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.

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.

parish pilgrimage
September 19, 2012, 4:14 pm
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I spent the weekend at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham with folk from St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle.

I’ve been going there on parish pilgrimages since I was small and it has a very special place in my heart.  The pattern of the weekend pilgrimage, beginning with services like Stations of the Cross in your own parish leading to the big corporate Masses, processions, healing and reconciliation, and sprinkling at the well give space for real encounter and growth.

walking the Holy Mile

only one of us was brave enough to walk barefoot

In the context of walking pilgrimages to places like Santiago, it is salutary to be reminded that going to a place of pilgrimage by car does not preclude a real experience of pilgrimage (although, as you can see, we did walk on Saturday afternoon).

time to relax

I am intrigued by a possible connection with the Knight’s Gate and Weoley Castle.  The legend tells that

in 1314 Sir Raaf Boutetout was fleeing from his enemies and prayed to Our Lady for rescue. Miraculously he and his horse passed through the wicket gate originally in this position to reach sanctuary in the Priory grounds beyond. A pilgrim badge showing knight, horse and gate was subsequently made to mark the event.

Joan de Botetourt owned Weoley Castle at the end of the century.  Is there any connection or am I being terribly unscholarly?  In any case there has been a devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham at St Gabriel’s for most of its history.

I was interested to see that The Bull welcomed Woeley Castle among the other parishes (which did not stop as seeking refreshment there).

These beautiful photos taken by Meenakshi give a flavour of the deeply refreshing time we had.

after the deluge

It’s been quite a couple of days.  There was a storm on Thursday in which a month’s worth of rain fell in a couple of hours.

As I’ve written before, one of the good things of the past year has been the renovation of St Gabriel’s Centre to a really good standard.  Unfortunately the roof didn’t hold up to the deluge and it poured through.  We mopped up, we spoke to the insurance company, we moved the Breakfast and After School Clubs into the Church, we had to tell our other users that the Centre is out of action for a while.  It looks like a new roof or extensive repairs, a new floor and substantial redecoration are needed.

I’ll reflect with you on all this later, although I want to say that there are a lot of positive things emerging for this amongst all the difficulty and exhaustion.  Could you pray for us – myself, St Gabriel’s Church and Centre and Weoley Castle.

And then there is also the profound joy of my colleague Kate Pearson being ordained deacon at Birmingham Cathedral tomorrow.  Pray for her and her ministry.

Flicking through The Green Book of Poetry this morning, I found this by Anna Akhmatova.  A real poem about hope:

Everything has been plundered, betrayed, sold out,

The wing of black death has flashed,

Everything has been devoured by starving anguish,

Why, then, is it so bright?


From fantastic woods near the town

Wafts the scent of cherry blossoms by day,

At night new constellations shine

In the transparent depths of the skies of July –


And how near the miraculous draws

To the dirty, tumbledown huts …

No one, no one knows what it is,

But for centuries we have longed for it.


leaps and bounds

One of the joys of this time of year is Carol Services.  I spent a lot of last week with schools beginning with classes coming to Church to learn about how we observe Advent and then Carol Services and Christmas Assemblies, joining in with the excitement and happiness of the children; Christmas anticipated early before the end of term.  The privilege of telling and singing and hearing again the Christmas story, and of seeing it through the eyes of the very young.  Yesterday evening members of St Bede’s and neighbours joined together to sing carols and hear Bible readings in beautiful candlelight.

And this afternoon we have a special Carol Service at St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle.  Since the early 1960’s, the RSPCA have had an Animal Centre and Hospital at the bottom of Barnes Hill.  Unfortunately, it has now become outdated and too small.  The RSPCA are raising money through The Leaps and Bounds Appeal for a new state of the art centre in Frankley.  As you will see, this is needed; in November 22 dogs, 63 cats and 17 small animals were rescued.

We are very pleased to be hosting the RSPCA Carol Service to support this.  Concern for animals and their welfare is a key part of Christian faith and discipleship.  At Christmas, we hear the words of Isaiah Chapter 11 with its vision of peace and love between animals and humans.

We are drawn to the Crib with the animals surrounding the Christ Child along with Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.  The Crib was first used for Christmas devotions by St Francis of Assisi who, as well as being the friend and brother of animals, calls us much deeper, into an essential humility that puts us into a right relationship with God the Creator, all creatures and the whole creation.

We might also remember that the RSPCA, the first national animal welfare society in the world, was founded by the Anglican priest Arthur Broome in 1824.  Broome gave up his parish to work unpaid for the SPCA and was imprisoned for its debts.

We would love to have you with us this afternoon.  The service starts at 4.30pm and will be filmed by Central News.  When it finishes, there will be a candlelight procession down Barnes Hill and refreshments at the Animal Centre.  At some point between 6 and 6.30 there will be a live Christmas Blessing of the Centre on Central News.

hard times

This has been a long hard Lent, although today is only the third Sunday.  The cuts are arriving.  Weoley Castle Community Projects, of which I am Chair, was in The Guardian on Friday:

Weoley Castle Community Projects, Birmingham

Cut: £5,000 (15%)

Weoley Castle offers a support service for up to 30 local elderly people every day in a church hall. It provides company, conversation, a proper meal, entertainment and care. Many of those using the service would otherwise be alone during the day.

But a 15% cut – from £33,000 to £28,000 – means the project has had to make two part-time staff redundant and reduce the amount of day care offered, from five days to four days a week. It has had a significant impact on those who have nowhere to go on the fifth day and have little extra care at home.

The project has also had to send out first stage redundancy letters to all its day care staff as there is no word of future funding from 1 April.

Kate Pearson, a trustee of the Weoley Castle project, says: “It doesn’t make any sense at all. We provide value for money. What happens to clients when we’re not there? We’re being honest about the pressures facing us, but the majority of our clients will find it hard to understand because they are in the early stages of dementia. But they have noticed the redundancies and a few are extremely anxious.”

It is going to be a hard and difficult week.  Prayers please for the Project, those who use its services, the staff and volunteers, the trustees, and hard pressed Council Officers.

Thanks to the half a million people who Marched for an Alternative in London yesterday.  Now is a critical time for working for a creative and just future.

As we journey through Lent, it is a time also for faith, for walking in the Way of the Cross, for hope in the Resurrection and in the Kingdom of God – on earth as it is in heaven.


life on my estate
December 11, 2010, 2:49 pm
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I’ve just stumbled upon this superb youtube video made by young people about Weoley Castle.

unknown territory
September 21, 2010, 4:49 pm
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On the Camino I walked through unknown territory.  The pilgrimage became an exercise in trust.  Trusting God, trusting other people (and perhaps deciding when not to trust).  It was an exercise in trusting my direction finding abilities, my capacity to make sense of very sporadic yellow arrows, a map, and the landscape I was actually walking through.  (I talked to one pilgrim once I had joined the Via de la Plata beyond Zamora who had no map or guide book and who navigated by listening inwardly to the Camino.  I was not brave enough to try this method).

I was surprised that I got lost very few times and that the worst that happened was a few miles added onto the route.  A year ago I was walking deep in the flat, red, empty fields of La Mancha, walking from Las Pedroneras, with its excellent albergue in the medieval Casa Parochial, to the town of Mota del Cuerva.  I was enjoying the solitary walking.  A man stopped his car on the earth track to wish me “Buen Camino”.  The owner of the bar gave me coffee and refresco.  A little later this wonderful man engaged me in a very confusing conversation about the direction of the Camino

I decided to ignore his advice, which as far as I could gather, involved walking a couple of miles to a motorway and then following it.  Instead I followed the yellow arrows.  As the miles went slowly by in the mounting heat I found myself lost in a maze of temporary paths used for the grape harvest.  All I could do was carry on in what I thought was the right direction and be guided by the low rumble of a main road in the distance.  I spotted labourers harvesting grapes who agreed with this plan.

An hour later, after dodging heavy trucks, I found a roundabout and stopped to look at the signposts.  A Guardia Civil car stopped.  While they ran an identity check they asked me where I was going and gave me excellent advice on accommodation for the night.  After a shower and dinner I looked up and saw my first windmill.

A year later the Camino continues.  The work at St Gabriel’s is new work and unknown territory.  I pray for trust, that we will find the Way, for courage, faith and imagination.

st gabriel’s
July 15, 2010, 7:17 pm
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Here are some pictures of St Gabriel’s.  I will post some of St Bede’s soon.

celebration of a new ministry
July 9, 2010, 10:25 am
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Licensing of the new Priest in Charge at St Gabriel, Weoley Castle and Rededication of the Ministry of the People of God.