Sometimes you have to travel over borders and back in time to get a better glimpse of the person in the mirror. Sometimes you have to step away from your regular, daily grind to re-connect with God and even to re-discover that God can still meet you in your regular, daily grind.
On September 11, 2018, a solemn day of remembrance for many, 21 United Methodist clergy and laity from West Virginia and beyond gathered in excited expectation for a 12-day spiritual pilgrimage to Ireland. Rev. Monty Brown has led some eight mission trips to Ireland over the last 35 years (as well as mission trips to Russia, Antigua, and Mexico). But this trip was different: the focus of the mission was each pilgrim.
We visited the ruins of castles and cathedrals, we wandered among cemeteries and “high crosses”, we visited a monestary. Yes, we did the touristy things (the Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, St. Patrick’s grave) as well, but each and every day was an invitation to look for God in the little things, to walk the paths our foremothers and forefathers in faith walked. Each and every day was an opportunity to embrace God and to be embraced. We were open to “thin places” – places or circumstances where the veil between God’s kingdom and ours was thin enough to feel through. We read and talked and sang together. We broke bread, both in the mundane sense and in the sacred sense, as we communed with each other and with the saints before us. We talked of peace in a land marked by deep internal conflict not unlike our own. We remembered our baptism at one of the “holy wells” that pepper the island. We remembered that we are beloved children of God, precious and beautiful to behold.
Sometimes you have to travel over borders and back in time to get a better glimpse of the person in the mirror. I waited 16 years to make this pilgrimage. But I won’t wait that long for the next one.
Rev. Kerry Bart, Barboursville First UMC
Western District Communications Coordinator