Walking trail inspired by pastor helps create worship and community
By Lindsay Peyton
A closer walk with Thee is now only a few steps away at Aldersgate UMC in College Station.
The Trinity Trail offers a contemplative path through the woods, complete with resting places and scripture to guide the way. All are welcome to go on the journey – and to consider the important components of discipleship highlighted along the way.
Senior Pastor, the Rev. Mario Parga was inspired by his own walks in the woods in Colorado, where he used to serve, to create the Trinity Trail. “We’d go on mountain hikes and have these amazing experiences with God’s beauty,” he explained.
The idea first came in 2018, after his second full year appointed at Aldersgate. There was a wooded portion of the property, about 2.5 acres of untouched land.
“It was very primitive,” Parga recalled. “I laid out the vision to leadership at the church. Why don’t we make a prayer trail out in the woods? We’re not doing anything with it?”
The leadership team at Aldersgate loved the idea. Parga imagined steps along the way, stopping places where walkers could meditate. He thought of the outcroppings on trails in Colorado, where hikers would stop to take in the view.
Parga prayed over the design and the concept of the triquetra, the interlaced arcs that form the ancient symbol of the trinity, came to him. “And we began putting the pieces together,” he said.
The trail took about a year to build. “Somebody had to go in there with a tractor and tear down the brush,” Parga said. “We had to rent equipment to get the roots out.”
The dream becomes a reality
Finally, after a couple years of planning and work, the pathway was smooth, the crosses constructed and the dream a reality. The space opened in October 2020.
The trail was designed to trace meaningful aspects of discipleship. At each stop, a cross stands, bearing key words, accompanied by a verse of scripture. “You can sit down, because there are some rough-hewn logs in front of the signs,” Parga added.
The first stop is “worship;” and around the bend is “connect.”
“We want to connect with each other,” Parga said. “It’s great to worship, but we want to create community.”
The next cross reads, “restore” and the fourth, “equip.” Ephesians 4:11 is featured: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
“We want to equip people to use the gifts God has given,” Parga explained. “The next stop on the trail is ‘mentoring.’”
This section is inspired by John Wesley’s small groups that promoted spiritual growth for each other. The scripture is from 2 Timothy: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be competent to teach others also.”
The sixth cross reads “outreach” and the seventh, “blessing.” For this last stop, Deuteronomy 28 is the inspiration, “You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.”
“That’s the last thing you see when you’re going out of the trail,” Parga said.
And it’s a message that walkers can take with them as they leave.
In the middle of the trail is a hollowed out section with a cross in the middle and logs surrounding it. “We’ve had 30 to 40 people out there at any given time for events,” Parga said.
One major event serves Aldersgate’s meth addiction recovery program. The group leads a march each October. “We had 100-plus people in the woods that marched and met in the middle to give their testimonies about getting off drugs,” Parga said.
The gathering spot is also used by the church’s school and youth group. There are also neighbors who make use of the trail. “We get a lot of walkers out here,” Parga said. “They’ll scoot on over. It’s a silent witness.”
This fall, the pastor plans to reach out to the nearby developments to tell them about the trail, hosting a grand opening. He likens the pathway to a meditative labyrinth that can benefit anyone looking for peace, seclusion and time with the Lord.
Often, Parga will be working in the office after a long day and decide to take a break and wander on the trail. It helps him gain clarity.
“It helps me to get centered again, to focus on the Lord,” he added. “It reminds us of why we’re here – to make disciples. We’re on the path -- and it’s a beautiful thing.”