Eight teens and six adults from Stittsville United Church (SUC) participated in a New Year pilgrimage to historic sites in downtown Montreal from January 2 to 4, 2020. Destination sites included: the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, dating from 1655 and the Musée Margeurite-Bourgeoys; the Old Brewery Mission founded in 1889; Aura, the multimedia spectacle at the Notre Dame Basilica; and, St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal.
The travelers started with the practice of letting go of expectations. The hotel, in spite of an agreement with hotel management, was not prepared for our arrival. Rooms not being ready, the seven teens unloaded all the gear from the school bus, promptly reloaded, and then unloaded again into a temporary room before finally making our way to our shared quarters. Later that evening, a misunderstanding with the driver resulted in our group missing entirely the performance of “Blizzard” at La TOHU.
At the downtown hotel, we were all oriented to the ages-old practice of pilgrimage by Aaron Miechkota, a United Church candidate to ordination studying currently in Montreal. Aaron spoke about her personal journey to theological school and ministry, engaging us all in the important practice of personal reflection. Pilgrimage, we considered, was a process of transformation that also had historic roots in the practice of social and political subversion. The inner, it seems has some relationship to the outer.
And so incredibly passionate and well-educated tour guides led us through sacristies and crypts, reliquaries and artifacts, acts great and small by historic devotees with no social standing, and we watched sacred art and high-tech installations transfuse art and architecture with laser lights and music. Awe, wonder, inspiration, and hard work for the clients of Montreal’s Brewery Mission. The pilgrims, during their visit, lightened the work of the kitchen staff at the Mission when they helped out and peeled 1500 bananas, de-boned some 33 very large (over 30 lbs.) turkeys, and had brought with them the ingredients to make and bake over 800 chocolate sugar cookies that they then packed for hand-out.
That’s not all they did. They learned about the history of Canada, of religion in this country, and reflected on the practice of faith and pilgrimage today. They performed selfless service, and they deepened friendships.
Perhaps, most importantly of all, the journey continues, and ever will.
The teen group of the Stittsville United Church is open to all. They are diverse — searching and questioning — and gather together every Monday night at SUC – The Place to BE. The teens also serve community Sunday brunches once a month and enjoy drama, dance, art and outdoor activities. To learn more about the teen group, contact Ruth Richardson, the Youth Worker at SUC (613)836-4962.
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