Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Day Three - Tuesday 30th August - Halifax to Dewsbury

It’s always good to be able to tell it warts and all – and there was really no need to pretend that I’d slept well. After all, most of the other pilgrims had been quite candid about how much the bells had disturbed their sleep on the first night. For me, the problem wasn’t bells – it was nylon. All night I slipped and slithered around on the camping mattress, sleeping bag, liner – and that pillow, which turned out to be utterly pointless. By 6am I gave up and went in search of a cup of tea.
My sleepless state had left me feeling quite disillusioned with the whole pilgrimage thing. So it was lovely to go upstairs and see the morning light shining through the stained glass, and hear the murmur of people starting to surface, chat and laugh, and the welcome sound of a kettle boiling. As I walked down the aisle, Revd Jeanette emerged from her pew-bed: “Sleep well?” she asked. “No!” I replied, but by now I was smiling.
Breakfast was cereal or bread and jam, and then I went back to my desk. I’m one of those people who gets completely stuck in my work and so, when Revd Owen came to tell me it was time for 9am prayers, I reluctantly left off and went to join the rest in the choir stalls. Prayers are held at the Minster every morning, and Hilary invited us to take part in the daily rhythm of the church, which I thought was lovely. Today is the day the church commemorates John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress. So it was fitting that we sang To Be a Pilgrim again (as we had on Sunday). It was also good to see another familiar face - Revd Marion Russell is one of the Minster chaplains, and she joined us for the service and read a lesson.
Once out on the walk, we seemed a very small group. I realised that many people had joined us over the bank holiday weekend, but were now back at work. Stuart had warned us that much of the day's walking would be on roads, but said that we'd be following the route Paulinus is known to have trodden.
Once again the miles flew by as I got to know the other pilgrims. Barbara told me that she was not a churchgoer, but had been drawn to the pilgrimage as a result of walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela about six years ago. She talked about the amazing experience of being considered almost holy by the Spanish people she met along the way. She was astonished when people crossed themselves because she was a pilgrim – doing something holy - an image which sent shivers down my spine.
Barbara did the pilgrimage with a friend who, as it turned out, was struggling with marriage problems. By the end, however, she was out of her rut and had a completely fresh perspective on her relationship.
As I walked and talked, the theme which emerged was change and how to respond to it. It’s so easy to become stuck in a familiar position, and pilgrimage is, in essence, a fundamental challenge to change – whether that means accepting a situation beyond our control or embracing something new. After all, on day one we’d been walking, getting to know one another and enjoying the views, when Frank’s sudden collapse had cast everything in an entirely new light and demanded a change of perspective and planning. And that morning, when Revd Owen had told me to leave the work I was so engrossed in, I’d been very resistant to change. But oh, I was so glad that torn myself away from my laptop to spend half an hour in prayer.

Walking into Dewsbury we passed a nasty scene of a young Asian lad screaming and swearing at a woman, who hurled back racist insults. I turned to Helena: “Welcome to Dewsbury!” I said. She smiled wanly.
But the next minute everything changed and our spirits were lifted. As we approached the Minster, we could see four people waving flags. And yes – they were waving for us! Then a shout went up – “It’s Frank!” And sure enough there he was, fully upright and smiling broadly, waving a silver flag and welcoming us to the Minster!
Our flag-waving welcome committee
I think that, as we crossed the busy road - pushing buttons and patiently waiting for lights to change - our hearts were racing ahead of us.
Once we got there the welcome from the Minster was just as spirit-lifting, with hugs from people we'd never met before - and, of course, hugs all round for Frank.
Tina and Frank
Revd Kevin Partington welcomed us: "The warmest of welcomes to the mother church of West Yorkshire. This is where Paulinus kicked it all off - the cradle of Christianity in this part of the world." He invited everyone to make themselves at home, and said that bowls would be organised for foot washing. How thoughtful!
Wednesday is a rest day, so I caught the train home after a cup of tea, leaving the other pilgrims on a guided tour of the Minster. But I have to say I was very torn between going and staying in such a warm atmosphere. 
The other pilgrims will be compiling the next day's blog between them, and letting me know their reflections and how it's been so far for them. But for me, today was all about the challenge of change.

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