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Truth-telling along Iowa's Freedom Trail

“The object of pilgrimage is not rest and recreation – to get away from it all. To set out on a pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to everyday life.  

Pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion to find a source of healing, or even to perform a penance. Always, it is a journey of risk and renewal. For a journey without challenge has no meaning; one without purpose has no soul.”

—Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage, 1998

The Beloved Community Initiative invites you on a pilgrimage toward wholeness. It is a pilgrimage exploring Iowa’s role in the Underground Railroad in the 1840s-1850s. Iowa, admitted to the Union as a free state, borders Missouri, a state practicing the enslavement of people based on their skin color. Many enslaved people, “freedom seekers” chose to flee their enslavement and headed north. Salem, Iowa, about 20 miles from the Missouri border, was settled by Quakers and became an active stop on the Underground Railroad. Our pilgrimage will begin in Iowa City at Trinity Episcopal Church. The African American Museum of Iowa will help us understand the context of the time and information about slavery as well as an overview of the whole system of the Underground Railroad (UGRR). Traveling to and spending time in Salem at the Lewelling House, a recognized and documented station on the UGRR, will draw us into a deeper understanding of enslavement and our human, as well as Christian, responsibility to seek freedom for all. There will be time for questions, time for quiet reflection, time for prayers and time for conversation.

This first pilgrimage offered by the Beloved Community Initiative is designed for members of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa.

Our pilgrimage route begins on Saturday April 13 in Iowa City, travels to Salem, overnights in Keosauqua, and returns to Iowa City on Sunday April 14. We will stay at the Hotel Manning in Keosauqua which sits on the Des Moines River, and often saw freedom seekers cross the river on their way to Salem. On Sunday morning, we will observe Palm Sunday together in a reflective Eucharist at the Hotel Manning. Since we are limiting our pilgrimage to 12 pilgrims, we have the opportunity of traveling together in one van.


Dates of pilgrimage: Saturday April 13, 2019 to Sunday April 14, 2019

Gather at Beloved Community Initiative room in Old Brick in Iowa City at 8:30am and plan to be on the road by 10:00. Return will be mid afternoon on Sunday April 14.

Registration fee: $70 Covers van, 2 meals, snacks and honorariums

Hotel reservations: Pilgrims make their own hotel reservations at Hotel Manning

Rooms vary in price: Ensuite rooms in the old hotel are $115 and newer motel type rooms begin at $65. (link for reservations: or call 319-293-3232) It is advisable to call to ensure the room type desired.

Meals: Pilgrims are responsible for 2 lunch meals on this trip, one in Salem and one in Bonaparte, IA. Dinner on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday are provided in registration fee. Any alcohol beverage is individual responsibility.

Participants: the pilgrimage is limited to 12 people. Your guides are four people from Beloved Community Initiative, Meg Wagner, Susanne Watson Epting, Lisa Covington, and Ellen Bruckner.

Questions? E-mail

Deadline for reservations: April 1, 2019

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Lewelling House, Salem, Iowa

Lewelling House, Salem, Iowa

Earlier Event: April 8
Movie and Discussion: 13th
Later Event: May 22
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