Pilgrimage of Trust events aim to make an impact

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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Jackson Howard is eager to see the impact a few monks from France will have, not only on thousands of people of faith, but also the secular community in St. Louis.

"Hopefully it's a chance not only for the Christian community but for the whole St. Louis community to come together," Howard, a member of The Journey Church, said after an evening of prayer and reflection at Incarnate Word Church in Chesterfield Oct. 26.

The brothers of the Taizé Community, in collaboration with churches of different Christian denominations, are leading a Pilgrimage of Trust in the St. Louis area. At a time when fear and violence have seemingly become commonplace, the pilgrimage creates a space in which people of diverse community backgrounds come together for prayer and conversation on ways of building trust in their daily lives. The event will culminate in a gathering over Memorial Day weekend, May 26-29.

Archbishop Robert J. Carson, invited the ecumenical Taizé community to St. Louis after the unrest in Ferguson following a police-involved shooting death two years ago. Archbishop Carlson was aware of a Pilgrimage of Trust on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 2013 that brought together people of many backgrounds. He underlined his concern for the urgent need to rebuild relations between different groups in the St. Louis area.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the Pilgrimage of Trust, but the focus is on young adults, between the ages of 18 and 35.

Elizabeth Lent of Christ the King Parish in University City called the prayer and reflection event at Incarnate Word unifying. "I appreciate people of different faiths coming together in prayer, to see past their differences and ultimately find God and reach where we're being called," Lent said.

The evening included Taizé songs — short, meditative singing — along with readings from the New Testament, silence and the "Our Father." Taizé Brother Emile led the program, giving details of the Pilgrimage of Trust. The crowd of about 40 formed four small groups and discussed the need for crossing barriers and building trust; how to leave their comfort zones and become vulnerable; and how to involve others in the discussion.

The conversations focus on the need for individual and community change, realizing that divisions in society are affecting everyone and that healing cannot be delayed. The conversations don't focus exclusively on racial divides nor do they avoid their impact on mistrust in St. Louis and other parts of the country. The focus is on listening to other people's experiences, building friendship and deepening their relationship with God.

Deacon Carl Sommer of St. Monica Parish in Creve Coeur said the Pilgrimage of Trust attracted him because "clearly we do live in a divided city, and I don't want that any more. We need to break down barriers."

Others cited the interfaith setting as ideal for the discussion and expressed hope that prayer and conversation brings unity. 

>> More information

On Memorial Day weekend in 2017, hundreds of young adults will come to St. Louis from throughout the Midwest and beyond. Participants will be offered hospitality by local families. The weekend will involve times of prayer, Bible reflections, workshops on themes related to trust, justice and reconciliation and a citywide prayer walk to express the desire to work together for a more human society. While the workshops will be targeted to young adults, the prayer portions will be open to all. Many of the events will be held at St. Louis University, but workshops will involve visits to places of suffering and hope in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

A website, www.pilgrimageoftruststl.com, has a description of local events in the pilgrimage and will soon host registration. For more information, contact usameetings@taize.fr. To view a video on Taizé and the pilgrimage of trust, visit http://bit.ly/2fF4UCP. 

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