Pilgrimpace's Blog


I love how the journey circles and twists on itself, forward and back.


I spent this morning with the wonderful folk at St Paul and St Silas, Lozells, preaching at Mass and helping them prepare for Jesus Shaped People which they start next week.  I went from there back to St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle for the leaving do for Jenny Cavendish, who has been the Children’s Worker there for the past years.  It was very good to be back with everyone there, to find them in good heart as they wait for a new priest, and to see how the life in that special place continues to develop.


On our holiday we visited pilgrim places I have not been to for a couple of decades.  We drove through the narrow and twisting road towards the Pembrokeshire Coast.  I’d checked that the army weren’t firing on the Castlemartin Ranges, and we went past the unmanned checkpoint to the carpark above the cliffs.  We climbed down the stairs to St Govan’s Chapel and Well nestling in the inlet where Govan hid from pirates in Celtic times.  Next year, when I make my pilgrimage round Wales I will divert for a couple of days and spend time here, walking along the Coast Path from Tenby.  It is a place where heaven feels close.

Later, we spent a day in St David’s.  Here is the Cathedral and the restored Shrine:



People keep telling me I need to visit St David’s on my pilgrimage.  I have been hesitating, but I am persuaded now.  I will probably leave the Coast Path at Neyland, soon after St Govan’s Head, and work out an inland path, as this will save a few days.  There is such richness, such possibility ahead.

pilgrimage to walsingham

Once again, a wonderful pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham last weekend.  Sadly my last one with St Gabriel’s but wonderful to spend time again with folk along with pilgrims from St Bede’s.

There always seems to be some sort of controversy going on in the various pilgrim forums that you need to walk to be a pilgrim.  I love walking pilgrimages, but there is something special and deep about these weekend voyages by car or coach to a shrine.


We did walk to the Slipper Chapel


Which meant a cup of tea to warm up


even for the shy.

We worshipped hard and deeply, we ate well, we had space for praying and reflecting, we talked, we spent the evenings in what Chrissy has wisely termed ‘The Holy Pub’


and there was more walking at the very end, following Jesus.

The goodness, humaness and healing of pilgrimage.

new paths

I’ve got a bit of news to share.  Over the past four years, part of my ministry has been as Priest in Charge of St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle.  I have loved it: the people, the community, my colleagues, the quality of life we have managed to live.  As part of a very talented team, we have managed to turn the Church around after a period of decline.


One of the consequences of this is that the workload has increased.  I have been concerned about how I can do this half-time when my colleague Kate leaves in a year or so.  Fortunately, the Bishop agrees.  So I am to leave St Gabriel’s at the end of this month.  Kate will look after it for a year and then there will be a new full-time Vicar.

I have spent the last week or so telling people and have a few weeks now of taking my leave (I hope I’ve told everyone I should – I apologise if I have missed you).

I will carry on at St Bede’s, Brandwood.  I’ve some work to do over the summer revising Jesus Shaped People so that other Churches here can use it, as well as recharging batteries.  There is a period of discernment as it is worked out what to do with the rest of my time on a longer term basis.

Please could you keep all of this, especially St Gabriel’s, in your prayers.  My last service will be Parish Mass at 9.30am on 29th June, followed by a do.  You are very welcome to this.


ash wednesday


Fast from discontent; feast on thankfulness.

Fast from worry; feast on trust.

Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from self-concern; feast on unceasing prayers.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.

Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from media hype; feast on the honesty of the Bible.

Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.

– Author Unknown.


Services today:

3pm Launch of End Hunger Fast, Birmingham Cathedral Square

6pm Holy Communion with Imposition of Ashes, Birmingham Deaf Church (Service in BSL)

7.30pm Holy Communion with Imposition of Ashes, St Bede, Brandwood

7.30pm Holy Communion with Imposition of Ashes, St Gabriel, Weoley Castle


Advent Sunday and Prophetic Challenge

Advent Sunday and Jesus Shaped People Week 13:

Jesus’ Prophetic Challenge

picture from wikipedia commons

picture from wikipedia commons

Here is an account of my sermons this morning preached at St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle and St Bede’s, Brandwood.  It was delivered dialogue fashion and without a script.  More details of Jesus Shaped People here and here.

We reflected on the coincidence of Advent Sunday and this section of Jesus Shaped People which deals with Jesus’ passion for prophetic challenge.  We noted the darkness that is around us at the moment, the helicopter crash in Glasgow, a young boy killed in a road accident locally, continuing bad news from abroad, suffering in our own lives.

We thought about what it meant to be a prophet in the Bible – someone sent by God to tell society to change its behaviour, usually because it was treating people in poverty badly.  We told the story of Jonah together as a way of remembering this.

We named a few people in our own time who we have seen acting prophetically.  Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Janani Luwum and Mother Teresa came to mind.  Pope Francis is showing God’s love and humility through a series of wonderfully simple symbolic gestures.  Archbishop Justin has shown prophetic courage in campaigning against the evils of pay day lenders and trying to ensure everyone has access to credit, especially those in areas like this.  We looked at our first Advent Candle shining on this dark December day and thought of these lights shining in the darkness and the hope and love they bring.

We thought about our Gospel reading of the call of Levi the Tax Collector from Mark.  We remembered that, unlike now, taxes were a bad thing because they financed Roman oppression and ground down the poor.  Like the people of Nineveh in Jonah, Levi changed his ways when he heard the call of God.

Jesus then gets into trouble because he spends time with tax collectors and sinners rather than people who regarded themselves as religiously pure.  We remembered how easy it is for us to forget the areas in our lives we are not proud of and need change.  We remembered that the Church needs to be a place which opens its doors in generous love and welcome to everyone.

We used our commitment to Food Banks as a means of reflecting more deeply on what Jesus’ prophetic challenge means to us.  We started by being thankful for the generosity so many of us have when faced with people who are hungry.  Responding with love to those in need is an essential first step.

But then we remembered the anger we have over the fact that so many people do not have enough to eat in our society.  We are even angrier that many of these are people in work who are not paid enough to make ends meet.  It is important to keep this anger going – the right place for the Advent Candle is underneath the anger to keep it hot.

We thought about organisations like Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam who are campaigning against food poverty.  We want to be involved in this too, doing what we can to ensure that our society becomes a place where all have enough to eat and life echoes the Kingdom of God.


back from a wonderful parish pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham with folk from St Gabriel’s and St Bede’s

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walking the Holy Mile (and those who asked for prayer were prayed for both here and in the Holy House)


and back again

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some barefoot

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and you never know who your fellow pilgrims might be …



jesus shaped people

St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle and St Bede’s, Brandwood have just begun Jesus Shaped People, a season in which we work in a concentrated way to be the sort of people the Church could be if it followed the model that Jesus gave his disciples.


I will post some more detailed reflections on this later, but I have set up a new blog:


that will contain material from Jesus Shaped People.  This will include notes from the sermons each week and the groups meeting during the week.  This is as a resource for those taking part.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please ask.  And if you are a person who prays, please pray for the parishes.