[Episcopal News Service – Boulder, Colorado]
Has God placed a dream on your heart? For the Rev. Peter Munson, the
answer is “yes.” In February, Munson, 61, will resign as rector of St.
Ambrose Episcopal Church here in South Boulder – a church he’s served
for more than 17 years – to walk 3,600 miles from Charleston, South
Carolina, to San Francisco.
“I believe, if you’re a person of faith, we’re all called,” said
Munson, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in a downtown
Boulder coffee shop, where he shared his 11-year dream.
His cross-country journey is set to begin on Monday, March 4.
Follow Munson’s journey on Facebook and Instagram.
Along the way, Munson hopes to speak to faith and secular
organizations about his dream and his journey and to find hospitality –
lodging and meals – while raising money through his nonprofit 6 Million Steps for Kids
to benefit four charitable organizations serving youth and young
adults: REMAR Children’s Home and School in El Salvador; Street
Fraternity, a mentoring program for 14- to 25-year-old males from
refugee families living in Denver; Episcopal Relief & Development;
and the Episcopal Church in Colorado’s various children’s programs.
On Nov. 20, 2008, Munson was hiking alone in Rocky Mountain National Park
– a park he’s hiked in for years and where as a student at the
University of Colorado he worked as a guide – and as he descended from
Sky Pond in Glacier Gorge, the idea came to him to walk across the
country, writing and speaking about his experience and to raise money
for disadvantaged children and young adults.
“‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep passion and
the world’s deep hunger meet,’” said Munson, paraphrasing Presbyterian
theologian and writer Frederick Buechner.
If you or your parish would like to invite the Rev. Peter Munson to speak at your church or offer him hospitality, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
His estimated eight-and-a-half-month, 3,600-mile journey begins in
Charleston, where he grew up, and will cross South Carolina, Georgia,
Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and,
eventually, California. At least in the Midwest, he expects to average
20 miles a day, six days a week. As he gets out West, the mileage will
likely decrease, especially in western Utah and Nevada, where he’ll have
a support vehicle following him through the high desert.
Accustomed to adventure, Munson served as a Peace Corps volunteer in
Dominica, a small Caribbean island nation located between Guadeloupe and
Martinique, teaching biology and math from 1982 to 1985. A law school
graduate, Munson never practiced law and instead became an Episcopal
priest. In August 2001, he became the rector of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in South Boulder.
After the vision came to him in Rocky Mountain National Park, an
excited Munson returned home to tell his wife, Julia, about his idea.
She supported him, he said, but cautioned, “‘Just be aware it may not
work out as planned.’”
Four months later, Munson presented his idea to his parish’s
leadership. Although Munson has hiked and climbed most of Colorado’s 14ers
– peaks exceeding 14,000 feet, of which there are more than 50 – he’d
never hiked and backpacked, as one woman pointed out. She suggested he
first backpack the Colorado Trail
from Denver to Durango, a distance of 500 miles, and he did so, hiking
it over three summers beginning in 2011. The first year, he hiked 250
miles. In 2012, it was 50 miles because of a bad wildfire season, and in
2013, he hiked the remaining 200 miles in 16 days.
While walking the Colorado Trail, he read “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of hiking 1,000 miles of the 2,653-mile Pacific Crest Trail
alone, without any training or preparation. When Munson, then in his
50s, started his hike, his backpack weighed between 45 and 50 pounds.
His third day on the trail, he met a 22-year-old male who’d hiked the
2,190-mile Appalachian Trail
from Maine to Georgia. The young man offered to go through Munson’s
pack with him, discarding nonessential items like bear spray and a bear
canister (not necessary in high altitudes) for storing food. By the
third year, when Munson finished his hike, his pack weighed 28 pounds.
All the while, Munson’s dream of walking across the country kept
returning to him, and he kept talking about it with his parish and then
at a clergy conference, which led to pulpit exchanges with Episcopal
priests on Colorado’s Front Range. Munson walked from his home in
Arvada, a Denver suburb, to his church in Boulder, to Longmont and
Frederick, all along state highways to the pulpit exchanges.
Eventually, he and his parish decided together that, rather than make
the journey as St. Ambrose’s rector, Munson would resign and make the
journey on his own.
He thought about delaying his journey until he’s eligible to retire in four years but decided against it.
“There’s a lot to be said about waiting until 65 … it’s just not what I’m hearing,” he said, with his dream and aging in mind.
For others, he asks:
“Is there something God has put on your heart? Are you going after
it? What are you telling yourself about that thing? Is God calling you
to do it? Are you going to get to the end of your life and say, ‘I
didn’t do that thing I was really supposed to do’?”
– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at email@example.com.