July Letter: Pilgrimage

I have just taken a group of year 6 children from Charlton Horethorne School to Wells Cathedral for a day of activities and their leavers’ service. It is an opportunity to gather children from different church schools to celebrate their experience of primary school and send them on to the next stage of their journey as they move on to secondary school.  It is a time to look back, be thankful and celebrate and also to look forward with hope. The Diocese calls these days ‘Pilgrim Days’. The children visit a special place and are given the opportunity to reflect on their school journey.

Are there any places in the world that you would love to visit? Take a moment to think about why. Perhaps you chose somewhere that is associated with someone special – for example, the town or country your grandparents were born, or where a hero of yours lives. Perhaps you chose a place you have heard a lot about and would love to see for yourself.

When Christians go on pilgrimage they travel somewhere that is special to their faith. It might be to places written about in the Bible, such as where Jesus and the early Christians lived. It may be a place where a miracle once happened or a saint is buried. Often the journey itself matters as much as being at the special place, because it gives the ‘pilgrim’ – the person on the journey – time to pray and think. Our children had great fun on the way to Wells.

By taking the time to go on pilgrimage, people can leave behind everyday concerns from back home and spend time in the presence of God as they travel to a place with special meaning. People have always gone on pilgrimage for many reasons – perhaps to say sorry to God for something they had done wrong (penance), or because they were ill and wanted God to heal them. They might be looking for an answer to a problem or difficulty, or they might be looking for peace or healing.

Pilgrimages are growing in popularity again. There have been television programmes recently following celebrities that have travelled the Santiago way to Compostella in Spain and the Via Fracigena to Rome in Italy.

You may not be able to travel long distances to special places this summer but why not make a short pilgrimage to one of our benefice churches? They are all oases of calm and prayer. Come and sit in these holy spaces and allow God to restore your soul.

Rev Sarah

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