Pilgrims Confront Environmental Issues, Seeking Peace Through Justice

Pilgrims Confront Environmental Issues, Seeking Peace Through Justice

By Anna Wiley, Communications Intern

During the week of the 2018 Pathways Youth Pilgrimage, participants engaged with truths from California's history and listened to each other's stories and perspectives. This year, the 70 Pathways participants and leaders hailed from all over Northern California, from Eureka to Yuba City to Benicia. They traveled to Marin Headlands and Angel Island, and hosted a variety of speakers and educators on the Sonoma State University campus.

Pathways, which just completed its third year, developed after a group of youth and adults from our diocese traveled to North Carolina for the Lift Every Voice Freedom Ride (LEV). LEV was a three-year initiative held in North Carolina and Cape Town, South Africa. It focused on bringing to light the historical truths of racism and preparing young adults from the United States, Botswana and South Africa to lead their dioceses' programming on race and reconciliation. After returning from the first year of LEV, the participants developed Pathways to highlight similar themes in Northern California.

Click here or on the image above to view scenes from the trip.

"At the end of LEV I was just wishing I had a camp like LEV growing up. Getting an opportunity to make that happen was like a dream! You go to events and talk about these grand plans you're going to do when you get back and they never happen. This time it did, and I'm honored to plan and attend it every year. We learn so much, and it better prepares us to improve the future while we learn about the past," said young adult leader Kirstyn Teuscher. 

The pilgrims spent a day at Marin Headlands, where they visited the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and the Marine Mammal Center. The Marine Laboratory studies coastal ecosystems, addressing environmental crises such as the dramatic rise in ocean temperatures as carbon dioxide levels rise. The Marine Mammal Center is a hospital for sick, wounded and malnourished animals, primarily seals and sea lions.

"Touring the center showed us the negative impact of our recklessness on marine life but also demonstrated the positive impact we can make when we come together with a common goal and a passion for making a change," said young adult leader Elizabeth Potts. 

Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined Pathways for two days, sharing her knowledge about the intersection of faith and science. Bishop Katharine has a PhD in oceanography and worked as a marine biologist before being ordained as a priest. She was an invaluable voice on he conversation about humanity’s responsibility to the earth.

“We can’t change anything that is wrong if we don’t name what is wrong. That is what lament means. The Earth is lamenting,” Bishop Katharine said, emphasizing God’s command to hold protective dominion over the earth rather than dominance. 

The day in Marin Headlands ended with Eucharist on the beach and an evening Q&A with Bishop Katharine.

"One of the many times I felt God’s presence on this trip was at the beach. I was standing with a group of people who when asked the question of ‘what’s been your favorite part of this trip so far’, kept quite. All of a sudden a big wave crashes on the beach, and they all start talking about their favorite parts of Pathways. I felt as though that wave was a sign from God, telling everyone to share their experiences," participant Emily Dedo shared.

At the second pilgrimage site, Angel Island, Pathways participants learned about the history of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the hardship immigrants faced as they tried to enter the United States. The tour of Angel Island took participants through the various rooms where immigrants were detained, often for months at a time, in three-level bunk beds that packed one against the other. 

The walls of the detention centers are covered in Chinese poetry, and the tour guide emphasized the range of emotions in the poems, from joy and hope at the possibility of entering the United States, and frustration and fear as months passed in the dirty, crowded detention center. That night, Bishop Barry Beisner spoke about God’s unbounded love and the Bible’s call to love everyone.

During the days on the Sonoma State campus, several speakers shared their stories with the Pathways participants. Sagnicthe Salazar, dean of an Oakland middle school, discussed restorative justice in the public-school system, which replaces punishment with dialogue and the expectation that the offender will work to help repair the damage they inflicted on the victim. 

Rose Hammock spoke about the history of the Pomo people, the indigenous tribes in the Bay area. She emphasized the historical trauma that continues to affect the tribes and the responsibility of communities as active support systems. Another highlight of the week was a panel of Episcopal advocates that included Heidi Kim, Lacey Bromel, Lewis Powell and Pamela Dolan. They described their work, which ranges from lobbying for social justice at the federal level on Capitol Hill, to leading outreach programs in local parishes.

The long days of learning were interspersed with games, music, crafts, worship and time for reflection. Pathways places the hard work of reckoning with our history and present alongside the safety of community and spirituality. 

As the community grows each year, Pathways will travel to new pilgrimage sites, continuing to learn the seldom-told stories of the land we live on, and preparing participants for the work of reconciliation.

A few photos from the week-long pilgrimage are below. For more photos, please visit Pathways NorCal on Facebook.

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