The Diocese of Indianapolis started their Holy Hikes ministry in 2020, and each hike is as unique as the parish sponsoring it – from walks accessible to those with mobility challenges to hikes for youth with an overabundance of energy. Director The Rev. Cathy Scott shares what makes the Diocese of Indianapolis’ Holy Hikes ministry so special:
Hiking with the Diocese of Indianapolis
The hikes are as unique as the parishes that sponsor them. The hikes are on nature trails, state parks, state forests, and urban locations that offer a bit of nature amid the bustle of the city. Holy Hikes is sponsored by the diocese so hike locations are all over central Indiana. Holy Hikes is also very flexible – I call it Sacred Strollers for participants who may use canes, wheelchairs, and other assistive devices. Sacred Strollers definitely use blacktop pathways into nature and the hike is usually shorter. And, Holy Hikes for Youth and Children – a hike full of excitement and energy, butterflies and sometimes tree houses!
I either provide or help the parish develop a prayer service appropriate to the participant’s age. I also encourage parishes to invite other churches in their neighborhood so connections/friendships can be formed, hopefully reducing worship silos in their community. Prayer services I have created include Psalms with nature references, Gospel passage with the same, and, of course, Mary Oliver! I also include a time for intercessions, individual reflections and a creation care litany.
After the hike, participants often share food and beverage together – another opportunity for fellowship.
Besides offering prayer service templates, I promote the parish Holy Hike via the diocesan-wide weekly newsletters so everyone has an opportunity to participate.
I do not lead any of the individual parish Holy Hikes. There is always a point person I work with as that parishioner/priest will have knowledge of nature locations and parish needs. Using a parish point person also helps claim ownership of the event. For parishes without priests, I have been contacted by senior wardens who take the responsibility of organizing their parish Holy Hike.
Favorite Hiking Location
My favorite hiking location is at Fort Harrison State Park. This Park offers a variety of hiking conditions and lengths. There are also black-topped pathways that offer accessibility for folks who need assistance with walking.
Holy Hikes Memory
Holy Hikes with children and youth are always a bit more spontaneous and exciting. Parents always accompany their children and enjoy watching their sometimes screen-addicted children and youth put down their phones and participate fully in the walk. The children lead the prayers throughout the hike while one adult leads and another adult follows in the rear – just so the little lambs don’t wander off on their own adventures!
In the Year to Come
My hope is that Holy Hikes continues to grow in the diocese so that every parish has their opportunity to offer Holy Hikes on a regular basis. And, for those hearty parishioners, I will be promoting winter Holy Hikes this year!