There’s been a lot of walking around the Diocese recently. Bishop Richard has led walks up high places in each of our deaneries, and led simple services of Holy Communion on the hills, as part of our Year of Prayer. The Golden Valley Pilgrim Way, beginning and ending at our Cathedral, has seen more and more pilgrims walking along its route. Some are doing the full 59 miles, sometimes sleeping overnight by prior arrangement in one of the churches along the way, some just doing the shorter Pilgrim Trail over two or three days, still beginning and ending in our Cathedral. The prayers offered by those pilgrims is an integral part of their pilgrimage.
My husband and I will be off to Northumberland soon, a place where we have spent many happy holidays over the years. Tides permitting, we’ll probably make the pilgrimage to Holy Island again, walking barefoot across the sandy Pilgrim’s Way linking Holy Island with the mainland.
Pilgrimage has a long and honoured tradition among Christians. It used to be known as peregrination, or leaving one’s home and wandering for the love of God.
Away from the distractions and comforts of home, in creation, it’s often easier to tune into the presence of God. Praying while walking becomes a conversation, as we notice things about our surroundings, ourselves, and God which the Holy Spirit brings to our attention. We are embodied creatures, and being on the move can release emotions and thoughts that can get ‘stuck’ in our more sedentary day-to-day existence, all of which can be offered to God in prayer.
Not all of us are physically capable of making a pilgrimage. That need not stop us from entering into the experience either by following a pilgrim trail on YouTube or by taking an ‘internal pilgrimage’. I came across this idea in a newsletter sent by someone who runs a retreat centre in Cyprus:
- Where have you been in your life? What have you done? What has happened? Whom have you met? Where has life taken you?
- Draw a meandering road on a large piece of paper.
- Record on the line significant events/times in your life through words/pictures/colour. Begin with the day you were born.
- Consider where you sense God was in each of those times - close, absent, in you, in others, etc. Mark this in some way on your path.
- Consider with God anything that has come to your attention that you feel needs more pondering. If any of it has been difficult, consider discussing it with a Christian friend and praying together.
Whether your summer pilgrimage is to a local park, your own garden, or along the Camino de Santiago, may you find blessing and joy in the journey.