August 2018

First Thoughts : Jane

You may have noticed that pilgrimage is becoming very popular lately. Hundreds of thousands of people now flock each year to walk the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrim routes in Spain and France. Our Chichester Diocese recently encouraged our church communities to go on a pilgrimage to Chichester Cathedral. Why the enthusiasm?

A pilgrimage is more than just a walking holiday; it has a sacred destination where there's a journey inwards as well as outward. It was very popular amongst Christians in this country until the time of the Reformation, when it was banned. Today's revival in pilgrimage might be seen to be part of a broader desire to connect to the earth and our landscape. It also seems to speak to those who are 'spiritual but not religious'.

There is a 'new' pilgrimage route being opened up, very close to Shoreham-by-Sea. It's called 'The Old Way' and it's being recovered following the study of Britain's oldest road map, dating back to 1360. The pilgrim route went from the port of Southampton to Canterbury Cathedral, which used to be Britain's most important pilgrimage destination. It takes in nearby Storrington, Bramber and Arundel, as well as Chichester. This rediscovery is the work of the British Pilgrimage Trust, a charity that hopes to revive pilgrimage in this country, for the benefit of the religious and also those with no faith. In short, it wants to bring the spirit of the Camino to the South Downs and beyond.
 
The Old Way takes in mainly ancient footpaths and avoids busy roads, to capture the authentic pilgrimage experience. There are a profusion of interesting churches and sites along the way, as well as the beauty of nature itself. The Old Way will also use churches for accommodation or 'champing' as it's known (camping in churches). This is a great idea that will bring visitors and revenue to rural churches. I find all this work very exciting and wish the British Pilgrimage Trust all the best with their endeavours. Perhaps some of us might walk a local stretch of the Old Way some time in the future.
 
You can find out more about the British Pilgrimage Trust at www.britishpilgrimage.org. There is also an evening lecture at St Mary de Haura about pilgrimage: Nigel Clark talks about why he walked 500 miles along The Camino de Santiago, at 7.30pm, Thursday, 9th August.
 
Revd Jane


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