Over the last few years I have been blessed and privileged to be able to take time out from ordinary life for a few months in the spring and early summer. Each year since 2015, I have set off after Easter and walked to various places of pilgrimage in Wales, England, Ireland, Brittany and the Isle of Man.
People sometimes ask me why I set off on pilgrimage each year. Of course, there are all sorts of reasons but what I would like to stress is that each pilgrimage is, above all, a prayer walk. It’s an opportunity to draw close to God in a particular area, giving thanks for God’s blessing and provision and also allowing local landmarks to prompt and encourage prayer.
However, each of my pilgrimages has taken on a distinctive character which has only become obvious to me as I walk. In the first one, as I walked around Wales, it was the conversations I had with people along the way that made that time so special. The following year, making my way to Brittany, I had repeated opportunities to pray with people or to have them pray with me. My third pilgrimage, through Wales and over to Ireland, gave me an opportunity to say Morning and Evening Prayer in all sorts of quiet places along the way. Last year’s pilgrimage to the Isle of Man was special in that I was able to take part in the remarkable Christian festival on the island called Praying the Keeills.
This year I’m making my way from my home in mid-Wales to the ancient cathedral at Lichfield in the midlands of England. From there I will walk roughly south-west to the Welsh town of Llandeilo Fawr and then on to the coastal city of Swansea. There I will pick up a new heritage route called St Thomas’ Way which will take me across south Wales and back home again.
As I set off walking again this April with its sweet showers, I’m looking to see what will be distinctive and special about this year’s pilgrimage.