From the Rector - August 2017

Dear Friends,

In July, a group of 10 pilgrims from our Benefice went on a pilgrimage to Walsingham, alongside the parish of Bathwick (where Anna was Director of Music and l was an Associate Priest prior to becoming Rector here 2 years ago).

The shrine at Walsingham marks the place where a noblewoman called Richeldis de Faverches had a vision of Mary in 1061. It became a place of pilgrimage at the time and through the Middle Ages, and this tradition was revived in the twentieth century.

Walsingham is ecumenical and multicultural. The Anglican Shrine in Walsingham itself is balanced with its Roman Catholic opposite number at nearby Houghton St Giles. As well as Walsingham’s Parish Church there is the recently rebuilt Roman Catholic Church. The village also possesses a fine Georgian Methodist Church. Within the Anglican Shrine is a tiny Orthodox Chapel, located at the top of a tall staircase in the apse, and Walsingham’s long-disused railway station, upon which is perched a tiny Byzantine dome, now functions as the Orthodox Church of St Seraphim.

Pilgrimage combines the individual and personal, together with the communal. Some of the most intensely personal moments at Walsingham are those experienced within a service with a particular focus on sickness and healing, with the laying on of hands and anointing. Associated with this is the sprinkling at the well, which reminds one of references in Scripture to water and encounters at wells. Also, of great poignancy is the row upon row of votive candles, thanksgiving offerings for blessings received, tokens of prayers for the sick and remembrance of those who have completed their earthly pilgrimage.

Here are some thoughts from Stuart Asbury, who joined us:

”This was not my first visit to Walsingham but the first time to have stayed at the Shrine. The experience is entirely different. As a resident, one is part of a living, praying community. One meets all manner of people. At supper one evening I sat next to two men from Doncaster. They came on a pilgrimage there every year, escaping from their work as a miner and a railwayman. A memorable year for them has been when Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, had been a fellow pilgrim.

The first evening, we all met in the Holy House, which forms the heart of the Shrine Church. After supper many of us had an early night but some remained awake enjoying spiritual gifts in a liquid form.

Each day began with Morning Prayer in a simple chapel in the grounds. A leisurely breakfast followed in the Refectory, a bright, modern and spacious addition to the Shrine, where good wholesome food was served very efficiently. The Eucharist was celebrated daily - once in the Holy House but on other occasions in a side chapel.

Water has long been recognised as an agent of spiritual purification and healing. In the shrine. there is a Holy Well and we met there for sprinkling followed by Ministries of healing and reconciliation. On my first visit, i remember the cluster of abandoned walking aids — no longer required as healing had taken place.

Under the Norfolk sunshine, we walked the Stations of the Cross in the beautifully tended Shrine gardens. Starting with Jesus being condemned to death and culminating with His glorious resurrection. This act of devotion concluded with the veneration of the Relic of the True Cross. A simple but powerful ceremony reminding us that the Holy Cross has redeemed the world.

The climax of our pilgrimage was undoubtedly the procession through the gardens. The pictures show how some of us were involved. For my part it was an anxious time. The Master of Ceremonies gave me some instruction. It may be that I will not be asked again! We all returned to the Shrine Church for Benediction, where the blessed sacrament is placed on the High Altar in a sea of candles, gold leaf and clouds of incense. This is indeed high drama and one needs to be present to appreciate the splendour of the moment. It takes one’s thoughts away from the troubles of this world to the Throne of God.

We left Walsingham firmly resolved to return very soon and to pray for the life of the Shrine.”

So, a wonderful week, full of friendship and warmth set in beautiful surroundings and a time for restoration of the soul. People came with the problems of the world on their shoulders and were able to lay them down. it's a busy schedule, lots to do but with no obligation to do it ail, maybe you just need rest and peace.

It is so hard to describe exactly how the Walsingham magic works; a heady mix of devotion, prayer, wonder, mystery, beauty and the sense of being involved in something so much bigger and deeper than oneself.

Everyone is welcome to join us for next year's pilgrimage to Walsingham; new friends. are friends and children! Bookings are now being taken.

Yours in Christ,

Richard

 

Below are some photographs from the pilgrimage - click on each picture to see a larger version….