September 29, 2019: Meeting God in the Wilderness

by Grace Kreher

A few weeks ago a group of us gathered in our parking lot on a Saturday morning, ready for our very first Holy Hike. I like to hike, but I was curious about what would make this hike a holy one.

When we arrived at Catoctin Mountain Park we gathered at the head of the trail, read scripture, said a prayer, and started hiking. I stayed near the back of the group, going slowly, enjoying being outside. The air and soil were damp, as it had just stopped raining, and the woods were quiet. I inhaled the smell of dead plants being metabolized into fertilizer for other plants, reborn.

As we got deeper into the woods, I reflected on the recent seasons of my life. I remembered that in the Hebrew Bible, the Wilderness is not just a geographical location, but also a state of feeling far from God. David writes in the wilderness of Judah that his soul thirsts for God, that his flesh faints for God, that the wilderness is dry and without water. Like many here at All Souls, I am no longer part of the Christian denomination in which I was raised. Like many, I wandered in the metaphorical wilderness for a while after leaving my home denomination, wondering where to go next, wondering how to conceive of God when I wasn’t being told what to believe anymore. I often met God in that wilderness time, finding friends who love me in ways that reflect God’s love, having teachers who would not tell me exactly how to interpret scripture, but who would tell me that there is room for all of us at God’s table. In this time, I hiked a lot, in New England, and in South Africa, and here in the DC metro area. I found myself feeling God’s presence more easily when I was surrounded by nature than when in church buildings.

There was stress among our hike planners about an hour in—we were on the wrong trail. Instead of hiking to a waterfall, we stopped at a vista overlooking the countryside. It wasn’t where we’d hoped to end up, but it was beautiful nonetheless. We had a brief liturgy in the clearing, praying together, then passing around a small box of communion bread. Instead of receiving the Eucharist kneeling at a rail, served by a person standing over us, we stood in the woods and shared communion with one another, neighbor serving neighbor, surrounded by the beauty of creation. Here was Jesus, offering me grace in the wilderness.

Last Published: September 26, 2019 12:52 PM
Empowered by Extend, a church software solution from