Being a pilgrim is a central part of Christian spirituality.
It is something that translates to all of us. It simply means ‘journeyer’.
To be a pilgrim means being willing to walk the path God accompanies you on, to wherever you wish to go.
Pilgrimages take many forms. For some, being a pilgrim means taking a physical journey; travelling in a group or alone. Or enjoying a place of solitude, somewhere locally, that holds special significance for you; place where God has met with you before. It could be a retreat or a trip with others.
But for others, it is simply the first step on a road that begins within. You are a pilgrim now, by being here, reading this, and experiencing all you wish to experience.
At the heart of pilgrimage is the intention to search for your life alongside and to God. Allowing God to guide you on the path of life is the first step to being a pilgrim: simply acknowledging you are a spiritual being and saying ‘yes’ to God in your life makes you a pilgrim.
This may mean adopting ways of life you never thought possible: it could mean finding prayer; realising your potential as a human being and discovering all those things God meant you to be. Essentially it means journeying towards finding your soul and its relationship of love in God’s hands.
For some this requires actually going to those places which have been significant to the people of God…
But, for you, a pilgrimage may simply be those places of love and affection which have drawn you closer to God before: a particular path in the Lake District or Scotland. Or just somewhere near your home.
Even if you find there is no ‘place’ that holds a pilgrimage for you, the very desire to journey towards God makes you a pilgrim. Embrace that journey…
Jerusalem has a unique place in the hearts of the children of God. The faiths that share the religion of the God of Abraham have journeyed here for thousands of years. For Christians it holds special significance as the birthplace of the Church; when Jesus was crucified but found alive again following his resurrection.
Iona shares a unique heritage with Ireland as a centre of Celtic Christianity. The introduction of Christianity to Scotland and Northern England was done through St. Columba and the monastery he built on Iona. As a place of natural beauty and Christian presence, it continues to receive thousands of visitors every year.
Held with affection by Christians for its sightings of the Virgin Mary, the tranquillity of the eastern English countryside welcomes hundreds of pilgrims who come to celebrate this peaceful oasis of Christian heritage.
Legend has it that St. James, an apostle of Jesus, found his way to the Spanish coast and preached there before finding his final resting place. Although many routes are considered acceptable for pilgrimage to Santiago, the most popular is the French Way: an 800km journey from the Pyrenees to Sanitago.
Cathedrals have long held places of pilgrimage for Christians. These can be abroad in places like Notre Dames, or St. Peter’s in Rome. But England has a long history of cathedrals for pilgrimage: Canterbury, Durham, Westminster abbey and York Minster are just some of the places renowned for their places of worship , prayer and spiritual space.
Manchester’s own special pilgrimage is headed by the Bishop of Manchester’s journey around the Diocese. Here you can find details of those parishes he has visited and is yet to visit, where you can experience the Bishop’s own pilgrimage as a journey to encourage and inspire the diocese to take its own Christian pilgrimage out across Manchester.
In 2011 Bishop Nigel will be journeying with Bishops Mark and Chris to Israel and Palestine. The trip is open to anyone wishing to join them. For details click here.
"Pilgrimage is an ancient spiritual practice and is known in many religions. Indeed, something like pilgrimage happens often without any religious content as when, for instance, someone returns to the place where they were born after many years away or when a visit is made to a family grave. For the Christian, pilgrimage and the sense of a "holy place" reminds us that we claim that God came amongst us in specific time and place - in Jesus Christ, and thus from very early days - even, it seems, before the end of official persecution - Christians were pilgrims to the holy places of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem."
Lightline Pilgrimages www.ukltg.com
Spirit Walk www.spiritwalk.net