Walking the Camino Hackensack

Linnea Dietrich, adult education ministry chair at Union Congregational Church in Hackensack, has walked the full Camino de Santiago in Spain twice and 150 miles of the Camino Frances. With her daughter, she walked from Delaware to Cincinnati, across Missouri and California, pushing high-quality baby strollers packed with tents and supplies.

Now, she and three other fellow walkers are planning a guided pilgrimage retreat, walking the Paul Bunyan Trail September 11-15.

“I’ve had quite the adventures since I started long distance walking about ten years ago,” says Dietrich. “I believe in walking spiritual retreats. They get you out of your normal routine to a place where you can experience the spirit of God.”

The pilot of this walking pilgrimage is made possible by a Reimagination Grant from the Minnesota Conference UCC. Dietrich and fellow planners Laura Baum-Parr and Stacy Hirschi previously walked the Camino de Santiago together. Baum-Parr’s husband, John Parr, is also helping organize the Camino Hackensack.

“John was the one who came up with the brilliant idea to drive people to a spot 10-15 miles from the church and then they could walk back to ‘base camp’ at Union every day for four days,” Dietrich says. The pilgrims, as the walkers are termed, will sleep at the church.

Retreat guides will provide short meditations for people to contemplate as they walk. People can walk solo or as a group; they can talk or remain silent. “It’s spirit-led but not theologically based,” says Dietrich. “Walking itself becomes meditative and supports spiritual growth.” The pilgrims will also have time for group reflection.

The cost of the five-day pilgrimage is just $100 and includes breakfast and dinner at the church, supplies to pack a lunch, and snacks for the walk.

“This is definitely a pilot,” says Dietrich. “But once you get the recipe, it’s always easier to repeat so we hope this is the first of more walking retreats.”

There is still space for a couple more pilgrims. If you are interested, contact Dietrich at linneadietrich@icloud.com.

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023