The year 2020 brought many changes to St. John in the Wilderness. It began with the welcome of a new rector, Josh Stephens, who shares a love of the outdoors with many of our parishioners. Within a few weeks of his arrival, the COVID pandemic shutdown resulted in limiting church attendance to livestream only. Our parish sought ways to celebrate the liturgy in safe outdoor settings and began a monthly hike to explore the abundance of ridges and waterfalls that surround our “wilderness." This effort was open to the public of all faiths and backgrounds. Many participants not directly affiliated with St John in the Wilderness began to join us.
In 2021, St. John in the Wilderness joined a nationwide liturgical based ministry known as Holy Hikes. (For more information on this program click here.) Our chapter is now known as Holy Hikes - Western NC. As part of this wider ministry, we seek participants who live in our region as well as the many visitors who enjoy the beauty of our wilderness areas.
Hikes are typically scheduled for the third Tuesday of each month but may vary during the holiday seasons. Weekday hikes allow participants to seek out waterfalls and summits that tend to be crowded during the weekends; however, we also schedule special weekend hikes to include students and working adults. Some of these hikes take place in camps and other private properties that are owned by members of our parish.
Typical hikes are 2-5 miles in length and rated as easy to moderate. Various parish members serve as lead hikers and select trails that feature ridges, rivers, or waterfalls. During the hike, Father Josh leads us in a liturgy or Eucharist. The group then enjoys lunch or snacks “in the wilderness."
Our church is located within a 15-60 minute drive-time of trailheads accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway and trails located in the Pisgah Nation Forest, Dupont State Forest, Green River Game Lands, the North Carolina Gorges, Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Gorge state parks, as well as the South Carolina Jones, Table Rock, and Caesar’s Head state parks and the SC “Blue Wall” Foothills Trail.
Whether you live locally or are visiting our region, we look forward to meeting new participants who want to join us in celebrating the blessings of the Blue Ridge Mountains’ great beauty. Registration is easy. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.