“People ought to saunter – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these [trees] are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”- John Muir
On select Saturdays at 11 AM, we celebrate an outdoor Eucharist at Sequoia Park in Eureka CA while sauntering through the redwood trees. We gather at the park entrance for opening prayer and then saunter to a beloved sequoia tree that we affectionately call “the gargoyle tree” because of its delightfully gnarled burls. We then pray a Psalm together by a trickling waterfall. From there, we proceed to a nearby bench for the reading of the Gospel and a brief devotional reflection. We then gather around a fountain by a duck pond for the Prayers of the People and the Passing of the Peace. Finally, we slowly ascend a small hill to arrive at a meadow, where we form a circle around a redwood tree trunk altar to sing and celebrate Eucharist.
Like John Muir, we appreciate the term “saunter” as it invites us to walk more slowly and mindfully and to bathe in the forest trees’ ancient and verdant light. Although some have called our church building the “Cathedral of the North Coast,” it is only when we gather for Sacred Saunter services at Sequoia Park that we feel we are in the true Cathedral of the North Coast. Nature mystics such as St. Francis, Teilhard de Chardin, Mary Oliver, and the Celtic Saints have been our favorite guides so far as we glorify God among the giant sequoia trees.
We hold Sacred Saunters on every Saturday during the Season of Lent and on other select Saturdays throughout the year, including the Saturday closest to the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct 4).