Benefice Pilgrim Path

Curate’s Contemplations

Bird bathOn the bird bath in my garden is a quote “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” from the poem by W.H Davies. It’s my father’s favourite poem and one that I would do well to recall more often.
I don’t know about you, but this third lockdown feels harder than the others. Maybe it’s because with the advent of a new year, we were hopeful that we would be past the worst of the pandemic, and those hopes have not yet been realised. A month in and we feel no closer to being ‘back to normal’ than before, although the vaccination programme is now offering a glimmer of that release.

CountrysideOne of my ways to cope has been to go for walks. We’re rather limited at the moment because many of our paths are now underwater, but we are fortunate to live somewhere with options for walking; hills and valleys, beautiful countryside views, unlike our son, who has the city streets of Bristol. We’ve done a lot of walking along local paths over the past year, watching the seasons change, giving thanks that we can walk, that we have freedom to walk and that God’s creation never ceases to inspire. My camera is full of photos of nature this year. No holiday snaps, just photos I’ve taken on my walks, which, because I am walking the same paths over and again, I am observing differently. With more attention, greater deliberation, taking time to stop and stare, see and hear. These walks have become mini pilgrimages.

FlowersChristian pilgrimage was a staple feature of our life for many centuries. Pilgrimage can enhance and transform our spiritual lives and prayer and it gets us outside for some fresh air and exercise too. It enables us to walk intentionally, to measure each step and immerse ourselves in creation, to sit and observe, to walk with purpose determined by the heart and activated by our feet. It doesn’t need to be a long walk, we’re not talking the Camino here! Guy Howard writes that ‘all us have at least one question we want answering, something we want to bring into our lives, or let go of. So choose one ‘intention’ from your many options and dedicate your journey to that purpose. Once you have set your intention, you need a good destination.’

This set me thinking. A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey to a holy place. We have three lovely church buildings, all the more beautiful for their new coats of paint, to which we hope people will come once ‘normal service’ is resumed. A destination for worship maybe? Or for some just a destination, a place to which to walk intentionally, thoughtfully, prayerfully, a pilgrim destination.

Oxford Diocese MapOur churches are not on major routes – unless you’re walking the Thames Path past Shiplake – so how about we connect our churches via a walk, with points along the way to deliberately ‘stop and stare’; prayer stations if you like. It might be a very positive outcome from these difficult times.

Help needed!

To achieve this, I would like to gather a small team to develop our own benefice pilgrim path.
Please get in touch with me if you:

• Like walking and are prepared to share your experience of the local area, or explore new paths
• Have experience or thoughts about accessibility to the outdoors for everyone
• Enjoy planning activities along walks for children (big and small!)
• Enjoy immersion in God’s amazing Creation
• Like the idea of a pilgrim path linking our churches with prayer stations along the way
• Have an ounce of creativity as we will need a leaflet with maps!

Blue skyI am in the final year of my curacy and am required to complete a collaborative project. This is that project, but I cannot complete it without you. Standing and staring, taking time to really look as I walk, has inspired me and I hope this idea will inspire you enough to get in touch to find out more and help others take time to find God in our beautiful countryside.

Revd Sarah 07770 930756

‘Leisure’ (1911) by William Henry Davies (1871-1940)

‘What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.