Boston Coming of Age
UU Church Today, Society & Culture

Boston Pilgrimage: 15 Years Later

When my husband, David, suggested Boston as a Fall Break destination, I immediately replied, “Yes!” I was part of the first Coming of Age class at All Souls to go to Boston, a trip that previously had been saved for graduating seniors. The CoA Boston Pilgrimage had a big impact on me, so I was very excited to share such a special place with David. Here are some highlights from our trip:

Each Spring, the Coming of Age class, All Souls Youth program for 9th graders, embarks on the annual Boston Pilgrimage. They learned about modern Unitarian Universalism, our religious heritage, and how our history is intertwined with American history, including our country’s founding.
The COA class spends the year exploring their values and beliefs. During the Boston Pilgrimage, they bring all their experiences and understanding together to articulate their individual credos at Walden Pond.

Arlington Street Church

DAY ONE: We started our trip at Arlington Street Church, where William Ellery Channing once preached. It’s also known for its world-famous Tiffany windows (which we were too busy marveling at to photograph). This was one of the sites I visited with CoA, and it was just as beautiful as I remembered. David noticed how tall the pews were. Nowadays, our CoA students have an opportunity to deliver their credos from the same pulpit from which Channing preached.

The First UU Church

DAY TWO: David and I walked The Freedom Trail, which includes King’s Chapel. King’s Chapel was built in 1749 for the Church of England, but after the Revolution, it became the United States’ first UU Church. 

Other highlights included the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument, which has a beautiful view of the city—if you can make it up the winding 294-step staircase.

Up to Concord!

DAY THREE: We started the day at The Old Manse. Built by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather in 1740, it is located right next to the North Bridge, the site of the Battle of Concord and the start of the American Revolution. In fact, Emerson’s grandmother witnessed “the shot heard ‘round the world” from an upstairs window!

From there we went to Orchard House, the home of author Louisa May Alcott and her family. Photography wasn’t allowed on the tour, but the house is incredibly well-preserved, with at least 75% of the furnishings actually belonging to the Alcotts. All over the walls in the children’s bedrooms are drawings done by May, the youngest Alcott daughter. You see the half-moon table Bronson Alcott built for Louisa, and at which she wrote Little Women. Hearing stories about this socially-minded family, where the daughters were encouraged to follow their dreams reminded me of my own upbringing. As a lifelong UU, I instantly felt a connection across centuries to this distinctly Unitarian family. 

After lunch in town and a brief stop outside the Ralph Waldo Emerson House (which was closed), we headed onward to Walden Pond.

Walden Pond

Walden was a highlight of my CoA experience. Sitting by the pond and journaling, as 14-year old me imagined Thoreau had done, I took in the beauty of the trees and the water, the stillness and the sounds of nature. It had a great impact on me. Such an impact, that when David and I performed a water ceremony at our wedding, the water I contributed was from Walden Pond. It was really quite special sharing this place with him.


One more highlight: we did a day trip to Salem that was a lot of fun. Unexpectedly, the highlight of Salem was the Peabody Essex Museum. PEM is the oldest continuously operating museum in the US and contained a variety of installations including maritime artifacts, a fashion exhibit featuring Iris Apfel pieces, and an authentic 16-bedroom Chinese house brought over from China via museum cultural exchange.

It was wonderful getting share such a special place as Boston with David, and I look forward to visiting again. Although hopefully the next trip is sooner than fifteen years!

Cover Photo: Thomas and his Coming of Age class mates on their Boston Pilgrimage!
Thomas Farnan-Williams and his husband David are members of All Souls. Thomas leads the music and YAVE choir at Tulsa Pride for the All Souls float and supports our Seniors as they prepare music for Youth Sunday.

On Coming of Age Sunday, aka the Best Sunday of the Year, you can hear our 9th graders share their statements of belief they crafted during Coming of Age and the Boston Pilgrimage from our free pulpit at All Souls.

Read more from previous Boston Pilgrimages from or Youth Director Corey Smith. You can support our Youth Program and the Coming of Age Class every Sunday by shopping our “Brunch for Boston” table and the Arts & Crafts Market, Friday and Saturday, November 23 & 24!


  1. Excellent article Thomas.
    I enjoyed how you appreciate your growth as a UU.
    Thanks for sharing with us.
    I never had the experience of growing up with any kind of Church guidance.
    This was wonderful.

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