Friday, June 27, 2014

pilgrim's progress

We are in sporadic communication with the pilgrim. Cell phones are allowed on the trip, but their use is discouraged except for check-ins with parents. Secondo's message this afternoon was "Wer [sic] at the border. Bye!"

That was my notice that they were heading into Canada, and we wouldn't hear from them for a couple of days.

So why Canada?

The priest of our parish has based this pilgrimage upon the history of this area and our religious denomination's involvement in the Revolutionary War. The original Anglican parish in our town has long since vanished, but it was in existence when Washington marched his troops through the area on the way to the Battle of Monmouth, and incurred significant damage when British troops stabled their horses in it a few months later. The only remnant is a small nondescript cemetery in the center of town, which contains graves that date back to that period. (Local peeps, it is behind Swal Dairy on Lakeview Drive.)

The pilgrimage is described as "a journey into the faith choices of our ancestors, to face the faith choices in our own lives." The group starts at that cemetery, laying a wreath there in commemoration. The kids are taught about difficult choices during those times: stay loyal to Britain, or join the revolutionaries? Among the most conflicted were Anglican priests, who had sworn an oath of allegiance to the crown when they took their vows but could well appreciate the revolutionary point of view.

The Revolutionary War was a time of tremendous turmoil in religious life of the time. Many churches were closed as a result of the upheaval. Anglican priests especially were threatened; one of them stopped holding services after finding a noose hanging over his altar. Some joined the patriots, some stayed loyal to the crown. Some fled back to England, and some moved north, eventually to Canada.

Trinity Church, Boston
taken by Primo during his pilgrimage in 2012

The pilgrimage group traces that path and talks about making choices and staying true to your core beliefs, and how that can play out differently for different people. First to Boston, where they visit an Anglican monastery (the silent meal is reputed to be especially difficult for the teenagers) and Trinity Church, as well as fun places like Harvard and Fenway Park.

Red seat at Fenway Park,
taken by Primo during his pilgrimage
(read about the Red Seat here)

The next stop is Maine and Acadia National Park, where they hike Cadillac Mountain and leave behind the stones they brought.

View from the top of Cadillac Mountain,
taken in 2010 during our family vacation

Then onto St. John, New Brunswick, where they visit another Trinity Church, which still holds the Royal Coat of Arms which was removed by the loyalists when they were evacuated from the City. That's where they will spend this weekend, before making their way back home for a Tuesday midday arrival.

As for all the religious turmoil during the Revolutionary War: the upheaval in the church left a gaping hole once things calmed down again. So many churches had been closed and priests moved on, that a dearth of religious opportunities was created. Some priests agreed to return after receiving pleas to that effect. Others never saw their families again. All a parent can do is pray that their own children never have to make such absolute choices, and hope that their faith carries them safely through the difficult decisions they will undoubtedly face.

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