Pilgrimage Pages 

In recent years, a strong tradition of pilgrimages to destinations at home and abroad has been built up at St Faith's.

In previous years, many individuals and small groups had gone on pilgrimage, but when Fr Neil led a party from the United Benefice to the Shrinme of our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, a tradition was established. After several other visits to Walsingham, 2005 saw a party travelling to Conques, in France, to the shrine of St Faith, our patron, at the Abbey there.

By following the links below, you will be able to read articles about the significance and importance of pilgrimage in the life of the Church, as well as accessing illustrated reports on the various visits we have made, from 2000 to the present day.

'Why Pilgrimage?'

In July, 2006,  in our parish magazine Newslink Fr Neil wrote about the pourpose and value of Walsingham, and reproduced Chris Price's article written following the first parish pilgrimage in 2000.

Why Walsingham? Why Not? 

Archbishop William Temple once said, ‘The Church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of those who are not (yet) its members.’

That belief certainly underpins the parochial system of the Church of England where, at S. Mary’s and S. Faith’s for example, the congregation forms only some 1.87% of the total number of people the Vicar could potentially minister to at any one time. Indeed a great deal of the working week for any incumbent is spent (or should be spent) dealing with those who don’t come to church on a regular basis but nonetheless require the ministry of the church for whatever reason. They (non church-goers) don’t necessarily have access to the automatic support of a church family as many of us do. Very often when someone at S. Faith’s has been bereaved, or been seriously ill, the first thing they do is to thank the members of the ‘church family’ who have looked after them. Many people bear their sufferings, loneliness and anxiety on their own, without that inbuilt support network which the church family, at its very best, offers.

It is perhaps with something of that sentiment in mind that the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham meets not only the needs of regular paid-up Christians but many more people beyond. People of very deep faith, wavering faith, or no faith at all, find at Walsingham a peace and tranquility which is rarely found in their own homes or workplaces, and dare I say, even in their own churches! No wonder then that in 2003 Walsingham was voted the nations most favourite spiritual place.

We live in a society obsessed with paper-work and figures – and the church is no different. Forms come to us regularly asking attendances for this or that in an attempt to see where the church is (or isn’t) moving. We can so easily fall into the trap of thinking that growth simply means more numbers on a piece of paper or more people in church. Rarely do we talk of the importance of spiritual growth; it is difficult to quantify. But it is important. If we are not growing spiritually we are not moving in our relationship with God or living a faith which is dynamic and life-changing. A faith which is stuck in a rut is not a faith to commend to others!

Walsingham provides ‘safe space’ or ‘sanctuary’ where talk about God or and/or prayer is a most natural way of conversation (when did you last talk about prayer to someone in church or in your own family?). Walsingham provides a setting where no prayer is too trivial or unheard.

For that reason I am so pleased that the concert we held recently for the Walsingham Appeal was such a great success. The presence of the Archbishop of York certainly gave the event a high profile. I said to the Archbishop at the reception how grateful we were that he could find time in his busy diary to be with us. He said in reply: ‘But I had to come. The work of Walsingham is so very important’. And he meant it! The support for the Walsingham Appeal from so many different traditions of church backgrounds demonstrates clearly that the power of a place like Walsingham very much transcends human boundaries of churchmanship! A lesson for us all to learn.

Walsingham, for me at any rate, is wonderfully summed up in the article written by Chris Price back in 2000 when St. Faith’s made its first parish pilgrimage. And it’s not just me who thinks that! Chris Price’s article can be found on the Walsingham Website under the heading “why pilgrimage?”

Chris says this:

48 hours of rich and varied experiences. Worship in forms familiar and strange. Fellowship in the refectory queue and around the bars of the welcoming village hostelries. A fascinating mixture of prayerful devotion and shared laughter, not all of it always entirely reverent. The mysteries of the rosary... for many a focus of prayer, for others, even by the end, about forty Hail Marys too many. The intense and wondrous silence of the Holy House, bedecked with blue and gold and a myriad of burning lights, the most moving of backgrounds to a parish at worship and in intercessory prayer. A singularly moving and spectacular Procession of Our Lady around the dark grounds, by candle-light and to the enthusiastic accompaniment of a hymn with more verses (and certainly more Ave Marias) than you could shake a stick at, and punctuated by dubious descants and just a little departure from devotion in places.

A visit to the Roman Catholic Shrine (the Slipper Chapel down the road), and moving words in their official handbook commending a visit to ‘our’ Shrine and ‘our’ Parish Church and asking for prayers for the Anglican Diocese and its priests and people - how far and wonderfully we have come in recent years! Conversations in corridors, coffee brewed in little rooms, bonding between people who may scarcely have spoken to one another before. No sense (at least not for long) of anything alien or frightening ... and no pressure to accept anything you weren’t happy about, nor to feel left out if you chose to snooze or stroll rather than join in things.

Parish Mass in the Parish Church in the village, packed with pilgrims and locals - a building gloriously light and airy, with acres of clear grass, after the intense and sometimes stifling weight of the shrine church. Strolling back after coffee at the back of that church through sunny, still streets lined with flint-set, pantiled-roofed cottages.

Drinks outside the Bull in God’s providential lunchtime sunshine. The transporting experience of going down into the well in the shrine in a new baptism for the blessing of pure, cold water in the mouth, on the forehead and splashing over the hands.

And, on the road home, abiding memories of...

Peace and a deep silence of prayer made simple and appealing.
Fellowship made stronger and laughter more ready than ever (where even the old jokes sounded new)
A place to which to bring doubts and scepticism, but where, even where those reservations remained, it did not matter.
A place where it seemed overwhelmingly and satisfyingly normal to be a Christian and an Anglican and to live a life founded in the sacraments and prayer; a place  where to believe and to practise the faith was simple and natural.
A place where the unlikely became possible, the flamboyant and even the absurd were at home with the beauty of the holiness and where we could all be ourselves for a spell.
A lovely place and a lovely time, together for a time out of time with our fellow Christians and, without a shadow of doubt, with our God.

Click here for the 'Why Pilgrimage' feature on the shrine website (including the article reproduced above, in its context on the shrine site)
Click here for the home page of the Walsingham shrine

  Saint Faith's and Walsingham

Since the first visit in 2000, the people of Saint Faith's and St Mary's have strengthened their ties with the shrine. A Walisgham Circle has been formed, and you can access pages about the group by following the index page link below, as well as seeing pictures and words from the 2000 and the 2004 visits.

Click here for our Walsingham index page
Click here for the 2000 visit
Click here for the 2004 visit

   The Patronal Pilgrimage to Conques

Our church was named for Saint Faith, a French girl martyred for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. In 2005, a group from our two churches travelled to Conques, in southern France, to visit her shrine. The links below lead to several pages recording this memorable visit in words, pictures and worship, as well as to pages which tell her story, and that of the Conques Abbey, and which  list all the churches in this country and throughout the world dedicated in her name.

Click here for the Conques pilgrimages index page
Click here for the story of Saint Faith and information about churches dedicated in her name.

October 2006: The Road to Rome and Assisi

Between October 22nd and 28th, a group from our churches travelled to Italy on pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, with the theme 'Jesus Christ yesterday, today and forever'.

Follow this link  for pages of pictures from the returning pilgrims; as well as reproducing the text of  Fr Neil's pilgrimage addresses and pilgrims' diaries (in preparation). Below you can read the itinerary for the visit.

Sunday 22nd October
6pm          Pilgrimage Mass in S. Faith’s to include the blessing of those beginning a journey and followed by ‘Italian-style’ Supper in the Upper Room.
Monday 23rd October
0400        Coach leave S. Faith’s
0630        Ryanair flight FR9644 departs Liverpool
1015        Arrive in Rome, coach to Domus Nova Bethlem
1300        Lunch at Nuova Stella
1600        Afternoon visit to the Anglican Centre with tea and talk by the Director, Bishop John Flack
1700        Mass (in Anglican Centre) and first address:  Jesus Christ Yesterday

Tuesday 24th October
0930        Morning Prayer
                Visit basilicas or free day

Wednesday 25th October
0830         Coach to Vatican for Papal Audience
                 Lunch at La Pilotta and free afternoon (or visit Sistine Chapel)
1930         'Rome by Night' coach tour (coach to collect us)
2145         Compline

Thursday 26th October
0800        Day trip to Assisi (coach to collect us from Domus)
                Mass (in Assisi) and second address: Jesus Christ Today

Friday 27th October
               Free day
1800       Mass (in Domus) and third address: Jesus Christ Forever
1930       Dinner at Nuova Stella

Saturday 28th October
0720        Morning Prayer and blessing of those returning
0740        Coach from Domus to Ciampino Airport
1040        Ryanair Flight FR9643 departs for Liverpool
1230        Arrive in Liverpool and coach to Crosby

October 2008: The Santiago Swingers

The most recent continental pilgrimage by members of the United Benefice (and friends) took place in the week of the 2008 Patronal Festival, and journeyed to Spain, to the shrine of St James at Santiago de Compostela, home of the famous giant swinging incense burner.

To access pages of pictures, the background story, and the diaries of pilgrims, follow THIS LINK.

Return to our home page

God of our pilgrimage,
you have led us to the living water:
refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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