The Liberation of Walking More

Themes: Walking, Relational Connection, Simplicity, Slowing Down


Mark Votava who is a part of an innovative local church called the Downtown Neighborhood Fellowship recently sold his car this past summer because he wanted to live more locally and walk more.  This has been very liberating for Mark as he has found a way to slow down and connect with his parish each day through walking.  Mark has now centered his life on being faithfully present through walking in solidarity with his neighborhood.  Simplifying his life in this way has led Mark to save money by not having to dedicate income to pay for insurance, gas and repairs.  This frees him to work less hours so that he can be more present relationally to his neighbors.  He has saved hundreds of dollars in the process of not having a car and gets way more exercise daily.  Mark always felt the pull on him sitting in an isolated car by himself driving through the neighborhood or on the freeway to get him places far away from his local context.  Mark went through an extensive discernment about experimenting with living without his own motorized form of transportation and he doesn’t miss his car that much.


The Downtown Neighborhood Fellowship is based on a local way of life in the parish where others live in proximity, so walking actually becomes a core spiritual practice in  life together.  Mark has reimagined walking as a form of what he calls an on-the-ground practice based theology where it puts him in contact with his neighbors more often in everyday life.  And this is where his spirituality takes place with God through his neighbors.  When Mark walks down some of the streets in Downtown Tacoma, he might run into up to five or ten people on any given day.  It is healing to walk down the street and people recognize you, acknowledge you and chat with you.  Mark is becoming known more in his parish because of his persistence to walk places rather than drive.  He is coming to understand the spirituality of walking.


One day Mark was walking in the neighborhood on an especially nice, sunny day in Tacoma.  Sometimes Mark does this as a form of reflection with no apparent destination in mind, but just to be outside and appreciate the beauty of it all.  He happened to run into his friend Matt who works in the neighborhood and was taking a stroll on his break.  So they walked together around a public park in the neighborhood enjoying each others conversation.  On their walk through the park, Mark greets another friend Nancy and passes another friend Peter who happen to be passing by.  He also encounters Dotti on the sidewalk randomly.  He walks past the bakery where some friends Liz and Sean work to say hi.  Mark might pass by some neighbors that he doesn’t really know and just says hello anyway in the hope of maybe getting to know them better.  This is a typical day for Mark where sometimes he sees more people than other days, but he is cultivating a habit of seeing others in his neighborhood through walking in the parish.


Walking has transformed Mark’s way of life where this practice is shaping him to have the imagination to love his neighbors as Jesus taught us.  Mark is understanding that walking can actually be a form of relational solidarity with others in their pain and joy in life.  Walking creates the environment for awareness of our neighbors in the place that we live.  Mark is discovering that when we walk we slow down to see what is hard to see in our cars.  We see the built environment more, we see other people’s faces, we see the birds flying in our neighborhood, we see the trees, we feel the sun and rain on our faces.  We experience so much of the texture of life when we simply walk.  It is noticed and valued.  We become more mindful relationally and begin to enjoy life more.

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