This post by Lizzy Brady, our Pilgrim in Residence for the month of August. Each Wednesday this month, Lizzy has shared about her search for Life on the pilgrim roads of Europe. This is the last post in this series. If Lizzy’s journey has impacted you, be sure to let her know in the comments! Learn more about Lizzy and read the rest of the posts in this series here. -Lacy
Stories are food for friends to feast on together.
At the end of the summer, all of the participants reunited at a hostel in Haarlem, The Netherlands, for two nights and one full day before flying back to Chicago. (I don’t know if Kinfolk has a hostel, but if they do, I’m sure it would resemble the hostel we stayed at.) Although brief, we wanted those last moments together to be intentionally marked with celebration, reflection, and thankfulness.
The tail end of our summer was, in many ways, an attempt to continue the themes we incorporated in the midsummer retreats. Dan Allender’s To Be Told inspired much of our summer, as liminal spaces prove to be such fertile ground to explore themes woven throughout our stories. What sweeter way to end than with a convivial story feast?
Liz and I asked the pilgrims to prepare to share a story, exploring our favorite questions (guiding questions in Allender’s book):
Where have you been?
Where are you now?
Where are you going?
The Icon of Friendship and a candle from Taizé sat at the center of our circle as a reminder of God’s presence among us. Those exact same Taizé gems were incorporated in all four of the midsummer retreats, so it seemed fitting to include them in the story feast, as well.
Over the course of that evening, beautifully prepared narratives slowly unfolded, storylines acknowledging our Creator’s hand in the development of plots. I listened to stories of meaning and transformation, stories that brought tears of joy to my eyes and heaps of hope in my heart. It felt so good to remember and celebrate moments of synchronicity, to pause with such gratitude and wonder at what those ten weeks held. My heart was so full.
After sharing, each orator placed a stone in the middle of the circle as a stone of remembrance. In Joshua 4 in the Old Testament, God commands the Israelites to collect stones from the riverbed and to use those stones from the Jordan as a “permanent memorial to God’s goodness, provision, or rescue in your life” (as described by Allender in To Be Told). Not only are consistent themes of pilgrimage woven throughout the biblical text, but also explicit commands to remember God’s intimate and powerful involvement amidst our sacred journeying.
Once everyone shared, we sat in the silence with a small pile of stones and a candle still illuminating the icon of friendship at the center of the circle. The silence was broken as one person softly started to sing the doxology, and the rest of us joined in:
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
How do you celebrate an ending? What would it look like to pause, acknowledge, and celebrate more endings in your life? Leave your response to the questions or the post in the comments.