Each year for the last five years I have taken to the paths and lanes from my home on the border of Wales and England. My aim has been to walk on a pilgrimage to some of the ancient holy places of Britain and beyond.
I’ve managed to get as far as Glendalough in Ireland as well as to some of the ancient cathedrals of Brittany and also to the early chapels of the Isle of Man and the Anglo-Saxon Christian centre of Lichfield in the midlands of England. This is in addition to walking around Wales where I’ve visited remarkable places such as Holywell and St David’s. In total I’ve now covered about four thousand miles.
However this autumn I have done something new! Instead of walking from home, I took the train to the city of Lancaster in the north of England and from there walked around the large county of Cumbria. I spent over three weeks discovering more of this lovely area with its wild coastline, the beautiful Lake District, the hills of the Pennines and busy towns such as Barrow and Kendal.
As with the annual pilgrimages I’ve made, I visited churches along the way, learned about the distinctive history of this region and had many opportunities to chat as I walked.
But I decided that I needed a new word for this type of prayer walk, so I’ve been using the old term peregrinatio to describe what I was doing. Peregrinatio is the Latin word first used to denote what we would now call pilgrimage. However, in those early days, the emphasis was on being led by God’s Holy Spirit in a holy wandering in search of a closer inner walk with God.
My peregrinatio around Cumbria in one sense had the very practical purpose of enabling me to visit an area of Britain very distant from my home. However it was also, like my regular pilgrimages, very much a contemporary prayer walk visiting churches in many different situations.
But I would hope that I was able to capture something of that expectancy and willingness to be led by the Spirit that characterised peregrinatio amongst the early saints.
May we all be ready to wander with a holy and loving God, allowing Him to lead us to a closer relationship with Him.