Wilderness Church

Nov 2, 2021 | Stories from the Diocese

It was a curious sight to joggers and dog-walkers to see a priest walking along Roosevelt Island’s wooded trails, strumming a guitar, with dozens of followers strolling behind him. The walking congregation paused periodically to recite poems and sing fitting hymns like “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Down to the River to Pray.” (watch) The occasional jet noise from nearby Reagan National Airport didn’t dampen spirits but rather the contrast seemed to make the Sunday morning worship more poignant.

Wilderness Church is a joint initiative of Grace Church, Alexandria and St. Mary’s, Arlington. The twice-monthly service offers parishioners a change of pace – literally. The service seeks to complement the churches’ traditional worship and to lower the threshold of entry for those intimidated by traditional church. A unique piece is the play of children, who romp and climb on old logs: their playfulness and curiosity about the natural world around them is an integral part of the worship.