A Glimpse of our Journey from Sudbury to Montreal

Hello again friends! It’s been a busy few weeks as always. We’ve continued to grow, learn and soak up this wonderful experience. When we last left off, we had just arrived in Sudbury. Sudbury was a very special experience for all of us. We spent an equal amount of time learning and resting which is exactly what we needed at that point in the journey. The folks there were so excited to spend time with us which was such a blessing. The people we encountered each day in Sudbury made such a positive impact in our journey. I couldn’t even begin to list all the people that graciously volunteered their time to meet with us nevertheless we are so grateful for them! They made it really hard for us to leave with all the love and support they showed us. Being in Northern Ontario instilled a sense of true summer vacation in my spirit as I usually spend my summers by lakes and “up North” with my family. On a personal note, the travel day from Sudbury to Toronto was very stressful. I was supposed to have the day off with my family but the train was delayed thus I was unable to. Fortunately, I was able to spend the night with my parents and it was so nice to see them, but it was hard to say good bye for a second time. We also got to meet with “Grandpappy” Michael (Shewburg) and “Aunty” Hillary (MacDonald) and experience their leadership in the group which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the next day I was sick and had to stay back at Five Oaks while the group served at Wesley Urban Ministries in my hometown of Hamilton then later at the Go Intentional Community in Paris. In London Conference we visited Camp Bimini and spent time with the campers playing games and engaging conversations. Also, as a part our Hamilton Conference visit we explored the Niagara region of Ontario with Moderator Nominee Bill Thomas. We later travelled to Toronto where we had the opportunity to explore the city and explore the incredible work of the General Council Office. The people we met with and the things we learned were just what we needed to become even more educated voters at General Council. Next was our Bay of Quinte stint in Kingston. It was a full couple days of conversations such as with Native Elders in their home community and with some folks from Affirm United. We also had the pleasure of engaging in great conversations with our amazing volunteer drivers Jackie, Michelle, Laura and Nicola who were such a blessing. We also got to have a beach barbecue with some folks from the conference which was a lot of fun. Then we headed off by train to the lovely city of Montreal. We were met by one of our pilgrim partners Georgia and Jean Daniel Williams who spent their weekend with us, showed us around the city and gave us a feel for the Québécois culture. Most importantly, he made sure we understood the importance of French Ministry going into General Council. As of this minute we are on the train from Montreal to Miramichi in New Brunswick. Reflecting, it is hard to believe we have less than two weeks of this amazing journey left. We will continue to soak it up and do our best to keep you in the loop on our social media in the meantime. Many blessings and talk soon, Cassidy ❤️


To The Mentors


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We’re in the homestretch, the pilgrimage is quickly coming to a close and the count down the General Council is on. Along our journey a true family has formed. Not just among the pilgrims as brothers and sisters, but also in the mentors whom we owe huge thank yous too.
In Vancouver we met the brains behind the operation, “Grandpapy” Michael Shewburg. Michael was a huge influence, both in Vancouver and in the conferences of London, Hamilton and Toronto. He set the expectations and the attitude for the summer. He reminded us to be “salty”. To enrich the world, preserve the church and share the love of Jesus Christ. In that he helped us begin the formation of our community. Gave us the tools to learn more about ourselves and each other; how to support each other and share each of our gifts effectively. We thank him for his wisdom. Like any typical grandfather figure he nurtured us, told us stories, and taught us respect.
Along our journey we also had two “aunties” join us. “Aunt Hill” (Hillary MacDonald) and “Aunt Lauren” (Lauren King). The two of them respectively changed our community in beautiful ways, they came just when we needed them most. Hillary kept us healthy, happy and distracted when four of our pilgrims had to stay home sick. Lauren kept us grounded, organized and in love when tensions in the group began to rise due to exhaustion. From them we learned the importance of change and how to be welcoming. “Aunt Hill” we thank you for showing us how to be present, to be ourselves, and for singing us awake in the morning. To “Aunt Lauren” we thank you for your positive presence, energizing spirit, and for teaching us public transit procedures.
And then there are the two people who have truly watched us grow and blossom this summer. “Mama Lana” and “Papa James” are two very critical people on every pilgrim’s faith journey. There will never be words enough to describe what they meant to each of us, what we learned from them nor the love, support and hope they showered upon us.
“Papa James” (James Aitchison) is someone we all admired and learned plenty from. He was the vibes of the summer; pumping us up, calming us down and keeping us awake. He has been a sense of authority and fun. Reminding us what it means to be a good leader. He shared so many stories that taught us the importance of finding happiness within yourself. Thank you “Papa James” for your eloquent words, your guidance, protection, knowledge and love.
“Mama Lana” (Alana Martin) instilled so much wisdom and life lessons upon us. She was the maternal figure for the summer and kept her ducklings in a row. We learned how to love and accept ourselves. How to learn from our past, live in the now and keep our eyes focused on the future. Her vesper sessions were always a highlight and community building event. Because of her we learned how to sing like no one is listening and dance like no one is watching. She has been a guiding light and a source of love.
Thank you to all of our mentors this summer. Those in our family and those who had an impact along the way.


A not-so-little update!!

Well friends, it’s been a crazy adventure so far. So many places in such little time. I still feel so blessed to have this experience. Every morning, I wake up and cannot believe that I am travelling across our beautiful country with 14 other amazing individuals. We’ve been to Vancouver, Fort McMurray, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Sudbury and are currently in Toronto. It’s my first time in all of these places (except Toronto) so an adventure it has been, indeed.

So I guess that I should go in order of the places we have visited, meaning Vancouver is first up. Flying in over the mountains into Vancouver was probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. And then meeting up with the other pilgrims was absolutely amazing. After having been apart since February, our reunion was sweet. I woke up at 545am and boarded the plane and 8am. I arrived in Vancouver at 12pm. It was so strange changing time zones so drastically and it was also a very long travel day for myself. I ended up going to bed at 8pm and woke up the following morning at 5 am, wide awake. And with that, our first real day began. Because it was Sunday, our day started with church at Dunbar United Church, where we remained for the rest of the day, going over policies and procedures, I tell ya, being a pilgrim is not as easy as it may seem😛 Our next day consisted of more policies and procedures, then we went to the University of British Colombia Botanical Gardens which was so beautiful. We did the treetop canopy walk which was a very rickety, swinging bridge that was attached to very tall trees, don’t get me wrong, it was so amazing but the feeling of taking a wrong step and falling to my death, was very strong. We then went to Jericho beach for a beach party and BBQ with members of BC conference as well as the members of the Vancouver GO Project and many others. Seeing some of the mainlanders swim in the ocean for the first time, was so life-giving and hilarious. Our third day in Vancouver was an experience unlike anything I have ever experienced before. We took the bus to downtown lower east side of Vancouver and participated in outreach activities at First United Church. A church dedicated to mission and outreach services in one of the poorest regions of Canada. Along with walking around the lower east side, we ate with the people of the First United community and met some very interesting folks. After finishing up our time there, we hung out with the members of BC conference and they treated us to some awesome Indian food!! Our next day was a travel day, and off to Fort McMurray we went😀.

Fort McMurray was an experience unlike any other. Touring the oil sands was different and our visit to Fort McKay was enlightening. It was nice getting to see “Newfoundland’s second biggest city” (according to the residents of Fort McMurray). We only had one full day there and that day was dedicated to taking different perspectives on the industry and the environment, often found at odds. Seeing the oil sands was a bit frightening due to the fact that it is such a massive industry and consumes so much land. Fort McKay was also a frightening experience because we learned about how the oil industry is negatively impacted the lives of those that live in that area. Getting to hear both sides of the stories was conflicting. What are we supposed to do when something so essential to our everyday lives, has such a negative impact on others? Our day ended on a positive note though. We shared stories and started praying but our prayer turned into a 10 minute laughing fit which brought our already close-knit group, even closer.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; what an adventure we had there. When we finally arrived by bus to this beautiful province, we were all exhausted from a long day of travel. After being greeted by an awesome group of people, we set up our beds at McClure United Church, and went to bed. On our first full day, we went to St. Andrew’s College and learned about the different streams of ministries in the morning and in the afternoon, we went to the Wanuskewin Heritage Park; a bison hunting ground from a veeeeery long time ago. The next day, Sunday, was our day off. We went to church in the morning and then to the mall for a little shopping adventure. On Monday, we went to an organic farm just outside Saskatoon, where we saw some cows and organic crops as well as had a delicious lunch consisting of hamburgers (made from the organic cows on the farm), fresh potato salad and a Saskatoon berry dessert. In the afternoon, we went to another farm where the family grows their own food as well as makes their own milk, butter, ice cream, yoghurt, cheese and cream with the help of their dairy cow, Twizzler. Because cows are my favourite animal, I enjoyed this farm the most. Pokey and Twizzler, the two cows, enjoyed our company very much. After leaving this farm, we headed to Delisle United Church for some dinner. When we returned back to McClure, we packed our bags for our train to Winnipeg in the morning.

Our train ride was long but very restful. We arrived in Winnipeg at 1am, walked to Broadway Disciples United Church, and went right to bed. On our first full day, we went to the All Native Circle Conference office where we learned about their work in the community as well as aboriginal ministry. We then went to the Sandy Saulteaux Center where we toured the grounds, made tobacco ties and created medicine wheels. In the evening, we went to a BBQ/pool party where we had lots of fun. Our next day in Winnipeg, we went to the Welcoming Place. A place for refugees to start establishing their life here in Canada. We heard from a few workers there who were once refugees themselves. We toured the building before going to lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant. In the afternoon, we went to the Human Rights Museum. Probably one of the most emotional museums I had ever been to. If anyone is ever in Winnipeg, please take the opportunity to tour the museum, it’s totally worth the time and money. In the evening, we returned to the church to get ready for our 9:30pm train ride, that didn’t end up leaving until 5:30am, so we had a very interesting sleep at the Winnipeg train station followed by a 30hr train ride.

We arrived in Sudbury around 1pm, and we’re greeted with smiles and French toast at Trinity United Church in Caperol. We went to our billets and got organized before going to Aidan’s house for a BBQ where there were other Sudbury youth waiting to meet us. On our next day, we got ready for church and went to our billets church, Katelyn and I along with Jane, our billet, went to Trinity United Church in Lively. We had the opportunity to participate in the service as well as meet with the congregation. We went to St. Andrews United Church in downtown Sudbury, where we met with Bill Steadman and had a conversation about the proposal “one stream of ministry”. After that we went to one of the many lakes in Sudbury and went canoeing. A little bit of a stressful but fun experience. Then, we went to the Apology Cairn, where the first apology was made to the aboriginals. We went to a massive BBQ and again, met with more youth. The next day, we went to Dynamic Earth and toured the nickel mines, and also saw the infamous big nickel. In the afternoon, we went to the Living with Lakes Center where we learned about pollution and the environment. We went back to St. Andrews and had another conversation with members of the community. Erin Todd, a local minster, invited us to her house for a BBQ as well as a swim in the lake and social time. After packing up, we went to Trinity United Church in Caperol to wait for our delayed train.

We arrived in Toronto and drove to Michael Shewburg’s farm for a BBQ and a swim in his pool. After leaving Michael’s farm, we arrived at Five Oaks Retreat Center for the duration of our time in Hamilton and London conference. On our first day, we went to Wesley Urban Ministries in the morning. Amy, Maia, Julia and myself worked in the kitchen in the main building. We prepared, cooked and served a meal for those who used the services of Wesley. In the afternoon, we went to the GO Project Intentional Community. Unfortunately, I got sick so I returned to Five Oaks so I could rest. The next day, we went to Camp Bimini and hung out with the campers for the morning and ate lunch with them. In the afternoon, we went an organic farm named Green Being. We had the opportunity to tour the farm, and hang out with pigs, cattle and chickens. Our next, and last day, in Hamilton and London conference was a fun-filled day. It included a trip to Niagara Falls with Bill Thomas, one of the moderator nominees. We arrived to Toronto late in the evening and relaxed.

Today is our rest day and it is so lovely to get to relax😊.

So long friends; until next time.

18 Down, 25 to Go


25 days until it’s over. In 25 days General Council will have happened and be over. Youth forum will have said their teary goodbyes and promises to stay in touch will be made. In 25 days United Church folk from across the country will be boarding planes, trains and automobiles. 25 days from now the pilgrimage will be over. We’ve only been together for 18 days, but leaving these people is something unimaginable. Maybe it’s because that symbolizes an ending, a chapter closing. Maybe it is because of the goodbyes that will take place, although I’m sure they will be more like see-you-laters. I think more than anything it’s the uncertainty of whats next. This summer has been so jam packed and I’ve loved it. I’ve had to make few decisions, all that is required of me is to be myself and represent the church. Knowing that responsibility falls back on to me in only 25 days is a bit of a scary thought. And don’t get me wrong, parting from this family will be scary and extremely difficult, a scene I’m dreading. But i also know that we are United Church folk. We are both the now and the future of the church. We are part of a small national community that is always meeting and growing and talking. The goodbyes that are shared will not truly be goodbyes, and I find comfort in that.

In the few 18 days that we’ve already shared I have learned more about our church and Christianity than my few 18 years. Sunday school, my home congregation and my family taught me the very important basics. “Jesus loves you.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Use your voice, it has power.” “You are a beautiful creation made in the image of God.” “There is a plan for you.” What I have learned so far on the pilgrimage is that we are not alone. The United Church is a close community full of likeminded people. We work in union with organizations and other denominations to seek justice, resist evil, and live in respect with creation. I have learned that prayer comes in many forms not just by folding our hands and bowing our heads. Prayer can be in a song, in a touch, in laugh. I have learned that there is so much goodness in the world. I’ve learned about our past, I’ve discussed our future and I am embracing each and every right now.

Author Sarah Bessey wrote, “The beauty of this bigness is that it is small — down to each life. God’s vision is a call to move forward into the future in the full operation of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control, with a fearlessness that can only come from him.” Throughout this journey I have kept this quote in the forefront of my mind. The United Church is doing big things, it is moving forward into a new future. I believe that if each and every one of us live into love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control then there can be no mistakes made. Behold, things are being made new, and it’s exciting.

-Katelyn, London Conference

Our Journey Thus Far

Hey friends!
This past couple weeks, although it seemed longer, have been incredibly busy and fulfilling. It has been a new experience for all of us to adjust to this community and journey we’d been anticipating for months. Arriving in the airport and finally being together physically was surreal. I think we all have had our fair share of saying ” I can’t believe we’re here”. We were fortunate to have a smooth transition from arriving to our “training” in which we took time to question and reflect on our identity, how we carry ourselves when we are at our best ( our “backbones”) , how we react to stress (if we “jelly fish” by reacting extremely emotional or if we “brick wall” by secluding ourself and having no emotional response) and what things help us to be balanced in body, mind, spirit, and heart. By the second night, we were already feeling extremely close and connected after spending time bonding. There have also been events and inside jokes that have helped us bond. In Vancouver, we got to experience the ocean and the mountains while meeting with some youth from BC conference and the Vancouver Go Project. Another great experience we encountered was a scary but thrilling “treetop experience” at the University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens. The most influential part of this job is the programming. In Vancouver, our first program which was an outreach at First United on East Hastings St. In the downtown east side of Vancouver; the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. We were immediately immersed in the utmost poverty of the area. Every which way one turned, someone appeared to be homeless. At First United we entered into circle with Rev. Sally McShane and a few of the community members. They shared their stories and the impact First United had on their lives. One thing from our circle that really spoke to me was when Rev. Sally said to picture our happiest moment then multiply it by 15 or 20 then it would equal the high experienced from a single crack stone. I pictured my mom, dad and family; our memories and traditions. I fought back tears when I realized some people don’t have happy memories to rely on. Some may not have families and traditions like I have been blessed to have. I couldn’t imagine the pain that comes with relying on a substance as a source of peace and happiness. Following First United we were privileged to eat lunch with the community which was an eye opening experience for us all. The next day we set off for our next destination, Fort McMurray, Alberta. We arrived to see the smiling , enthusiastic face of Rev. Donalee Williams at the Fort McMurray airport. Later that day we gathered in a circle with some folks from the church community and the Mayor and were educated about the needs of their community and how the church works to meet them. Our full day in Fort McMurray began with a tour of Suncor Oil Sands. Each of us had differing experiences at the sands but overall we saw the impact of the sands on Fort McMurray and how greatly it effects the economy of Alberta and our country. We ended our stay in Alberta with a long, spontaneous hearty, belly-laughing prayer. We all were in need of such a prayer after a full and heavy week of learning, talking and listening. Our trip to Saskatchewan was quite memorable as we were blessed to have the eccentric Bruce Jackson drive us to our bus stop in Lloydminster, AB. In Saskatchewan we visited St. Andrews which showed us the importance of engaging young leaders in the church, a message which spoke to us all, and experienced a bit of First Nations culture at the beautiful Wanuskewin Heritage Park. We experienced a short delay compared to our delay to Sudbury in our journey from Saskatoon to Winnipeg. Ultimately we arrived to our passionate pilgrim partner Julia Antonyshyn and equally enthusiastic Ms. Debbie Coss. In Winnipeg we all started to experience an overload of emotions from the past couple weeks but were brought up again when we experienced some of the All Native Circle conference and got to visit the Human Rights Museum which definitely showed us a new perspective. Currently, we have departed from our 30+ hour train ride from Winnipeg to Capreol outside of Sudbury. All of us enjoyed the time to rest in our comfortable beds and enjoy the stunning view of Northern Ontario and to catch up on some “me” time and chill time. We are all getting ready to attend a barbecue at our fellow pilgrim Aidan’s house. Thank you for following us and being patient with us and for your continued support. Please keep following us on here and on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Many blessings and talk soon,


Résumé Français

Désolé du retard, on a eu des problèmes avec les traductions, puis on a été vraiment occupés avec autre chose. Voici notre premier compte rendu de notre première semaine complète. Nous allons faire un blog pour Saskatoon et Winnipeg bientôt.
Salut! Nous sommes maintenant à la fin de notre première semaine ensemble. C’était un temps rempli d’éducation, de réflexion, et de rapprochement entre les membres de l’équipe. Nos premiers jours posaient plusieurs défis physiques et émotionnels, alors nous n’avons pas eu l`opportunité d’écrire autant de messages de blogues que nous voulions, mais nous voulons partager avec vous les expériences que nous avons vécues cette semaine.

Les Pèlerins sont arrivés à Vancouver le 4 juillet, et nous sommes restés jusqu’au 8 juillet. Au cours des jours que nous avons passés à Vancouver, nous avons été gracieusement hébergés par la paroisse de l`Église Unie Shaugnessy Heights. Nous avons eu plusieurs expériences fascinantes pendant que nous étions en Colombie-Britannique. En plus de la formation de notre équipe, nous avons aussi eu la chance visiter plusieurs lieux et groupes basés dans la région dans laquelle nous étions. Le 5 juillet, nous avons participé à un culte du dimanche avec les paroisse qui forment l’Église Unies Summer Stream, et nous nous y sommes fait beaucoup de nouveaux amis et de nouvelles amies. Le lendemain, nous avons visité les jardins botaniques de l’Université de Colombie-Britannique pour participer à la “Passerelle Canopée”, une promenade haûte dans les arbres du jardin. Cet après-midi là, nous avons rejoint plusieurs jeunes et jeunes adultes du Synode de Colombie-Britannique pour le souper et une baignade a la plage Jericho. C’était très amusant! Le matin du 7 juillet, nous avons visité First United, un centre communautaire et spirituel fondé et dirigé par l’Église Unie du Canada dans la région Downtown Eastside à Vancouver, un des quartiers les plus pauvres du Canada. Cette expérience était vraiment viscérale et révélatrice. Nous avons appris beaucoup de choses au sujet des problèmes qui affectent la communauté, et aussi de la nécessité de laisser de côté nos jugements et d’essayer d’aimer et de prendre soin de nos prochains lorsqu’ils ont besoins de nous, comme Jésus nous a dit de faire. Après ça, nous avons eu la chance de visiter le bureau du Synode de la Colombie-Britannique, pour apprendre au sujet de l’histoire du Synode et rencontrer les personnels du bureau. C’était vraiment intéressant!

Le matin du 8 juillet, nous nous sommes réveillés très tôt pour attraper notre avion à Fort McMurray, en Alberta. Nous avons reçu un accueil chaleureux par la paroisse de l’Église First United, qui nous a offert son église comme logement pour notre séjour en Alberta. L’après-midi du 8, nous avons eu une réunion avec plusieurs membres de la communauté de Fort McMurray, incluant la directrice de l’association multiculturelle de Fort McMurray et la mairesse de la ville, Melissa Blake. Pendant cette discussion, nous avons été encouragés à garder des esprits ouvert au sujet du développement des sables bitumineux, et plusieurs citoyens de Fort McMurray nous ont exprimé à quel point ils trouvent leur communauté vivante et heureuse. C’était intéressant d’avoir la chance de partager avec ces personnes. Plus tard dans l’après-midi, nous sommes allés nous promener dans les forêts autour de la ville, et nous avons vues la beauté de la région par nous-mêmes. Le lendemain, nous sommes allés pour une visite guidée d’une des raffineries de la compagnie pétrolière Suncor. Pendant la visite, nous en avons appris sur les mesures prises par la compagnie pour proteger l`environnement. Cependant, cet après-midi là, nous avons parlé avec quelques membres de la communauté autochtone qui habite dans la région. Ils nous ont informés de l’impact massif que les compagnies pétrolières ont sur la santé de leur communauté et sur la stabilité de leur environnement. Nous sommes partis de Fort McMurray le lendemain matin avec beaucoup de nouvelles connaissances, ainsi que des questions éthiques et personnelles. C’était un voyage utile et fascinant pour tout le monde dans notre groupe.

Nous sommes maintenant à Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. C’est le temps de dire aurevoir, mais nous parlerons avec vous plus tard! Merci pour votre appui!