I am frequently inspired by the efforts within faith organizations in North Central Washington to foster a stronger sense of community. We are fortunate that so many people here are devoted to building community.
I was recently made aware of a unique effort being led by Pastor Matt Canlis at Trinity Church in Wenatchee to deepen the bonds within our community by inviting people of faith to participate in short walks in their neighborhoods while reflecting on passages from his book, “Backyard Pilgrim: 40 Days at Godspeed.” More than a dozen local churches are supporting the effort which will begin Feb. 29 with a concert and end at Easter.
Matt, who comes from the family that owns a prominent restaurant that bears the family’s last name on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, moved to our valley with his family several years ago after being a parish pastor in a small community in Scotland.
That experience transformed his thinking of what it means to be a person of faith and a pastor. It taught him the power of slowing down and paying attention to the moments of beauty around us as well the needs of neighbors within our communities.
That transformation was captured in a powerful documentary called “Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known” — a journey that started in Scotland and led Matt and his family to answer the church call in South Wenatchee. He and his wife discovered that this relational way of interacting with life was an ingrained part of our valley, particularly in the Latino culture here.
He was delighted to find this sentiment captured in living color on the mural on the side of the Methow Market: “God could have chosen anyone to be here — he chose you.”
His book is intended to help individuals learn how to interact with life at that depth at a more human pace. “It’s a book to read and a pilgrimage to be walked,” Matt told me while sitting in his office. Trinity Church, an Anglican congregation, shares space with the Wenatchee Brethren-Baptist Church on Okanogan Avenue.
Matt is committed to sharing the Godspeed way of being with others in the community and throughout the world. That goal led to the publishing of the book and the launch of a public event that will be launched, auspiciously, on Leap Day — Saturday, Feb. 29, 7 p.m. at Sage Hills Church with a concert that features an extraordinary Nashville author, poet and musician — Andrew Peterson. Matt describes Peterson as the Wendell Berry of Christian music — a person who embodies reverence for nature, humanity and faith.
Peterson is a friend of Matt’s and will be in the valley between concerts in Seattle and Atlanta. The playlist for the Wenatchee concert has been curated by Matt to coincide with the theme underlying the Backyard Pilgrim book and the 40-day reflective walking initiative that is being launched. The 40 days will end at Easter.
That theme is God asking, “Where are you” and human beings answering, “Here I am,” Matt said. This goes to the central question that we have as human beings, Matt continued: “Why am I here?”
We live in a society and world of excess: consumption, striving for material success above relationships and feeding our egos to the exclusion of the suffering of our fellow human beings.
Those of us who choose to participate in this 40-day exercise of walking, paying attention to what is around us, slowing down and appreciating both the beauty around us and acknowledging the inequities, inhumanity and cruelty that also exists in our communities will undoubtedly find a more meaningful connection to our neighbors and our place in the world.
Tickets for the concert can be purchased at backyard.eventbrite.com. For more information on the concert, check out livegodspeed.org. It’s a pilgrimage and approach that can be taken without having to be devoted to any religious path, a fact that makes this effort one with universal appeal to people of all faiths.
Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. He may be reached at email@example.com or 509-665-1162.