Friday, 13 April 2018

To be a pilgrim...

Last weekend saw 70 folk gather at Cliff College for a weekend exploring pilgrimage. People came from all over the Connexion and brought with them energy and enthusiasm, curiosity and commitment to sharing what they already knew or had experienced and openness to learn more.  The team of facilitators shared brilliantly on a range of aspects of pilgrimage - looking at where it chimes with (amongst other things) heritage, mission, justice and pain..  This latter presentation noted that physical pilgrimage is not possible for everyone - and further considered how chronic pain and disability may itself be a sort of pilgrimage.

The keynote presentation was given by Rev. Michaela Youngson who shared the lessons and insights into life which she had gained when walking the Camino in Spain with her daughter;  "Sacred wells", "Holy detours", "Arid places", "Letting go".... and much much more.  Micky was inspiring, deep and amusing all at once - we look forward to her forthcoming pilgrimage as President of the Conference.

The whole weekend included a "Rhythm of Prayer", following the Five-A-Day shape.  Early morning prayer included rooftop worship on Saturday - when we were blessed with a dry morning and even a sunrise... and on Sunday around the empty cross, such a powerful feature of Cliff. 

Other opportunities for prayer and reflection were offered in various ways, including the mega-labyrinth brought along by Fiona Fidgin for Saturday afternoon. 

Saturday evening was given over to "Pilgrimage on a wider map" in which Rev. Dr. Stephen Skuce  conversed on stage with a number of people who have journeyed to life in Britain from various parts of the world - Barbados, Hong Kong, Cameroon and Benin.  Their reasons for coming - and their treatment on arrival - varied hugely and we were humbled to learn from Pride of his long journey (pilgrimage?) to being granted refugee status.  All participants were gracious - if only the same could be said of all our churches and of our Home Office!

At four points throughout the weekend Rev. Graham Sparkes, a Baptist minister and President of Luther King House, reflected back to us what he was hearing and what he felt was emerging of a theology and understanding of pilgrimage.  His reflections were wise and perceptive and will be made available in due course on the pilgrimage pages of the Methodist Church website. 

All this talking, listening, discussing and thinking was enriched and surrounded by the wonderful creativity of Ruth Sprague.  Her series of weaves on a pilgrimage theme literally encircled us in the meeting room and the prayerful work which had gone into both the weaves and the booklets accompanying them seeped into all our conferring in a mystical way.  Ruth had also brought along her loom and invited pilgrims to spend a few minutes weaving with her over the weekend - a wonderfully rhythmic, soothing activity.  The result was a fabulous textile which expresses so much of the variety and togetherness of the time.

For those with energy and a passion to do pilgrimage outdoors, several options were on offer - some chose to stop off at Tissington en route and share in the Tissington Village Pilgrimage, devised and led by Peak Park Rural Officer, Deacon Lorraine Brown.  Lorraine also led a group of 18 on the final section of the Peak Pilgrimage on Saturday afternoon.  A prayer walk around the Cliff College grounds was one of many workshop choices.

Closing worship centred around the story of two early Easter pilgrims on the Emmaus Road - the whole act of worship, which I led, was shaped by the story, and as the disciples shared their meal with a stranger, we were led by Micky in a communion which captured that sense of Jesus being revealed in the breaking of bread. 

So much more could be said - and I hope it will be in all sorts of locations and events, as some of the richness of the pilgrim ethos is shared with the wider Connexion.  Look out for further reflections and report in the Methodist Recorder and elsewhere and many more photos can be viewed at

Meanwhile, my heartfelt thanks to DMLN for wonderful support in putting on this event - especially Dr. Tony Moodie - and to the brilliant planning group of Sarah, Lynne, Simon, John, Marlene and Tony who all worked so hard.  Blessings for the journey, Jill

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