ACE Talks: Catching Up With the 'Walking Women of the World'

11/4/2021

The Walking Women of the World ACE2 group launched in 2018. These clergy colleagues were acquaintances who had a goal to build lifelong friendships and grow together through walking, traveling, and spiritual disciplines. As they near the end of their official season as an ACEgroup, they have accomplished all this and more! 

The North Georgia Conference chatted with Rev. Cyndi McDonald, Rev. Millie Kim, Rev. Anika Jones, Rev. Karen Lyons, Rev. Pam McCurdy, and Rev. Terri Lemons to ask about their experience in this continuing education program unique to the North Georgia Conference. 
 

Q: Hi, Walking Women! How did this ACEgroup come together?

⁠—Millie had the idea for a walking group and the idea spread, mostly by word of mouth. We just connected. Everyone was close to someone else who encouraged them to join.

⁠—It was like a web. 

⁠—It was a God thing.

⁠—One gift that we have recognized as we have gotten to know each other is how we’re very different. We are diverse culturally and racially, we’re deacons and elders, we serve in different ministry settings, we have a wide age span. And yet we have built such a bond!

⁠—We went on a pilgrimage to Canada and when we met our guide he was so surprised we were a group of clergywomen. He thought we would be these old, bitter women, but we were laughing and adventurous. He kept saying over and over ‘this is not what I was expecting.’
 

Q: What have been some of the highlights of your experience as “Walking Women”?

⁠—One highlight has been learning about other cultures and other faiths. One of the trips we’ve taken was to New York. We visited cultural burrows, a Hindu temple, a Mosque, a Jewish Synagogue. We learned so much and the exposure was so edifying for my faith. 

⁠—Another has been the people we have crossed paths with. On our walks, whether it was walking in Canada in and out of little villages, stopping at a convenience store for water, or finding a place to sit and rest and recoup, so many people have given a little of themselves to us. 

⁠—Yes! In Canada, people opened their homes for us to stop, even for a bathroom break. There was one lady waiting for us, we were cutting up and running late. We were so appreciative of her. We sang the doxology to her and she joined in in French and she cried. 

⁠—We love to walk, but we didn’t expect how much we would love sitting down together, six women who love good food. At our mealtimes we’ve had some incredible experiences with people we met along the way. 

⁠—Yes! We’ve learned to understand why so many important experiences take place around the table⁠—communion, ministering, community.
 

Q: You mentioned New York and Canada. Where have you walked together?

⁠—We started by traveling to South Carolina with a cabin retreat to get to know each other. We were supposed to hike but it rained, so we did a little walking and had some great conversations.

⁠—Next, we visited a convent, the Episcopal Order of St. Helena. We spent time with the sisters and went through their devotional time with them. We sang, chanted, and got to know them. A sister taught us a prayer to say every morning using our hands, our feet, and our body. 

⁠—In Canada, we took part in a traditional walking pilgrimage. We started our walk in Ottawa and ended in Montreal. Each year about 100 pilgrims gather for this walking pilgrimage.

⁠—We learned so much on this trip. Even though were are walking women, we have diversity in our walking ability. We learned to be accepting and affirming because we participate according to our own abilities. 

⁠—We learned about the marginalization of people within Canada. 

⁠—This was one of our many ecumenical experiences. The Way of Ottowah is a typical Catholic pilgrimage. They loved us with a love of the body of Christ. They blessed our backpacks and walking sticks. They took pictures with us, they even started off with us, and some stayed with us until outside the city. 

⁠—It was the most beautiful expression. What the body of Christ is about. 

⁠—Millie got to preach in a Catholic church! 

⁠—It was such an honor. They let me, as a guest and a foreigner, preach in a big beautiful cathedral. (Millie)

⁠—We did the Peachtree Road Race⁠—the last full in-person Peachtree before the pandemic.

⁠—In New York, we stayed in Crowne Heights where there is a large Caribbean presence. We went to most of the burrows ⁠— Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Bronx. We did food tours.

⁠—One of the guides took us into his home church, a Greek Orthodox Church. One tour guide was an actor.

⁠—We visited a Hindu temple and had a meal. They were selling traditional foods and the kindest young couple came alongside us and helped us order, explaining what things were. And then we sat near them. 

—Experiencing how welcoming they were to us convicted us. How welcoming is my congregation? 

⁠—We went on a Civil Rights Journey to Alabama. Walking over the Edmund Pettis Bridge together after reading John Lewis’s book opened my eyes. ⁠We can’t hope to change the future if we can’t acknowledge the past. This work directly helped me address racism in my own community. 

⁠—In addition to these trips, we have gotten together locally and hiked and walked. That we could space out and walk together in COVID-19 has been a blessing. Sometimes we walked separately while we Zoomed and we had a few Zoom dance parties. 

⁠—Our most recent experience was Ponce City Market. The group surprised Terri with a birthday cake. 

⁠—In the last year, we’ve also made journeys together through loss. Realizing our connectedness and love for each other and our desire to be there for each other, it’s not a physical journey, it’s just as much a journey. If we need one another, we’re there. 

⁠—It was such a blessing to be in this group. When my husband passed unexpectedly, these friends stayed with my mom. They organized themselves. They let me get to the funeral home. It has been an unspeakable blessing. (Terri)
 

Q: What’s next for the Walking Women?

⁠—We’ve accomplished our goals. We have grown spiritually. The life-long friendship we definitely accomplished. Our official ACE time ends in April, but our group will not end.

⁠—Sybil Davidson

To learn more about ACE, visit www.ngumc.org/ACE.


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