MINSTER to CANTERBURY
It’s time to go. The last leg of a journey that has taken 7 weeks to walk. I don’t really know how I feel about today and getting to the end.
Extract from Reflections Journal – Saturday 2nd September 2017
One year ago today I walked the final leg of my pilgrimage journey from Minster to Canterbury. Arriving in Canterbury was a strange experience. My route alongside the river and through woodland obscured any view of the cathedral until I was in the city itself. The tower came into sight as I turned into a busy, bustling, noisy street and then, just a few hundred yards and a few minutes later, I was standing at the gate to the cathedral precinct. This journey was over. This walk of 550 miles and 49 days was finished. Inside the precinct it was busy too and I selfishly wanted everybody else to go away so that I could have this time to myself, but instead I found some space away from the crowds and stood and waited for Reverend Canon Clare Edwards who was going to meet me and take me on a brief tour around the cathedral. I stood and gazed at this massive medieval monument and imagined the countless thousands of pilgrims who had made their own journeys from all across the country and beyond and wondered how they had felt when they arrived here and saw this wonderful building for the first time. I’m not sure whether Canterbury is the most architecturally impressive cathedral, or the biggest, or oldest, but on this Saturday morning, even with the scaffolding wrapped around part of it, it was magnificent.
A little while later I was welcomed by Revd Canon Edwards and she took me on a brief tour inside. We followed the route taken by countless visitors who come to see where Thomas á Becket was killed and then we went down to the crypt chapel. Here Revd Canon Edwards and Revd Shuna Body, who had travelled across from Fairfield to meet me on my arrival in Canterbury, prayed with me and for me; for my journey – completed and yet to come.
It was a relief to have completed what I had set out to do. It felt then, and it still does now, like a real achievement, and I do believe that this journey – the encounters and experiences – will have a significant impact on my life and my ministry, and hopefully on others too. Like so often happens in life when the end comes it comes quickly and before we know it we have moved beyond and into the next thing. Returning to my home and children in Swavesey was a real joy and after 2 more weeks of my sabbatical it was equally a joy to be back at work in the church. And now, remarkably, a whole year has past since this trip of a lifetime. I know that there have been a number of times when things that happened to me during my pilgrimage have crept into conversations meetings and sermons. The journey has certainly shaped and changed me, and I am sure that there is still more that will come out of it. I think that is unlikely that I will undertake anything quite like this again, although I do hope to do some more, shorter, pilgrimages soon. Writing these reflections had been something of a journey in itself. Twice before, since finishing the pilgrimage, I have sat down and intended to write some kind of record or account of the seven weeks, but on both of those occasions nothing seemed to come together. In April this year the idea of writing reflections ‘one year on’ came to me and now this is finished too.
My pilgrimage and these reflections have been something of a personal indulgence. I am privileged to have had the time and opportunity to undertake both, and I am equally privileged to have shared some of this adventure – through walking and writing – with others, and although this part of my journey is over there are many roads ahead of me as I seek to keep on following Jesus. Thank you for walking this far with me. ‘This is my vowed intent – to be a pilgrim’.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 NIV
God of the pilgrimage,
You have called us all to ‘follow’.
To let go of this world and journey towards Your Kingdom.
You have set the path before us,
And You have given us Your Spirit to guide us.
Help us to set our hearts on Jesus
And to keep our eyes fixed on the prize,
So that whatever challenges or obstacles we might encounter
We will move forwards with hope and confidence,
Glorifying you in the way we journey through this life.