Forging Friendships and Finding Adventure

by Rev. Robert Hocutt on March 14, 2024

Spend a little bit of time around the Diocese of Christ Our Hope and you’ll hear talk about one of our key values: friendship and collaboration.

By friendship and collaboration, we simply mean relationships. Deep personal relationships between our leaders and the leaders of the Anglican Church in Rwanda played a key role in forming the diocese as it is today. Our Rwandan brothers and sisters instilled in us a spirit that is highly collaborative and deeply values partnership and friendship.

Even still, that’s a difficult value to live out. Healthy relationships take work, especially in the midst of ideological, political, and cultural differences, a severe loneliness epidemic, and the thousand other things that seem to get in the way.

Yet, Church of the Advent in Washington, DC is beating the odds in a unique way: by hosting a Trail Life troop at the church.

Trail Life is a church-based, Christ-centered scouting experience for boys. In the context of outdoor adventure, Trailmen walk with male mentors where they grow in Christian character, serve their community, and develop the practical leadership skills needed to live out God’s calling on their lives.

That all sounds great, but as I spoke to Evan Sparks, one of the leaders of Troop DC-1 at Church of the Advent, I couldn’t get over one thing: How does Advent, a church in the middle of Washington, DC, make Trail Life work? I’m not sure “concrete jungle” necessarily counts as wilderness and K Street definitely isn't a trail.

Turns out that outdoor adventure can be found just about anywhere if you look for it. The troop makes use of city parks, biking and walking trails, and comes up with creative ways to “find the wilderness” inside the beltway - but all that is merely a vehicle for the real point of Trail Life: building relationships.

Evan outlined three primary relationships he has watched grow and strengthen in his three years leading Trail Life. Most notable, he said, are the relationships between boys and their dads. A dad himself, Evan told me that Trail Life creates opportunities for dads to have one-on-one time with their sons to take on new and unique experiences together. Trail Life breaks them out of everyday routines and creates space for bigger conversations to happen that can be hard to broach otherwise.

The second relationship Trail Life impacts is the relationships between dads. For Troop DC-1, the first Tuesday of each month is dad’s night. The troop dads get together for a Bible study sometimes led by one of them, the troop’s chaplain, or another leader from the Christian community. This gives the dads a chance to celebrate and commiserate together in their work as fathers. Ultimately, said Evan, Trail Life is building a community of dads, “who are growing in their own faith and deepening the faith of their sons - and kids who are not their sons.”

Though focused on dads and their sons, Trail Life recognizes that not all boys have dads and works hard to ensure that those boys have a place, too. Several single mothers send their sons to Trail Life where they too can be surrounded by a community of well-formed, loving "fathers in the faith” to support them in their own lives and faith.

The final relationship Trail Life impacts is the relationship between the boys. Though hosted by Advent, Trail Life is purposely ecumenical. Troop DC-1 hosts 27 boys from several different churches of varying denominations in neighborhoods across the city. This opens up new opportunities for the boys to build friendships with kids they might never meet otherwise. Perhaps more important are the relationships developed between older and younger boys. Trail Life runs from age five to age 18. As the boys get older and progress through Trail Life they take on more leadership responsibilities with the younger Trailmen.

The goal in all of this for Evan and Troop DC-1, is to create a community of discipleship in which each person plays a role in the faith life of the others - regardless of age or family ties - and to do so in a way that is not only fun, but challenges boys, dads, and spiritual fathers to pursue the Lord and one another for the edification of their faith, the strengthening of their relationships, and the good of their city.

If you’re interested in learning more about Trail Life, you’re welcome to reach out to Evan at Church of the Advent. If you’re interested in something like this for daughters, consider American Heritage Girls. Church of the Resurrection in Lewisville, NC hosts a troop. You can reach out to Dana Huffman, charter rep for Troop NC0608.

Learn more about Trail Life here.

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