Saturday, 25 February 2017

I met the other evening with Pat Craighead and Stephen Herbert, my fellow-leaders of our recent Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The purpose was to talk through how we felt it went, what was good, what could have been better. And we’ve now sent in our report to the pilgrimage company.

And what do I feel? First, I think, that it exceeded all my expectations. Asking pilgrims to pay as much as such a pilgrimage costs, to give up their time, in one case to give up their job(!) - and with half the pilgrims coming as a party from St. Cuthbert’s - I worried about whether it would measure up. But we were so well served. There couldn’t have been a better way to see all we saw, to do what we did and to experience something of what it meant to live in a land with such a history, such a deep significance to people of three major religions and such an on-going story which includes tension, repressed conflict, joys, sorrows and hope.

Second, it’s actually too soon to know how I really feel. So much went into the 11 days we spent in the Galilee, the West Bank and Jerusalem - not to mention the 26 or so services we shared! It will take some reflection to work out the difference the pilgrimage has made to us. We’ll need to be ready for what was sown in our experiences to take root and emerge in weeks, months, even years to come. The purpose of pilgrimage is to be open to what you find - to allow it to change you. That’s an openness to God’s grace. And pilgrimage doesn’t necessarily require going somewhere physically. We can make it in daily life - Lent, as it gets underway in March, is a sort of 40 day pilgrimage, asking where do we want our journey with Jesus to his Passion, the Cross and Resurrection to take us?

Third, it was so good to travel together with other people - and especially with people I knew. Such were our numbers that there was a real sense of being the parish on the move - not only seeing where our faith comes from, but living it, and asking where it might take us. Along the way we encounter problems that need to be overcome (thankfully very few), causes for joy and anxiety, challenges to our perceptions - even to our understanding of who we are. That’s what pilgrimage should be!

Martin Jackson

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Come and See!

That’s the title we’re giving to an Open Day we’ll be holding at the beginning of March - see the full page advert on page 10 in our Parish Magazine! It’s our parish contribution to the Talking Jesus initiative which is bringing bishops from all over the North of England to share in doing just that - Talking Jesus. I think quite a few of us have felt a bit threatened at the prospect; all those bishops and being asked to think about what our faith means to us, and inviting other people to share it! So I wondered if the suggested title for our Open Day, Come and See, was an attempt to tone it down. Then I noticed the title that I’d suggested for use on the orders of service we’re producing for this month’s Holy Land Pilgrimage - it’s “Come and See: A Journey in the Steps of Jesus.”

So I have no cause for complaint! Come and See - it’s a chance to invite local people to see what we’re up to at St. Cuthbert’s in both the church and the hall: lots is going on, there’s lots to be proud about, there’s lots that speaks about our faith. We’re asking people to help make the day happen and work. That’s something more than getting a few reluctant people to sign up to put on teas or keep a cold church open for the odd visitor. It’s an opportunity for us all. Come and See - the invitation is to us all. Please come in great numbers - just being there is the first things we need you to do - and bring people along. It’s not onerous but an opportunity!

We’ve got the bishops and a team of ordinands from Cranmer Hall to do the “talking.” Come and chat with them (no heavy lectures). I’m going to be there and ready to talk about special aspects of the church - what do you see in those wonderful windows? what are those different features about? why have a font or an altar? I hope it will appeal to the curious. We should all be curious! Lots of people milling about, I hope - a new appreciation of why we are here.

Come and See. That’s the invitation Jesus gave to the first disciples - we don’t know quite what he said or what they found. But it made a difference. That’s my hope too - for our pilgrims, and for us all.    MJ