Christ Church Cathedral has launched a new Centre for Christian Pilgrimage.

The Centre is the result of a collaboration between the Cathedral and the Revd Dr Sally Welch who is the Diocesan Spirituality Adviser and an expert on pilgrimage.

Dr Welch is working with Canon Sarah Meyrick, the Cathedral’s Public Engagement Manager, to help ensure that the Cathedral is as welcoming as possible to pilgrims. The three-year Pilgrim Project began this year and is tied in with the 2020 Year of Pilgrimage, a national initiative spearheaded by the Association of English Cathedrals.

Inevitably, many of the initiatives associated with the Year of Pilgrimage have had to be rethought in the light of the pandemic. At a local level, work has continued wherever possible. The Cathedral has focused on developing a new website (link) which will offer a hub of resources and the sharing of good practice.

One of the planned events that had to be adapted was this month’s 48-hour Festival of Pilgrimage which was reshaped instead as a one-day live-streamed webinar. Speakers included the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Norwich and the Dean of Christ Church. The event was attended by several hundred people and has since been watched by 2500 viewers. All the content is freely available.

The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, said: “It was a real joy to welcome several hundred to our inaugural Pilgrimage Festival. Our speakers were hugely appreciated by all who watched and listened.

“The website has already proved to be an excellent resource for the wider Church, and all of the content is now available online.

“This Festival has again highlighted how important and vital pilgrimage is becoming within our spiritual landscape. We look forward to continuing to welcome pilgrims here, wherever they are, and wherever they are going.”

Last year, the Cathedral held a St Frideswide Pilgrimage on the saint’s day (17 October). The event attracted more than 500 people from across the Diocese of Oxford which extends across the entire Thames Valley.

Around 250 of those who took part arrived on foot at the Cathedral along one of five routes. The event ended with a packed service conducted by the Dean and Bishop, and where Frideswide Voices sang in honour of the saint for whom they are named.

Plans to repeat the St Frideswide Pilgrimage are naturally on hold. Instead, the Cathedral has developed an audio tour called ‘Walking with the Shepherd’ which allows people to make a personal pilgrimage to the Cathedral from Godstow. The tour is available via a free app.