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Thought for the month: Pilgrimage – Fuel for life’s hills (and inclines)

Article posted on 5 September 2018 Leave a Comment

This week children are returning to school or starting for the first time, students are packing for university and families are getting back to ‘normal’.   And more generally the lull of the summer (or the child-entertainment-bootcamp, perhaps) is drawing to a close as a new term and year begins.

A group of about 30 or so from St George’s have just returned from a 4 day walking pilgrimage to Hereford Cathedral.  So for a few days, life took on a different sort of pattern.   We walked during the day and slept on church floors overnight.  Days began at 6am with tea, followed by breakfast and packing up, then a communion service before embarking on the day’s walking which was punctuated with stops for cake and a pub lunch.  Each day ended with dinner that we prepared and cooked together, and a service of night prayer.  It was very different routine from the daily grind.   There was time to talk, time to think – none of the rushing from pillar to post that can all too easily become the hallmark of the busy person.

A particular conversation about ‘hills’ versus ‘inclines’ recurred frequently along the way.  ‘So is this a hill?’  one pilgrim enquired as we walked, definitely upwards, along the edge of a recently harvested field.  ‘Oh no this isn’t steep enough to be a hill’, replied another, ‘I’d call this a gentle ascent.’  The friendly debates as to what constituted a hill, an incline or an ‘ascent’ amused us along the road, but also reminded us that life, like any journey, is seldom without its uphills.

The value of pilgrimage, for many, is that the time out from the ‘normal’ routine affords space to reflect on the spiritual aspect of life.  As we were reminded by the priest at Checkley church where we visited on the Sunday morning:  ‘Its quite simple really – we are spiritual people’.   Its simple, but its easy to forget.  And we need spiritual food for the journey.  On pilgrimage we have a minibus stocked with cake which meets us along the way to provide fuel and sustenance and we don’t think twice about making sure we are fed and watered for the walk ahead.  In life we sometimes need to remind ourselves to feed our spiritual selves as well as the physical.  Life can get so busy that we don’t have time to breathe, let along to pray, or to go to church.

The challenge for us is to remember to look after our spiritual life, to make time and space to feed ourselves spiritually – its important, and necessary – its sustenance for the journey, and its our fuel for the uphills …as well as the ‘inclines’ and ‘ascents’  ;O)


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