The group huddled together and with an opening prayer, the group set off at a leisurely pace as the wind was cold. Memories of the gorgeous sunny weather and concerns of possible dehydration from last year quickly faded as the icy winds, cold feet and possible hypothermia kicked in! However, morale was good and conversations buzzed as the group wound its way through rural Wiltshire. The brisk pace meant that the first glimpse of All Saints Church in Sutton Benger was ahead of schedule and a much needed hot cup of tea was waiting for us. The theme for the this year’s pilgrimage focussed on Philippians 3:12-14 and, as the group warmed up, the first reflection was shared honing in on Paul’s words; ‘Forgetting the past?’, ‘What lies ahead?’ and ‘What is the prize?’.
Onwards, out of Sutton Benger, the group marched, over M4 motorway, that was welcomed with a few light-hearted waves and ‘beeps’ from passing vehicles, and the clouds lightened as the sound of chatter and laughter echoed all around. Despite the cold weather, the group was in good spirit. God too was enjoying the journey with us.
With eight miles completed, the second reflection was shared in the tranquil Church of St Peter & St Paul, Great Somerford. Time and space was given for the group to think about aspirations, dreams and words of encouragement in our own faith journey. With only five miles to go and Malmesbury Abbey ready and waiting for us and the promise of delicious cakes, the group set off for the last time.
With three miles to go, coats were finally unzipped (and shoes were taken off by some too!), as the clouds revealed blue sky for the first time. The cold breeze had finally eased off as the Abbey appeared over the horizon. Our destination was in sight. As the group meandered around the fields heading for the Abbey, there was a sense of achievement and fellowship as the group joined together for the final few yards. The smell of hot chocolate, cookies and birthday cake welcomed the pilgrims into the Abbey.
The third reflection, ‘What is the prize?’, was followed by fish and chips (it tasted heavenly), then time was given for the group to chill out in the Abbey. Many chose to ‘be still’ whilst others journeyed using the amazing labyrinth that had been set up on the Abbey floor. To conclude the pilgrimage, everyone gathered for one last time and given palm crosses and pens to write words of encouragement and guidance in their walks with Jesus.
The final prayer and blessing brought the 2012 pilgrimage to an end (although I had to cycle back to my car at St Paul’s). A huge thank you to all who took part, those who could be there to welcome us on the way, those who were happy for us to rest and refresh in their churches, and to God for blessing our precious time together!
The pilgrimage was invaluable as it gave me time and space to chat with the young people. It was lovely to get to know them better and chat and reflect about my faith as well as theirs too.
The Youth Pilgrimage will be happening again next year in 2013 – same day (Maundy Thursday), same time, same route, same destination, different theme… so if you are a youth leader, make a note of the date and experience the youth pilgrimage together with your youth group.