioned their pilgrimage as not only for the individual, but about bringing home the experience for the community so that all might be shaped by it. Click for photos from the journey.
In May, 2009, 18 members from Forest Hill, along with 2 members from the Federated UCC Church in Chagrin Falls, traveled to Abiquiu, New Mexico, for a Desert Pilgrimage at the 21,000-acre Ghost Ranch Retreat Center owned by the Presbyterian Church (USA). To learn more about this desert pilgrimage, explore various readings and reminiscences from the trip as well as spectacular photographs, visit their photo page at ghostranch2008.shutterfly.com
2007 ~ Nicaragua
In June 2007, 12 pilgrims traveled to Nicaragua with International Partners in Mission for an immersion experience in the culture of the Nicaraguan people. Instead of doing direct service work, the group was introduced to many projects, both urban and rural, developed and implemented by local women and men that addressed the needs of their communities. The pilgrimage was led by Rev. John Lentz.
The first Forest Hill pilgrimage was to the Abbey of Iona, on the Isle of Iona in Scotland. A group of 12 pilgrims spent one week in July in community with others from all over Great Britain. The days were filled with the rhythm of worshipful work, worship and prayers, communal discussion, and hiking the beautiful island. We hope to travel to Iona again.