- Reproduction of Chartres Labyrinth public domain
It's strange where the proverbial long and winding road takes you sometimes. After my usual weekly jaunt down to Sarum College I extended my stay there to take in a 24 hour 'mini retreat that isn't a retreat yet is' - the second of their series of 'Pray Without Ceasing, ' 'Journeys of Faith' appealed to me instantly when I saw the ad months back; as readers of both my blogs may have realised by now, pilgrimage metaphorical, spiritual and physical has become a definite theme in the Greenpatch life, these last few years:
Beginning with our Via Podiensa Le Puy - Conques venture into the famous Compostela route last autumn... fools rush in... and angels count their blisters. Mr GP pictured below making the final descent:
Our Easter holiday pootle along the Wayfarers Walk from Winchester to 'Ye Fleshpotes of Hungerforde,' might not be considered a true pilgrimage by the purists. Still, the intention was there and besides, it didn't half make a good story!
I count it as no coincidence either, that my faith journey has involved me joining a different church where pilgrimage has played a significant role in the life of the congregation for many many years. Travelling through the Cotswolds last year from Winchcombe to Coventry, ending up at the cathedral, old and new, with their theme of peace and reconciliation and more recently, from Shaftesbury to Winchester has been great fun. I don't 'travel light' easily, either physically or more pertinently, maybe, spiritually and emotionally; yet looking back even over the short space of a couple of years, I can see small yet none the less significant - changes, in which all these journeyings and explorations have played a part.
Now, at last, plans for the Greenpatch big pilgrimage up north are beginning to take shape.
So, to 'Pray Without Ceasing,' where a small but determined group of 'pilgrims' explored labyrinths, pondered pilgrimages and exchanged stories, looked at the many ways we can embody our prayer both personally and in the corporate liturgy of the church and finally, walked the road to Emmaus round the stunningly beautiful setting of Salisbury Cathedral Close.
I'm no stranger to the use of the labyrinth in worship; having first encountered it many years ago, not without mixed feelings, either; I remember 'freezing' and being totally unable to walk it at the time, for reasons which have partly become apparent since; as I said, with some spiritual parallels. Yet, looking back at it now, though uncomfortable at the time, it marked a significant signpost along the way for me, and, only a few years back another labyrinth 'experience' turned out to be an unexpected and powerful time of encounter with God. This time? Well? The fear has gone. Totally. I found myself journeying with it 'in the dark,' literally, (the chapel in which the labyrinth was temporarily installed), was kept open all night, and just before dawn. (Shades of Mary Magdalene here). Did I meet with Christ there, though? Well, to be honest, it wasn't always a comfortable time for me; there's much I'm working through at the moment. I'd say 'The meaning is in waiting,' and leave it there.
However, I found the quietness, the stepping out of daily life and the safe space (not to mention the college's wonderful food!) has helped me to be more at peace about the place where I find myself, and I've come away with a sense of having been equipped with some valuable tools to carry with me in my virtual backpack as I continue with the journey.
So, thank you, Sarum College.