‘Oh happy band of pilgrims’

THE BISHOP of Oxford is inviting everyone from across the diocese to join him on a pilgrimage – without leaving the Thames Valley writes Sarah Meyrick. OD560-pilgrimage-launch-leaflet-v1-1

The Pilgrimage, which runs from 18 to 28 September 2014, will see the launch of a brand new pilgrim route running through the heart of the diocese, The Thames Pilgrim Way. The intention is that the route should exist in perpetuity – so that walkers of this part of the Thames Path can experience a different dimension to the route.

“By following the Thames Path, the journey is already laid out for us, so in some ways we are simply reclaiming an iconic route for God,” says Bishop John. “More than 70 of our churches lie within half a mile of the river, all treasures. We won’t be stopping at all of them, but my hope is that by blessing the route, praying along the way, and providing resources for prayer and reflection, we’ll be able to offer something unique and long-lasting for pilgrims of the future.”

Pilgrimage is one of Bishop John’s particular interests. “For centuries, people have gone on journeys to enrich their spiritual lives,” he says. “The desire seems deeply ingrained in human nature. Pilgrimages nurture and sustain our inner life, our ‘sacred centre’.

“Personally, pilgrimage has long been one of my passions. Over the years I’ve made pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome, Holy Island, Iona, Mount Sinai, Turkey and Greece. I also really enjoyed travelling around the diocese in August 2011, meeting people and praying with the local communities surrounding the 15 wonderful churches featured on our Pilgrimage Map.

“Three years on, I’m delighted to be launching a brand new Pilgrimage route, which winds majestically through the very heart of our great diocese, and each of our four archdeaconries.”

The Thames Pilgrim Way has been broken up into ten sections, each averaging ten miles. There will be a pause after the first two days for the Grand Day Out (see page 1) in the city of Oxford, which includes a special short (three mile) pilgrimage at the beginning of the day. The pilgrimage will resume on the Sunday morning.

There will be pauses for prayer and reflection throughout each day, and every afternoon will end with tea and a short act of worship in a host parish along the Thames Path. The start and stop points have been chosen to allow for travel by train where possible. Pilgrims are encouraged to organise lifts with others where they can.

“We hope people will feel free to dip in and out of the pilgrimage, as they can manage,” says the Revd Sally Welch, diocesan spirituality adviser and a key member of the planning group.

“You’ll need to bring your own lunch and sufficient water for the day. Please note that you will need waterproofs and stout walking boots. Do go on a practice walk if you are not a regular walker before committing yourself to a long day’s walking. Please also be aware that public loos are very limited!”

“Past experience tells me that exciting things happen when Christians journey together,” says Bishop John.  “Do join me, for an hour, a day or the whole 104 miles. It’s in the action of travelling, of encountering the new and the unfamiliar, of sharing conversations and allowing ourselves time and space away from our everyday routines that we find refreshment and spiritual growth. “

There is no charge for taking part in the pilgrimage but to help with the planning, people are asked to book. Please contact the Bishop’s Chaplain, Revd Graham Sykes or 01865 208221 no later than 1 September.

See:

The Pilgrim Project

Getting there, Facilities along the way and Accommodation

Come and join us en-route:

Thursday 18 September Radcot to Newbridge: 10 miles
Friday 19 September Newbridge to Wolvercote: 13 miles
Saturday 20 September Grand Day Out
Sunday 21 September Wolvercote to Radley: 8 miles
Monday 22 September Radley to Little Wittenham: 12 miles
Tuesday 23 September Little Wittenham to Moulsford: 11 miles
Wednesday 24 September Moulsford to Tilehurst: 11 miles
Thursday 25 September Tilehurst to Shiplake: 11 miles
Friday 26 September Shiplake to Marlow: 10 miles
Saturday 27 September Marlow to Maidenhead: 8 miles
Sunday 28 September Maidenhead to Wraysbury: 10 miles

The daily pattern

09.45: Gathering
10.00: Morning reflection
13.00: Lunchtime reflection
16.00: Tea
17.00: Evening reflection

This is an older post. Please note that the information may not be accurate anymore.