The vicar writes:
as I write, there has been rather a lot of examples of the idea of ‘pilgrimage’ in what I have been engaged in recently. Today, I met up with the reception class of St John’s Academy at Newland Church (‘a place of pilgrimage since c. 1200’ as it says on the sign in the porch). They had walked there from school along the old burial path, which, as I’m sure you know, was the route from Coleford to Newland for anyone visiting All Saints which was the parish church, instead of making use of the chapel of ease in Coleford. And the main cause to do that was for burials.
Some of you will know that my husband Mark has been a regular pilgrim with Bishop Michael, the Bishop of Gloucester, who over the last 6 years or so (since the celebration of the millennium of the County of Gloucestershire) has led day long and week long walks around the Diocese. The last one of these before Bishop Michael’s retirement in November was a couple of weeks ago, and Mark, +Michael and all the other regular pilgrims walked 88 miles from Whelford (just past Fairford), around the South boundary of the Diocese to Oldbury and then up the Severn to Gloucester. As usual, they visited as many churches as possible along the way, with morning and evening prayer, a midday eucharist and many ‘prayers along the way’ services happening at within the various churches that they walked to. Those of you who know Bishop Michael will give a wry smile on hearing that the liturgy booklet for the 7 day journey was 161 pages long!
The school’s visit to Newland today, was for a happier reason than a burial; it was to visit the church to experience a mock baptism. Baby Mary Anne, the class doll, (she was quite pretty, but that’s not what I mean), was brought to baptism by the children who were her parents and godparents for the day and we prayed for God’s Spirit to be with her, and for her to know herself part of God’s family. So not the end of the journey, but the beginning, in Christian terms.
And the imagery of a journey through life, or a Christian pilgrimage, is a very strong theme in our baptism service, along with the idea of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, being our destination, our inspiration and our companion on the way.
It reminds us that many of us might be the ones who regularly come to church, but that doesn’t mean we are the ones who have got it all sorted out. We are all on the journey, and it is lovely when we choose to walk together.
So as you walk your journey, whether at times alone or in the company of others, be blessed by the Gloucester Diocese pilgrims’ prayer:
the companion of our pilgrimage
and the goal towards which we move:
through the events that shape our journey,
through the people who walk at our side,
through the places where we sense your presence,
grant us moments of grace along the way,
as you draw us to yourself;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.