In the early 1970's, conversations among friends at First Baptist Church of Decatur transitioned into "dream sessions" about deeply felt needs they hoped their church might meet: primarily, an accepting, nurturing atmosphere for study and discussion which would encourage diversity, honor questions, enable participation and anticipate and celebrate change.
A clear vision began to emerge. A formally designated "class" was not necessary, simply a space in which to meet on Sunday mornings: a place to discuss relevant issues openly and honestly, to study seriously and explore theological thought, to deal with the impact of faith on the way life is lived.
With the pastor's encouragement, a small room was found and Pilgrims was formed. The beginning nucleus of three began to grow as awareness and interest increased. Friends outside the church were invited and many gradually became a part of the life of the church. Thus, Pilgrims became a forum, an atmosphere, a place to spend time with theological literature and thought, to grapple with what it means to be a pilgrim in a world that pays attention to what we do and who we are far more than to what we say. Learning, respect, spiritual growth and healthy relationships became increasingly evident.
Of course, as a fluid, organic process, Pilgrims has changed through the years but it remains vital and viable. The original spirit of seeking, respectful dialogical inquiry and involvement continues, welcoming those who enter as companions on the way.
Jackie Durham, one of the founding members of Pilgrims, reflects on the beginnings of the group in this short video.