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Pilgrims share their experience for Founders Day

Andrew and Sarah Wilson in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The Wilsons visited the site at the end of their pilgrim walk which began in Erfurt, Germany, 1000 miles north of Rome. Courtesy Andrew Wilson

Interested in pilgrimage? Interested in meeting some modern pilgrims? Then the upcoming “Here I Walk” presentations are for you.

Andrew and Sarah Wilson will present “Here I Walk: With Luther from Erfurt to Rome” at the Augsburg College Founders Day Reformation Lectures, November 10 and 11 in the Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center.

The Wilsons’ route to Augsburg College has been anything but easy or ordinary. On the morning of August 22, 2010, the couple left the Augustinian priory in Erfurt, Germany, taking the first steps of a thousand-mile pilgrimage to Rome. The Wilsons followed roughly the same path that a 27-year old friar named Martin Luther trod 500 years earlier.

The purpose of Luther’s 1510 trek was to represent his Augustinian brothers at a meeting in Rome. The purpose of the Wilsons’ follow-up trek was to bring attention to modern-day Christian dialog and to help heal divides between Christian churches.

To get to Rome from Erfurt, the couple completed a carefully planned hike that took them through Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and, finally, Italy. They arrived at Vatican City on Saturday, October 30, and spent “Reformation Day” (October 31) visiting holy sites including St. Peter’s tomb.

Augsburg religion professor, Hans Wiersma, walked with the Wilsons during the first week of their journey. “It really is remarkable what Sarah and Andrew have done,” Wiersma said. “You have to be very committed, very organized, very fit, and a little crazy to do something like this.”

So why do something like this? “We noticed that it had been 500 years since Luther took his one and only trip to Rome,” said Andrew Wilson, “and thought it would be great to commemorate it by retracing Luther’s own steps. But what’s the right way to do that in an ecumenical age?”

Sarah Wilson had an answer. “Incredible progress has been made on the scholarly level between divided churches,” she explained. “But this progress has hardly made its way to the people in the pews at all. It’s as if fifty years of dialogue never happened.”

The couple wondered how they could let people know about these amazing developments and get them even to care. This walk was a way to do that.

As they began to plan their pilgrimage, Andrew Wilson realized the possibility of leveraging social media to spread the word on a grassroots level. “People are busy and won’t take time to read stiff academic studies or listen to impenetrable church statements. But they’ll read a hiking blog. They’ll ‘like’ things on Facebook. They’ll follow Tweets.” So the Wilsons used these media to share the news about their trip and to educate about the inter-Christian dialogue.

Check out the Wilsons’ website for day-by-day accounts, a photo-stream, daily scripture readings, and maps that trace the path of their trek in great detail. Read “A Statistical Review of Here I Walk” on the pilgrimage blog

Sarah Wilson holds a doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary in Systematic Theology and is an ordained Lutheran pastor. She is a member of the research faculty at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France. Andrew Wilson, also a pastor, holds a doctorate in Church History from Princeton Theological Seminary and is a Fellow at the Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland. The Wilsons live in Strasbourg with their five-year old son, Zeke.

Story by Hans Wiersma.

The 2010 Founders Day Reformation Lectures

“Here I Walk: With Luther from Erfurt to Rome” at Augsburg College, Hoversten Chapel

November 10, 7 p.m. “Pomegranates, Passes, and Popes: A Kinetic Perspective on Luther’s Trip to Rome” (with slide show) by Andrew Wilson

November 11, 10 a.m. “What Has Erfurt to Do with Rome? Ecumenism as Pilgrimage” by Sarah Wilson (followed by a slideshow during the 11:20 chapel service)

Lectures are open to the public; admission is free. Find more information on the Founders Day website.

If you would like to make a reservation for the welcome reception on Wednesday evening, November 10, or the luncheon on Thursday, November 11, please contact Hans Wiersma (612-330-1205 or


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