The Revd Sally Welch is once again the Spirituality Adviser for the Diocese of Oxford. Sally is the Vicar of Charlbury with Shorthampton and Area Dean of Chipping Norton.
Sally has written extensively on spirituality, especially on pilgrimage and walking the labyrinth as a spiritual practice and edits the New Daylight Bible study notes. “The focus for the next couple of years will be pilgrimage,” says Sally.
She was our Spirituality Adviser in 2013 before the role was taken over by the Revd Emma Pennington, who has now moved on from the Oxford Diocese.
As well as her busy roles in her parish and deanery, Sally has most recently been involved in Pilgrim Paths – a project offering resources to walkers who wish to turn their journey into a pilgrimage. It is designed for people with little or no faith as well as established Christians.
“We wanted to do something the deanery could feel proud of and something easily accessible,” says Sally. “It is also a way of helping smaller, rural churches to encourage visitors. They offer places for people on pilgrimages to explore and encounter God. They are often in beautiful scenery and offer a sacred space for people. We want to encourage people from city churches to join in and go on pilgrimages in the countryside.”
The website, contains booklets that can be downloaded by individuals or groups with routes developed from the favourite walks suggested by Christians in the Chipping Norton area. Every summer, a series of guided walks are offered along the routes.
Sally has also been involved in the forthcoming Frideswide Pilgrimage which takes place on the Saints Day, 19 October. The pilgrimage culminates at Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral with prayers, tea and a special service with the Rt Revd Steven Croft, the Bishop of Oxford. The pilgrimage is free and all are welcome but must be booked in advance.
It is hoped that the concept of pilgrimage will be incorporated into the Every Day Faith strand of our Common Vision as a Diocese, and be included where appropriate in Personal Discipleship Plans (PDPs).
“You don’t have to take six weeks off and walk all the way to Santiago de Compostella. Pilgrim Paths offers smaller, shorter pilgrimages you can do alone or with others. It’s a way of engaging with God and with creation which fits with our environmental stream that’s developing in the Diocese.
“Walking a pilgrimage sets up a rhythm and through that rhythm, you can reflect.” On a practical level, Sally, who has walked the famous Camino Way to Santiago de Compostela multiple times, suggests two vital bits of kit for anyone going on a pilgrimage. “Get yourself a good pair of walking boots and a waterproof and join in with one of these walks,” she says. “Download a route from the website and just do it. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”