Pre Trip Thoughts


Thank you very much for following my travel blog!

      So…why am I traveling to ten National Parks and several Indian Reservations this summer as part of my sabbatical? I have been a lifelong lover, supporter and user of the National Parks for camping, birding, hiking and kayaking with family and friends for many years. I love being outdoors. However, my recent awakening to the intentional and racial displacement of American Indians from park-lands and wilderness areas for the intended purpose of preservation, recreation, economics, government or corporate investment and tourism has spurred in me a deep interest to further research this complex and dynamic intersection of ecology, public policy, racism and Christianity. This personal “awakening” began in part last summer, as I began planning a 2016 cross-country trip with my husband and daughter to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary while simultaneously working with church leaders and youth to plan First Church in Windsor’s 2016 youth summer service trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Inspired by my initial research, I attended a luncheon of the United Church of Christ’s Council for American Indian Ministries (CAIM) while serving as a delegate to the United Church of Christ (UCC) General Synod in June 2015. The conversations shared at that gathering, and others since then, have helped me to understand what I had been noticing in my travel research: the racial segregation and land severance endured by Native peoples throughout American history and the ecological, economic and political isolation of the native communities which continues today.

As a pastor passionate about the land and also actively engaged in outreach and justice ministries, I believe I am called to explore this complex and often paradoxical intersection of wilderness and people. I am also at a unique time in my ministry to help shape the church’s awakening to the injustices the church has contributed to and been complicit with regarding lands and native peoples. Much, if not all, land policy in the United States, Canada and elsewhere is founded on the Doctrine of Discovery, a Christian doctrine of the 15th century.  In this sabbatical study therefore, I hope to learn (and share with you!) more about the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery, to visit a number of the National Parks and surrounding Indian reservations and to explore the complexity of where land and people meet or are separated. I do so to better understand the church’s role to respond in a biblically responsible and contemporary way, given that we are guided by the Old Testament mandate for careful stewardship of God’s creation and Jesus’ commandment to love one another.

It’s important for me to acknowledge that the members of First Church in Windsor have been incredibly supportive of this sabbatical plan, for which I’m deeply thankful. Bang Williams, Rev. Davida Crabtree, Mike Novak, Rev. Edie O’Donnell, Emily Vasquez, Sioux Wilusz (my sister!) and the Board of Deacons have been particularly involved and encouraging, as have my husband Jim and daughter, Katie. The majority of this study is funded by a 2016 Pastoral Study Project (PSP) grant awarded by the Louisville Institute.  Louisville Institute is funded by the Religion Division of the Lilly Endowment and based at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary (Louisville, KY).

This study and travel plan is dedicated to my father, Jerry Curtiss, who always journeys with me in love and in spirit. He is the one who nurtured my love of the outdoors and my keen interest in people and justice. He would have loved planning this trip with me! And ultimately I am most thankful to God for the inspiration to grow, learn, advocate for and fall more in love with creation, this land and all of its many peoples.

I hope you too will join me for this summer of discovery, “Beyond Acadia to Zion!”

To learn more about the United Church of Christ visit:
To learn more about the UCC’s Council on American Indian Ministries visit:
To learn more about First Church in Windsor, UCC visit:
To learn more about the Louisville Institute visit:

Dad and Char Dec 2012

My Dad and I, December 25, 2012.


7 thoughts on “Pre Trip Thoughts

  1. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ” This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21


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