Chilly Lenten Hike Source of Spiritual Refreshment and Connection

Liz Lennox



On a cold morning in early March, I joined a small group from Baldwin Community United Methodist Church at South Park in Allegheny County for their second Lenten Hike of the season. Two weeks prior, over a dozen hikers came together at Kane Woods to hike and chat, engaging with scripture and nature while disengaging from the outside world for a morning.

Baldwin began their Lenten Hikes during the pandemic as a way to connect when social interactions were scarce, explained leader Justin Pearl. This is the third year of the program and while COVID restrictions have long been lifted, Lenten Hikes returned by popular demand. Hikers assemble every other week for hikes in different locations. The group’s third hike is scheduled for March 25 in Mingo Creek County Park. 

The weather this winter has been fairly mild, but a late season drop in temperature and a handful of snowflakes kept some participants away from the March 11 hike. Our group consisted of five hikers and two dogs; the air was frosty but our bodies and souls were soon warmed by the exercise and conversation. This group of strangers became friends in the time it took to finish the 2.3 mile trail. 

“Nothing beats hiking to get to know people,” one hiker commented.

We traversed the slightly muddy path through the barren forest, learning about each other as we went. We learned that the native Western Pennsylvanians were outnumbered by New England transplants, two of which had recently moved here in retirement from Cape Cod. We discovered similar interests and experiences and took note of potential new adventures. We talked about the difficulty that comes with finding a new church home and lamented the exodus of young people from the pews. And halfway through our journey, we found ourselves sitting on rocks and fallen logs in what seemed like a natural gathering space, to hear the word of God.

Under the overcast sky and gently falling snowflakes, the group sat quietly. Justin read from 1 Kings 18, reflecting on conflict that can arise from differing ways to worship. He then asked, “What does it mean to worship God? Who is God?” We reflected for a moment in silent contemplation before continuing on.

This Lenten hiking ministry is a gift for many reasons. Lent begins during a season of darkness, before we spring forward and start to feel the earth warm. After months of what seemed like endless winter, I had a reason to cast aside my blankets, put down the remote and spend time outdoors. An early morning hike in cold weather may seem like the antithesis of anything I’d want to do, but returning to my car I felt invigorated and renewed. That renewal was not just physical, but spiritual as well. My mind felt clearer and less jumbled with work and life stress.

The gift of fellowship and connection was also deeply felt. As an introvert, I sometimes find myself reluctant to participate in activities with people I don’t know. But the awkwardness that can come from engaging in new activities with new people didn’t exist at that moment. This ministry is a new way to do a Lenten Bible study and gives people a connection that is natural and organic. 

This Lenten season, I was reminded of a different way I can spend time with God. I urge you to find new opportunities to reflect and connect, to clear your mind and let God speak to you. That may not be in the middle of the woods on a cold and snowy day, but it is my prayer that you’ll find it just as peaceful and transformative.


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