iCLT News: Pilgrims on a Journey
by Maren Tyedmers Hange
Minister of Formation and Soul Care
Pilgrims on a Journey
We are at the beginning of a new year and through the first seasons of the church calendar. With what expectations, dreams and worries do you enter and journey into this year? I have been drawn into the journey of the Magi at the beginning of this year. Wondering and pondering what led them on this journey to find and worship the king of the Jews. What were their longings? What drew them and why not others? Were they simply looking for a human king or was there an inner yearning that they didn’t quite understand? How many years did they spend in preparation and observation? Whose feet did they sit at to learn? How did they know what signs to pay attention to and which to ignore; for which ones to drop everything and set out on a journey? And whom did they leave behind?
While much remains a mystery, they must have spent years diligently watching and waiting, looking for signs, following clues, interpreting them correctly, leaving everything behind to go to Jerusalem, travel through and into the unknown. We don’t know anything about their adventures or whom they encountered, they set out because they saw a star at its rising and so a deep longing that they were willing to trust the sign in the sky and go.
Can you imagine setting out on a two-year journey (plus time to return; seems like a good guess based on Herod’s deathly response) toward something that you do not know all the details of? Or what you would find at the end? The groundedness it takes to travel to the edges? To be forever changed? Mark Nepo talks about journeying in this way, “To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed is to be a pilgrim.”
The Magi were pilgrims, transformed by their meeting and worshipping Jesus. Transformed they heard God’s voice in a dream like many others in the bible before that led them home another way. It brought them face to face with evil and yet in that space they also received the guidance to journey another 7 miles to the small place where God was made manifest in the baby Jesus.
I recently heard the following phrase, “Worship is always decentering yourself and putting God back into the center of the universe”. Epiphany brings the Christmas season to a close with Christ revealed to the nations. How have we journeyed? How have we been changed? How are we traveling this year another way? And how are we inviting others to become pilgrims on the journey?
One of the areas of my role on the interim conference leadership team is in youth ministry. It has been many years since VMC has had staff for youth, in the past years this work has been carried by two youth pastors Moriah Hurst, Park View Mennonite Church and Mark Harmon, Harrisonburg Mennonite Church. There have been annual retreats in cooperation with Highland Retreat and the formation of a youth council with youth from 5-8 churches, growing future leaders. In the fall of 2022, Caleb Schrock-Hurst and I together with MaryBeth Heatwole Moore from FLC Leadership Enrichment Committee began meeting with Mark and Moriah to envision VMC’s work with youth going forward.
Last year we held two events, February and October, for youth leaders and sponsors connecting and equipping one another. Another gathering for youth leaders is coming up on March 2, 10am-noon at Immanuel Mennonite Church. Since our October 2023 meeting Lori Friesen established a Facebook group, “Virginia Mennonite Youth Leaders” to ask questions and help us connect. The most recent question posted was about rituals for faith/life milestones.
Our hope is that as pilgrims on the journey of faith we all are being transformed in Christ as we gather in worship and bring our gifts to Jesus, equipping one another and our youth.