A Different Kind of Walk is a podcast birthed out of Jeff's longing to write a book (Soul Preparation for The Camino and Life) and Susan's longing to keep her friend's audible voice out in the world while his body can still form words. Jeff was a pastor for 35 years, and Susan worked alongside him for the last 8 of those years until he had to retire early due to a neuromuscular disorder. Yet, despite Jeff losing ever more control of his voluntary muscles (arms, legs, eyelids, swallowing, etc.) and despite the daily challenges of physical pain, Jeff has not lost his joy. So while time permits, Jeff and Susan will continue to chat and interview inspiring people from around the world, sending out their messages of how pain and joy often coincide in this life.
More about Jeff Conway
Born in California, I moved with my family to Oregon when I was six weeks old and, despite my father’s Irish Catholic heritage, we never attended worship again after the move. In my early years, I was the rebel who wanted to stay home and play with my friends in the neighborhood as opposed to my family’s steady diet of golf. Hitting five feet tall in the ninth grade and blessed with poor hand/eye skills, I found myself being an artist, a musician, singer and roadrunner instead. I would have wondered whether I’d been adopted except that I have been my father’s twin at every age.
When I was seventeen and preparing to leave for the University of Oregon to become a landscape architect, I finally came to recognize God, our God, who had always been present in my life. And after a year in the Architecture Department, I realized that I actually wanted to reach out to kids with God’s love in the way that so many friends and adults outside my family had reached out to me growing up.
After seminary (Boston), I spent 12 years working with youth in the Presbyterian Church. Continuing to want to spread the love and joy of God, most especially to the wider world after traveling to places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Kenya and Northern Ireland to support NGO’s, missionaries and ministries, I became a pastor for another 23 years – though truly that turn of events came as a surprise to me.
Today, I have two sons and two daughters-in-law (Barrett & Amy and Addison & Alexa) who are out and about, living their lives. And my wife, Patti—once a nursing student I met when I was in seminary and knew nothing about except that she had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen and WHAM! I was instantly in love—live in the western suburbs of Philadelphia.
My neuromuscular disease started about 15 years ago with mild consequences in my left leg. It has now moved to affect my entire body. It presents most similar to PLS (Primary Lateral Sclerosis) but remains unconfirmed. I am now in a study at the National Institutes of Health.
This latest journey I’m on has given me—a Presbyterian minister who would identify more closely to a Christian mystic—plenty of time to sit with God and listen, to do much reading and a considerable amount of praying (not the worst things in the world). I invite you to journey with me so that we can learn and grow together, and so that I may pray for your specific needs and concerns as well.
More about Susan Alloway
I grew up on a ranch in Nebraska and moved out to the Philadelphia area for college and grad school. I met my husband, Gary, here and—needless to say—I never left. Gary is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and in 2012 one of his close friends from seminary had just started pastoring at Gary's home church, Paoli Presbyterian Church in Paoli, PA. That friend, Becca, called me up and asked if I'd like to apply for their open communications position. When I took the job, I met Jeff Conway, the then Lead Pastor at Paoli Pres., and life has been very entertaining ever since.
Today I'm a freelance graphic designer/web designer and the Director of Media and Worship at Redemption Church in Bristol, PA, a church that my husband and I planted in 2009. Gary and I have two ridiculous children, Augie and Rosey, and a miniature farm of hamsters. And we love to show people around Bristol, so come walk with us anytime.
At Redemption we say, "we are a community of sinners and skeptics longing for the redemption of God." I hope that through this podcast, no matter what your background, you can join Jeff and me in the journey of seeing God redeeming all of creation one small step at a time.
A few years ago, Jeff went for a walk. The Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage across Northern Spain, was a romantic idea: trekking where pilgrims have deepened paths for centuries, 500 miles of unfamiliar, arduous trails in a foreign land, in uncertain weather, with fellow pilgrims speaking languages of the world. But this journey was interrupted by the reality of a truer journey; a neuromuscular disease was robbing him of his muscles and his career. As such, the Camino de Santiago was his master class in humility, in seeking help, in learning to walk differently.
Though the disease has robbed Jeff of many things, it has not taken his joy. Along the Camino, the Way of St. James, he would learn what ambulatory folk take for granted: the act of deliberately, contemplatively, prayerfully placing one foot in front of the other.
Come. Jeff's walk is not over. We invite you to walk with us.