Advent in a pandemic? One S.C. parish has a virtual pilgrimage app for that!

St. Martin's-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Diocese of Upper South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Posted Nov 2, 2020

If you have been wondering how to offer your parish a meaningful observance of Advent amidst the pandemic, one South Carolina parish believes it has just what you and your parishioners need.

St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Columbia, will begin registering folks for its Holy Land Pilgrimage Nov. 1. The 98-mile virtual journey through the Holy Land combines an app, videos, a guidebook and the option of mileage-based or point-based ways to allow participants  “to embark on a virtual adventure” from Advent through Epiphany.

“Walk at your own pace, in your own neighborhood, but be transported to a whole different time and world through meditations, scripture and special bonus videos along the way,” reads an invitation on the pilgrimage’s homepage of the parish’s website,

Developed by St. Martin’s clergy the Rev. Deacon Caitlyn Darnell and the Rev. Susan Prinz, the pilgrimage promises a deep dive into the Gospel of Luke along with Zoom check-ins that are designed to foster fellowship and community akin to what physical pilgrims might experience on a trip together. The app was developed by the Rev. Greg Johnston, rector of St. John’s Episcopal in Charlestown, Mass., and creator of the Venite prayer app.

“The Sunday Advent readings for this coming Advent are wonderfully apocalyptic, but we wanted to take a deep dive into each of the characters in the story of Jesus’ birth and early ministry. The pilgrimage aims to put you in the shoes of our ancestors and wonder along with them at the meaning of the Incarnation,” said Darnell.

You do not need to be a marathoner or an accomplished hiker to take part. Each pilgrim will travel at his or her own pace, using their mobile device to log miles, or a points-based system that provides points for activities such as “Say morning prayer” or “Pray with an icon.” As you arrive at different locations virtually, special content such as reflection videos from St. Martin’s clergy and special guests, music, blog posts, and pictures will be unlocked in the app.

“We planned the pilgrimage with our own handicapped or homebound parishioners in mind,” explained Darnell. “We wanted everyone to be able to take part.”

So, no matter where you are in the world, you, too, can travel along the pilgrimage’s dusty path toward Bethlehem and beyond. Pilgrims should register before the beginning of Advent on Nov. 29 to receive instructions to download the app and have their Guidebook mailed to them.

Joining the pilgrimage is free, though thank offerings will be accepted at