There are two days to go until we set off on a much anticipated pilgrimage from Southwark Cathedral to the shrine at Santiago de Compostela. There are in fact two groups going from the Cathedral. 45 of us are going on a coach and walking journey and 11 are walking from the northern coast.
Of all pilgrimages this must be the most physical, the most demanding. Having known about it for so long it was wonderful when two members of the Cathedral congregation journeyed along the Way from Le Puy in France. They kept us up to date with their journey and really inspired us into thinking that this was something that we could all do.
But what about those who could never do all the walking? Are they excluded from the pilgrimage, from travelling the Way? I was delighted when I discovered that McCabe Pilgrimages, our partners in all the Cathedral pilgrimages, organised a journey by coach, with the option of walking, that enabled anyone to take part in the pilgrimage. It seemed a truly inclusive way of doing it – very Southwark!
And having booked the dates and quickly filling all the places a group then decided that they wanted to walk and time their journey to meet us all in Santiago so that we could go to the Pilgrim Mass together. So that is what we are doing.
I’m Andrew Nunn, the Dean of Southwark, and it has been one of my privileges to lead a number of pilgrimages from the Cathedral. We’ve been to so many holy places, the Holy Land of course, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Sinai, Armenia, but never Santiago. And I’ve always discovered that pilgrimage is a deeply valuable time for the whole community not just those who make the journey. So my hope is that my reflections on the journey will help you to join our pilgrimage.
In the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about the pilgrimage and with Sister Joyce CSF, our spiritual leader for the journey, working out the liturgy for our time away and writing the Invocation to the Apostle that I will be invited to deliver on arrival in the basilica. That was a good thing to do because I had to think why I was making the pilgrimage and why others might be. To know the latter I asked people to tell me and they came up with wonderful reasons – personal, spiritual, in memory of a loved one.
Personally there are two things.
This year I’ve been ordained 30 years. It’s a long time, a great period of time. I was ordained and served in the parish of St James the Great, Manston in Leeds. I suppose there I got to know the Apostle in the way that we do get to know our patron saints. So part of my journey is to offer thanksgiving for 30 years of ordained ministry.
And then there is the whole business of how I live my Christian life. The early Christians, as we know from the Acts of the Apostle, were known as people of the Way, of the Camino. They travelled the Way in their daily living of the resurrection. The challenge to myself is, how am I living my life in Christ. I hope the journey will help me think and pray about that.
But now to more practical issues. I need to pack!