Pilgrimpace's Blog

reflecting on grenfell tower

It is harrowing watching and reading the evidence from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

The 72 deaths and the destruction of lives that we see in the Enquiry is dreadful.  We see how the eroding of the fabric of our society has led to tragedy for those who have been least able to defend themselves.

It is important to be silent – to allow space for the survivors, to make sure we don’t grandstand.  It is vital that we lament, that our raw and our considered emotions can be brought before God.

It is also important that we campaign.  Campaign and agitate so that this will not happen again to anyone else.  Professor Ann Power has an excellent blog here on ten lessons we can learn from Grenfell that must be put into action.  She knows more about this than anyone else.

We are also in a housing crisis.  We must continue to be unwavering in getting into the heads of the political class that decent housing is an urgent right for everyone.  As John Boughton reminds us in his excellent Municipal Dreams, it would be even more of a disaster if Grenfell were used in our social policy to further undermine social housing.

Teresa of Avila reminds us sharply, “Can there be an evil greater than that of being ill at ease in our own house?  What hope can we have of finding rest outside of ourselves if we cannot be at rest within?”  Good homes for all people are at the heart of what it is to be human and are at the heart of God.

all saints day journey

I have probably shared this before, but these Cistercian words speak very much to where I am after walking the Cistercian Way.  I am sure it will speak to others as well:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


A good road to walk.

I made a physical journey today to the doctor’s surgery to get my knee checked over.  It is hurting much less now and – obviously – I was able to complete that last important week of walking.  Good news.  It is some wear to the cartilage.  Nothing to worry about or to stop me walking and cycling.  If I get another acute episode, I am to go back and they will MRI scan it.  It is healing.  This gives me confidence.

Today is All Saints Day.  I am reading a helpful and insightful book by Mark O’Keefe, The Way of Transformation: Saint Teresa of Avila on the Foundation and Fruit of Prayer.  This looks at Teresa’s teaching and spirituality through the integral lens of moral theology; it’s about how praying transforms our living, and how living well transforms our praying.  My insights are deepening.

As I walk on with all this, here is Santa Teresa striding out from The Encarnacion with her great and determined determination:


altar frontal

I visited Moseley Old Hall near Wolverhampton yesterday.  It was wonderful to discover a seventeenth century altar frontal made by Carmelite nuns in Sicily containing scenes from the life of St Teresa.  I was particularly struck by one panel depicting Ss Francis and Clare appearing to Teresa, a legend I have not come across before, but something that weaves together important strands of my own spirituality and journey.

It wasn’t possible or appropriate to take photographs of it, but there is one of the whole frontal here and one of the panel here



The excellent Solitary Walker Blog has recently asked What are you reading?

I would like to ask the same.  I have a pile of books in front of me.  I intend to read some of these over the summer – which is a time when there is a bit more space for reading.


These include a collection of Neruda’s poems – I want to see what comes of reading The Ascent of Machu Pichu alongside John of the Cross; Andre Louf’s The Cistercian Way will give insight into Cistercian life and spirituality before I walk the Welsh Cistercian Way; similarly, Sacred Britain by Martin and Nigel Palmer will help me reflect on landscape and pilgrimage; Rita Nakashima Brock’s Journeys by Heart will help me think further on some of the things suggested about transformation and energy by Teresa of Avila.  Solea is an excellent European detective novel.

What are you reading?  I would love to know.


Last week was a typical one in the life an anglican clergyman.

On Monday I travelled to Ilkley for a residential meeting as we began the work of setting up Jesus Shaped People as a charity.  There was a tremendous amount of good work done in a short time as the Board thought a lot about vision and future tasks.

I then had twenty four hours, so the obvious thing was to walk to Wetherby.  I climbed onto Ilkley Moor and spent the afternoon exploring it


You will be relieved to know that I remembered my hat.

I climbed back down into Wharfdale, crossing the river at those exciting, slippery, water covered stepping stones I posted a picture of last week.  I arrived at my Camp – read about the special morning encounter here.


A swift morning’s walk (five hours) got me to my destination, Wood Hall Carmel.  Monastic hospitality meant a shower, a very large meal, and a lie down on a comfortable bed.  I am happy as I look forward to my Wales Pilgrimage that my fitness for this walk, carrying a full pack, was reasonable.

In the evening I spoke with the sisters, giving a paper on how the insights of St Teresa and St John are feeding my parish work, especially with people on the edge, and receiving their insights.

Another morning meant another journey.  After Mass, a lift to Wetherby, the bus to Leeds and a train to London to Lambeth Palace for the first meeting of the Church of England Working Group on Estates Evangelism.  Again, this was extremely positive – lots of energy and solid planning to bring as much wisdom, resources and good and creative practice to play on this context as possible.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out over the next years – please keep it in your prayers.  (For background on this, click on Estates Ministry in the subject cloud on the left margin of this blog).

And then home.  Good to be back and to have a rest.  And good to be back at St Bede’s for a more normal week of stability.

reading enkindling love

If you are in Birmingham, you might want to join this group reading Gillian Ahlgren’s excellent Enkindling Love:



This is the title of a new book on the legacy of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross by Professor Gillian Ahlgren who recently spoke about it at All Saints Kings Heath. About it Alison Weber of the University of Virginia has written: …”This guide of Teresa and John’s major works reveals the Spanish mystics as passionate teachers and systematic theologians determined to share their transformative experience of God’s love. Gillian Ahlgren makes accessible their major insight: the inherent coherence between contemplation and loving action in the world.”

The book is in print and the cheapest deal seems to be just under £20 from the Book Depository. In one case the book came 7 days after an order was placed by email to:


The group meets from 12.30 to 13.30 on a Wednesday. Members often bring and eat sandwiches. Its first meeting is to be as usual at the Queen’s Foundation, Somerset Road, B15 2QH (for directions see their website) in the Samuel Marsden Room just off the dining room. The date is to be Wednesday June 22nd. It is a ten minutes walk from University railway station.

The next three meetings, on July 6th, 20th and August 3rd, will, because Queen’s term will have finished, be elsewhere, in a room at the church and centre complex of St Francis Bournville, B30 1JY, five minutes walk from Bournville railway station. All are welcome.

The book has four chapters and the intention would be to study one at each meeting.

Further details from: The Revd John Nightingale johnbnightingale@hushmail.com 07811 128831who will be glad to know the names of those intending to attend.

easter journey: enkindling love

There are lots of very good things coming together on this blog this Easter.

Here is an article by Gillian Ahlgren on how Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle has impacted on her over the years.

I am looking forward to continuing work with Gillian as the fruits of the Christian mystical tradition inform and feed work with those on the margins of our society, and work with those on the margins transforms and deepens our understandings of the traditions.

Gillian’s new book Enkindling Love: The Legacy of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross will be published in the UK next month.