Walking pilgrimages are becoming more popular and recent TV programmes have highlighted different celebrities following ancient pilgrimage routes across Europe. On Saturday 22nd June, the Alban Pilgrimage takes place in St Alban's with a magnificent procession from St Peter's Church to the Cathedral. The publicity states: 'Our infamous 12ft carnival puppets take to the streets to reenact the moving story of Alban and Amphibalus, making a wonderful gathering of pilgrims from around St Alban's Diocese and beyond. Supported by hundreds of costumed children and thousands of onlookers, this wonderful celebration of the Christian faith is not to be missed.' The procession starts at St Peter's church at 11am. Find out more at [email protected]
One of the reasons for the growing popularity of pilgrimage is that it enables people to focus on the here and now without being distracted. In her book 'An altar in the world - finding the sacred beneath our feet,' Barbara Brown Taylor explores ways in which we can become more aware of God in the everyday. One of these is by walking. 'Not everyone is able to walk,' writes Brown Taylor, 'but most people can, which makes walking one of the most easily available spiritual practices of all.'
Often our walking is a means to an end. We walk in order to get somewhere, and we do so as fast as possible to arrive at our destination as quickly as we can. The kind of walking Barbara Brown Taylor advocates is more like sauntering. It is about walking with awareness, paying attention to where we are, who we are with, and what is around us. The journey becomes more important than the destination.
This is the kind of walking which Jesus does in the gospels. He spent a lot of his ministry walking around. The gospel writers never give the impression that he was rushing. On his journeys, Jesus had time for people. He noticed those around him. Once, when Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, two blind men called out to him as he was passing by. Jesus stopped, sought them out and healed them.
On another occasion, Jesus walked with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus. They were discussing the recent events of Jesus's death on the cross and puzzling over them. The risen Jesus drew alongside them and walked with them. As he did so, he explained the Scriptures to them and helped them to understand why he had to suffer and die. The disciples finally understood as they encountered the risen Lord.
St Augustine of Hippo wrote 'solviture ambulando' which means 'it is solved by walking'. The act of walking helps us to think things through, to ponder and reflect. And yes, sometimes we are able to reach solutions. Walking with the awareness of what is around us enables to appreciate the beauty of creation. Walking with an awareness of the presence of God gives us space to be renewed and refreshed. It is a form of prayer.
May God be with you on your travels,
Joy (Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough)
About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.