…choose again the pilgrim way…
As we sang Fred Kaan’s communion hymn, “Now let us from this table rise” this morning at church, the final lines resonated strongly with me; “Then grant us courage, Father-God, to choose again the pilgrim way…”
Yesterday evening I returned from my eighth pilgrim journey along the beautiful route from Durham to Lindisfarne. Two of those walks have just been with Andrew, one was a very precious time with my sister and niece, the other five have all been with groups of women, drawn together from every part of the British Isles through the communication channels of Methodist Women in Britain. Each journey has been different, each journey has been memorable. This one was particularly poignant for me as it was my last – at least for the time being. I wanted to stop before the adventure lost anything of its charm (and I fear that already I say too often “once before when I was here…”).
This group (gathered here in front of Dunstanburgh Castle) came from the four points of the compass and most of them knew very few, if any, of the other pilgrims. So we all had much to learn about each other – and about ourselves – as we went along.
It is my practice to have a “word for the day”, introduced at breakfast each morning; something on which to hang our thoughts as we tramp through rain and sunshine, over beaches and country lanes, along cliff tops and through farmyards. In the past, I have always asked the pilgrims to keep the words private afterwards (so that I could re-use them) but this time I imposed no embargo. Day by day, we have reflected on Encounter; Attentiveness; Courage; Timing; Rhythm and Horizon (with a final one, Rest, communicated by email today). Each word carries a lot of weight… maybe I’ll unpack them another time.
Packing and unpacking (and carrying weight) are also key elements of pilgrimage. For the final section of the crossing to Lindisfarne, I try to walk at the back, to make sure no-one gets left behind in the mud! This also gives me a good view of the rucksacks. By that stage in the week I know a little about what each is carrying, not just externally, but internally too, and it is very moving to see how, within the group, people are enabled to “walk the mile and bear the load” through the love, support and prayer we share.
(Thank you, Karen, for this wonderful photo of Lindisfarne Castle, viewed through the Priory).
It does take courage to be a pilgrim, to trust your body to keep going, to trust the group to love you, to trust the leader not to get lost (!), to trust God to give strength and grace. I thank God for each of those who have courageously chosen to accompany me on these walks – I have learned much from every companion. I know it won’t be too long before I am looking for new ways “to choose again the pilgrim way”. Jill