Pilgrimpace's Blog

advent calendar – 1

I owe you another two or three parts of the article on walking The Cistercian Way.  I promise to post these over the next week or two.

I am also aware that we are now a week into Advent.  Finishing the Sabbatical and starting work again has meant life has been a bit full. But let’s begin a journey through Advent together – some posts that might help us to navigate through life, perhaps some arrows on the way.  Things that might cast some indirect light upon the big things that matter.  Some fun as well.  Are you up for it?


Here’s our Advent Calendar at home.  The pieces are gradually added until, at the end of Christmas Eve, the picture is complete and things are clear.

Are you managing to give anything up for Advent, making space, helping others, reading or reflecting in particular ways.

I’ve picked up Henri Nouwen’s Genesee Diary – this account of a seven month sabbatical with the Cistercians in Upstate New York seems the right thing for me as I try not to lose myself and what I have gained these past months in the busyness of Advent and Christmas:

In the dark I found the chapel and prayed.  How much reason to say thanks, how much reason to pray that God will turn my heart to him and set me free by his love.

I keep all of you who read this blog, known to me and unknown, in my prayers.  If you pray, could you remember me in the time ahead – there is a lot of hard but creative ministry ahead as the task ahead with estate churches in my parish, my diocese and more widely unfolds.


advent journey – in tents
December 23, 2015, 11:20 am
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Those who sew at St Bede’s have made a Prayer Tent.  It will be around for people to use as they want. It’s located in the Children’s Corner.


We have found the tent, with it’s Christmas designs, very suggestive

travelling light, being ready to move, pilgrim people

remembering that John 1:14 can be translated as “The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us”

we reflected on Pilgrim God

on promise and miraculous births

(Sarah laughed in the tent when the stranger visited them at the Oaks of Mamre)

we remembered the joy and fun of camping

and remembered those who are in tents now through no choice, especially those in refugee camps




advent journey – oriens

My friend Carrie has reminded me that I asked her to write a reflection on the Antiphon O Oriens which is recited at Evening Prayer today.  It’s been weighing on her for ten or fifteen years, but today she has written and I think it is worth sharing.  I’m also really glad to have found the excuse for a good conversation about poetry with my friend Sammy this afternoon – a real antidote to nearly-Christmas tiredness.


I should be doing useful things,
Like putting up the tree.
Or ironing linens, polishing pews,
Braving the bloody battle lines
So we can actually eat on the 25th.

Instead, I am reading old Christmas card greetings
From someone I’ve never met;
Wandering, haphazard, tear-stained,
Into starlight and sheepdogs and poetry.

This is no time for verse –
At least not for prevenient Parsons like me,
Who have Strepsils to suck,
And no schedule for sentimentality

(or the Gospel).

And yet, just occasionally, the morning star rises,
Unexpectantly, improbably, through everyday things,
To make us stop and feel.

It happened today, that brightness dawning
Through the pages of a little book
By a middle-aged dropout called U.

And the Kingdom was born anew.


advent journey – desire’s flickering

I’m really excited to read an excellent review of Bonnie Thurston’s new collection Practicing Silence in Fairacres Chronicle.

I have long appreciated Bonnie’s poetry.  It speaks beautifully and sparely of nature, prayer, love, absence.

The review quotes from Late Vocation

Her challenge to us is

to dispose

of the extraneous

to focus desire’s flickering

until it flames

at the incendiary point

of an undivided heart

That’s a good lot to meditate upon this Advent.


advent journey – in the mind
December 16, 2015, 12:33 pm
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There are those lines of poetry that stick in the deep in the mind and heart and bob to the surface from time to time for more enjoyment and reflection.

One of those for me is from the poem Camino Fever by Robert Wilkinson who writes the excellent The Solitary Walker blog.

How dark the soul in the dead of night! But how bright the morning sun!

This is so true of pilgrimage, and – as is so often the case – speaks from pilgrimage to the rest of life.

It speaks to me of the immersion in so much human suffering at the moment

of how the truths of Christmas do not shy away from this, but enter into it

of Advent and winter

of journeys

of longings and desires.

I did not have a chance to write a post on Monday in honour of John of the Cross’ Day, but I hear echoes of purgation and union, of nada and fullness, of the journey of love.IMGP0564

You can read the whole poem here

advent journey – pilgrimage 2
December 12, 2015, 8:49 pm
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This year has been Birmingham Cathedral’s 300th anniversary.  As part of the celebrations today I journeyed to it with folk from St Bede’s as part of the Moseley Deanery Pilgrimage.

We had much on our hearts – the Climate Change Talks in Paris, the refugee crisis, so much sadness, so much wrong, so much hurt and oppression of people.

We prayed our Pilgrim Prayer:

Pilgrim God,

You are our beginning and our end.

Bless us in this and all our journeys.

Give us courage and faith

And grant us welcome at the journey’s end.

Through your grace

Grant us growth in faith, love

And the service of others,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Entering the newly restored Cathedral was stunning.  Jake Lever’s Soul Boat installation, suspended from the ceiling, burned through December gloom.  People had written deep things that were on the hearts on small gold leaf covered paper boats which are suspended in the shape of a giant boat.  Community art and high art brought together in prayer and tender beauty.


I walked a labyrinth


We worshipped together, strips of cloth woven inside a rough wood box making a crib and preparing for the Christ Child.


Suitcases in front of the altar gave focus for prayer.

We were not on pilgrimage to escape or to ignore. We were mindful of the world and the part we are to play in it.

We celebrated a young person’s birthday

We ate together

advent journey – pilgrimage
December 11, 2015, 4:54 pm
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I found this on the web – I don’t know who made it, but it is wonderful. (I hope it is OK to use this – please let me know if not and I will remove it)

Pilgrimage within as well as without

How does going deep into my soul and my heart affect the world?

the connections again between contemplation and action …