‘River of Life’ pilgrimage down Connecticut River offers 40 days of prayer, paddling

The Connecticut River is a popular place for paddling by canoe and kayak. Starting May 31, it also will become a place of prayer through the River of Life pilgrimage organized by the Episcopal dioceses of New England. Photo courtesy of Kairos Earth

[Episcopal News Service] New Hampshire Bishop Robert Hirschfeld has rowed on the Connecticut River for years. It once was a sort of industrial “sewer” but has since been cleaned up and restored to “a place of stunning beauty,” he said. Hirschfeld intends to show it also can be a place of worship and an inspiration for prayer.

The bishop is preparing to lead a 40-day pilgrimage on the river, from source to ocean. In our sound-bite culture, Hirschfeld’s message can be reduced to this: Put down that cellphone, and pick up a paddle.

“This is a way to experience God’s love for us, God’s grace, God’s desire to flow in us and around us,” Hirschfeld told Episcopal News Service in a phone interview. “And in our forming a community of pilgrims, my desire was to slow down and put aside our electronic devices, all the busy-ness of our life, and just be fully present with God and each other in the midst of God’s creation.”

The River of Life pilgrimage, which launches May 31 near the Canadian border, is a collaboration of all Episcopal dioceses in New England, as well as the New England synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and several conservation groups. More than 50 people signed up in advance to canoe or kayak multi-day segments, camping overnight, and others are invited to join the group for day paddles. Daily segments average 10 to 12 miles.

Pilgrims without a paddle or who live far from the Connecticut River still are encouraged to participate in the pilgrimage by following along as a “pilgrim in prayer” with the River of Life prayer book.

The Connecticut River is New England’s longest river, passing through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut before emptying…

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