Eleven youth and six adults from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bartlesville trekked to Washington D.C. the first week of August in memory of a man who left a generous gift to the church’s youth group. Part spiritual, part educational and part fun, the pilgrimage touched the hearts, minds and feet of this small but mighty group that walked many miles a day in the August heat. Bunking in a church basement about a mile from the Capitol, St. Luke’s youth group pounded the pavement, caught the Metro, rode bicycles and much more to experience the National Cathedral, the White House, Arlington National Cemetery, and many of our nation’s best-known museums, monuments and memorials.
“The DC trip was fun and educational for both adults and kids,” said St. Luke’s youth leader Jen McIver. “Even though we had pack full agendas all four days, the kids had time to bond and get to know each other better. I think this experience will be something they (and us sponsors) remember forever.”
The trip was in memory of Paul “Chip” Friley who passed away in Washington on August 11, 2021 at the age of 51. During the 1980s, Chip spent some of his childhood in Bartlesville where he attended St. Luke’s youth group now affectionately known as “YD,” short for Young Disciples. Chip went on to earn degrees at Southern Methodist University and Georgetown University before his career as an energy economist in Washington, a place he dearly loved.
When his gift was bequeathed to St. Luke’s youth group, it seemed only right that YD travel to DC in his honor. As part of the trip, the group ate dinner one night with Chip’s friend, Owen Williams and Owen’s sister, at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a legendary DC restaurant and one of Chip’s favorites. Afterward, they walked to the nearby church where Chip’s funeral had been held a year earlier. That night and throughout the trip, Chip’s name came up often in both prayers and casual conversations.
There were many highlights of the trip, including a guided bicycle tour at night with magnificent views of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument as well as the Vietnam War and World War II Memorials. They also attended the Friday evening parade at the Marine Barracks and topped the night off with ice cream at a well-known local parlor. Sunday morning the group attended St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square near the White House.
“I enjoyed the trip for a lot of reasons but the biggest one was seeing a great group of kids appreciate the nation’s capital city through art, science and history – and of course the Episcopal church,” said chaperone Chad Ellis. “They came together as a group strongly.”
Ellis, McIver and several other adults, including St. Luke’s Rector Father Nick, began planning the trip months in advance. With a flurry of phone calls and emails they developed a detailed plan that helped the trip go smoothly. It included cooking breakfast and dinner each night (Thank you, Father Nick!) at the church to keep costs down. For anyone thinking about making a similar trip to Washington, the YD leaders would be happy to share what they learned.
“Long before we left for DC we planned out virtually every hour of our four-day trip knowing that this could very well be a once-in-a-life-time opportunity for many kids in our group,” said Tom Droege, one of St. Luke’s youth group leaders and chaperones for the trip. “Not only did we experience many awe-inspiring sights, but we also grew closer as a group especially as we navigated the subway together. At the end of each jam-packed day, my favorite part was listening to the kids relaxing and laughing over goofy games before we turned the lights out.”
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