A Year in the Life: Journey Through East Carolina
By Emily Gowdy Canady, Missioner for Lifelong Christian Formation
As COVID, racial injustices, and a divisive political climate wore on through the Spring and into the Summer of 2020, Bishop Rob Skirving had taken up walking 4 miles a day. With both positive physical mental aspects of this newly formed discipline, an idea was taking shape. Through all this walking Journey Through East Carolina came to life. Bishop Skirving has often spoken in the diocese about how a “Rule of Life” can be an important part of faith and faith formation. In a time when so many things in the world seemed out of immediate control, practicing a Rule of Life seemed as though it could provide consistency and grounding for people and congregations unable to physically gather as faith communities. Bishop Skirving envisioned the Diocese of East Carolina engaging in a Rule of Life together, thus finding community in a different way. Through this shared experience the hope was members of the diocese would learn more about and pray for each other and their local communities.
Beginning on November 29, 2020 and ending 10 weeks later on February 7, 2021, members of the diocese and friends were invited to practice this new Rule of Life together: Move, Learn, Pray, and Give. Together, those who joined in would travel through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.
Highway 17 runs the length of the Diocese of East Carolina between the Virginia and South Carolina state lines. Border to border it is 281 miles. Using those 281 miles as a goal, participants were invited to walk, run, pedal, roll, or row 28 miles per week individually or as part of a team. Parishes and other groups formed teams to combine their miles along the way. This allowed people of all ages and fitness levels to participate.
Weekly emails called “mile-markers” went to participants and included ways to Learn, Pray and Give. Over the 281 miles and 10 weeks, participants “learned” about counties in the diocese through stories written by a member of the diocese with ties to there. Participants “prayed” alongside members of the diocese who offered video meditations and weekly seasonal prayers. Meditations were offered too, by the diocesan newly reforming Racial Healing Commission as coming to terms with our diocese’s past is an important part of our diocese’s present and future. Members and friends of the diocese “gave” over the 10 weeks meeting specific needs in their local communities as well as monetarily to Trinity Center, the diocesan camp and conference center.
28 teams and 334 participants from the diocese and beyond logged over 34,000 miles. Parish, diocesan ministry, and other teams competed against each other to see who could log the most miles. Individuals offering county stories and meditations shared on social media and brought others in to learn and also to be part of the experience.A video was created and shared at Annual Convention. Along with the names of those who wrote county stories and offered video meditations, photos were shared of all the ways individuals and parishes gave during this time. It was astounding. In the end, Journey Through East Carolina made it possible for faith communities big or small to feel less isolated during a point in the year when COVID numbers were at their peak in North Carolina. Journey Through East Carolina’s “Rule” of Move, Learn, Pray and Give created a way for people to connect and reconnect with each other and also with their faith in a new way. In the end, the Holy Spirit was moving, as she always does when given the space to do so. It is with renewed energy that the Diocese of East Carolina is moving forward using a reconnected diocesan community as a launching pad for discerning new mission priorities for the diocese.