July 28, 2018

River Walk Devotional
by Allison Wood and Wendy James

The idea of a river walk devotional was first planted by my neighbour. I asked her if she needed help pushing her baby stroller as she was heading out for her daily walk along the river. What followed next was an uplifting discussion and the realization that there might be a whole community of people in our neighbourhood who yearned for spiritual reflection, and could benefit from physical exercise while being immersed in the power and beauty of nature. Since my neighbour had shown me a path that looped over from Sandy Hill into Vanier, it seemed a very natural next step to include my friend Wendy in the planning of such an initiative. She helped to bring together the two neighbouring communities.

From October 2016 to March 2017, our one-hour river walk devotional was organic in nature – created by community for community. The walkers consulted every week on what would be our next reflection topic. Everyone initially agreed to bring quotes, stories and prayers about virtues and took turns leading our devotion, and all felt they had a valued voice. A growing core group of neighbours then invited other neighbours and friends. The age range spanned four generations; we had weekly devotions and quickly developed a bond of friendship and love between us. Walkers turned to each other for advice and support in many aspects of their lives with many deep discussions along the trail. Most were committed to walking regardless of the weather. There were approximately 30 participants who came at least once to the river walk devotional, and 15 came on a fairly regular basis.

From April 2017 to April 2018, some of the regular participants became interested in spending more time discussing issues related to their spiritual identity. The group decided to study Ruhi Book 1 together which focuses on prayer and life after death. We gathered around 2 pm then left for our walk, returned to the house, relaxed for a while, welcomed those who had missed the walk, said prayers then studied Ruhi until 4:15 or so. We averaged about eight people, sometimes more, sometimes less. We are currently continuing in the same format: weekly one-hour walks followed by 45 minutes of studying Ruhi Book 2 for those who are interested in more focused discussion.

If someone was to ask what has made the River Walk Devotional/Ruhi Study such a vibrant, dynamic and ever-evolving successful activity, we would probably say: the power of the Holy Word, a commitment to regularity rain or shine, flexibility, friendship and a whole lot of love. 

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