Greetings to all lovers of the trail! A few years ago, Westminster’s former pastor Patrick Heery introduced the concept of contemplative hikes. As an avid hiker who personally found God in nature, Patrick organized and led monthly hikes at area parks and trails, communing with nature and the God who created it. These hikes became a popular tradition for many and an important part of our faith lives. Patrick has been called to a new chapter in his ministry and family life, and thus I have the blessing and honor to pick up the torch to keep these hikes going.
As the new coordinator of the contemplative hikes, I’d like to introduce myself and lay out some ideas for the future. My name is Brian Teucke, and I’ve been living in Auburn since October of 2021 with my better half, Ashley. We were blessed with the birth of our first child, Ruairí last year. We are both natives of Morris County, NJ, and have lived in Germany, Kansas (thank you US ARMY), and Virginia prior to coming to Auburn. Currently, I have the honor of working for SEIU Local 200United as a union representative, helping workers here in CNY. Ashley, Ruairí, and I LOVE being in nature. Ashley is very well versed in all types of plant, gardening, and landscaping knowledge and, like me, is a fierce advocate for the environment and climate justice. As for me, my admiration of the trails has blossomed into a love for trail running, racing, and hiking. When I’m not working or running, you can catch me playing Irish music with my Irish Rebel Band, The Connolly Column.
While my words will never do it justice, I understand very intimately how special it is to spend time in nature, and in particular, on the trail. Whether it is the life-giving fitness that keeps our bodies healthy, the meditation we can enjoy when immersed in the woods which helps bring health to our minds, or the spiritual connections we experience, these contemplative hikes are something that breathe life, healing, and joy into all of us. That is why it is so important to keep these contemplative hikes going strong!
The format of the hikes has worked very well so we’ll keep them the same for now. As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We’ll start with a short devotion or reading, hike the first half in silence, gather at “half time” to reflect, and walk the second half as each sees fit (quietly or in conversation). The hikes are usually about 2-4 miles, and will usually be easy/moderate, with a few challenging ones occasionally. We’ll try to choose trails and parks within an hour’s drive from Auburn.
I want all people from all types of backgrounds (including health and fitness levels) to feel welcome and able to join us on contemplative hikes. This group has always been very positive, inclusive, accessible, and welcoming, and I’d like it to remain that way. As part of this pledge, I think this group has the capacity to become a wonderful Christian ministry which, if done in the style of our Westminster family, means that we can share our love of Jesus while also welcoming other faith traditions to come along and join us in a non-denominational setting.
As a union man, I know that organizational democracy is a positive and important part of any group. What I mean by that is I do not want to be a rigid dictator as the new coordinator but rather a guide and facilitator for our adventures in the woods. This means that I invite everyone to share their ideas, concerns, or feedback with me so that this group can head in the direction that we’re all feeling good about. For instance, we might want to try snowshoes this winter or consider sharing a potluck or music following a hike. There are lots of possibilities for expanding this ministry!
Upcoming hikes are:
Sat, July 22nd, 10:00AM: Green Lake State Park, Fayetteville
Sat, August 26th, 10:00AM: Robert H. Treman Park in Ithaca- Rim and Gorge Loop (4.5 mile loop that is challenging but no doubt my favorite trail and favorite views)
We ask for RSVPs (call the church at 315-253-3331) so we know who to expect. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any ideas, questions, concerns, etc. I’ll see you at the trailhead very soon!
Brian Teucke and his family are members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn. A union representative for SEIU Local 200United, Brian spends his spare time hiking, trail running, racing, playing Irish music, and advocating for environmental and climate justice.