Celebrating Shawn Small

Wonder Voyage has been at the center of my work and faith life for over 20 years. When I was asked to share a favorite story about Shawn Small, my first thought was, “There are so many. How can I possibly choose just one?”

After thinking about it, however, I realized I really do have a favorite story. It’s my favorite because it captures so much of who Shawn is. It reminds me that not only is Shawn a fearless adventurer, a seeker of wonder, and a storyteller, but he is also a follower of Christ, a pastor, and a father.

Innis Oirr

In the summer of 2003, I was an Episcopal Youth Minister. My students had saved for several years to take a pilgrimage to Ireland. That summer, Shawn’s entire family lived in Ireland while he led Wonder Voyages. His oldest daughter, Coeli, had asked to be baptized in the waters off of the Island of Innis Oirr—one of the most sacred ‘thin places’ in the world.

Shawn mentioned it to me and asked if I happened to have a Book of Common Prayer he could use. I was glad to share my prayer book and really honored to be a witness to Coeli’s act of faith. 

That day was what the Irish called a “soft day.” Rain was falling in the gentlest of mists; it was like walking through a veil of fog. Shawn and Coeli headed into the sea, and with a gathering of witnesses from 2 different faith traditions, Coeli was baptized. 

To this day, when I pull out my prayer book, it automatically falls open to the baptismal page. The soft rain falling that day wrinkled the pages like a forever reminder. When I hold my prayer book and look at those pages, I can smell the sea, and I can feel the sand and the waves at my feet. More importantly, though, I can remember the look on Shawn’s face…in a place that he loved, with people that he loved, serving a God that he loved.

Wonder is everywhere, even in the expression on someone’s face.

After graduating with a dual degree in History and Sociology, Molly became a youth minister in the Episcopal Church. She joined the staff of WV in 2003. As Voyage Coordinator, she adds the nuts and bolts to our itineraries. She is dedicated to bringing the gospel to life through pilgrimage. As an encounter expert, Molly can find the story of God anywhere and everywhere.


  1. Avatar Juanita Boyd on May 16, 2024 at 1:47 pm

    I love how you told Shawn’s story. You described it Beautifully Molly. Shawn, what an amazing experience to share with your daughter. Thank you for sharing!

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