Friday, 2 September 2011

Day Six - Friday 2nd September - Leeds to Tadcaster

We're making headlines
In contrast to the night in Halifax (my fault, not the Minster’s) I slept like a baby in Headingley Methodist Church. No butterfly ghosts interrupted my dreams, and I really recommend sleeping on pew cushions.
Like so many churches, HMC is well equipped with ample tea- and coffee-making facilities, and people went over the road to Greggs for bacon butties.
I’d met Alex through Twitter. She was interested in the Paulinus Way and keen to join us for the day. I was chuffed to bits to have picked up a pilgrim through social networking. As it happened she lived round the corner, and came to join us for our morning worship.
As a Methodist Minister, Heather led us in worship. From the way she spoke you could tell that she was still very affected by the events of the night before. For me, it made it all the richer, more real, and refocussed my attention on the fact that this is a pilgrimage.
The first part of the ‘walk’ was by bus. First we went to the bus station, where we were to meet up with nine more pilgrims. All bar one had already walked with us over the weekend but, due to other commitments, hadn’t been able to do the whole week. With Alex’s local knowledge we found the right bus stop easily and, as a brand new group of pilgrims, we got on the bus to Slaid Hill, away from the city, to start our walk.
I’m childish enough that I always get on the top deck of the bus when I can, and I was loving the views over suburban Leeds, when we had to disembark and start – actually – walking. One of the aspects of this journey that I’m loving is the contrast – from walking the Pennine Hills to riding a city bus.
But it wasn’t an easy day for me - the cracks are beginning to show. People are forming allegiances and, predictably, storming. I heard sharp words used at least twice today. But I also saw hugs of reconciliation. And, yes, I’m not above it myself.
It started to trouble me – are we on a pilgrimage, or just a long walk? Bishop Tom had warned us that it’s no holiday – was the holiday over and, if so, where was the pilgrimage? Today, it did not feel spiritually edifying. I talked to Helena, to get a Swedish perspective. She’d already told me that in Sweden they generally have a meditation of at least an hour in the evening. So I quizzed her more, and she told me that it’s common to walk in silence in single file, possibly reflecting on something specific.
The boudoir
I also talked to Donald, who has spent time with the Iona Community. He told me that, when he goes on pilgrimage there, pilgrims make regular stops for reflection and prayer. We’re doing no such thing. Heather’s worship this morning refocussed me, but I had lost focus during the day.
Alex walked with us as far as Bramham, when she had to get a bus back to Leeds. Afterwards she sent us a tweet: “Funny how you knit with a group so quickly but it's time to leave the pilgrims on @PaulinusWay. Really enjoyed my day on the trail. :)”
Jayne Booth - councillor, rebel & alternative

It may be that future groups of pilgrims walking the Paulinus Way will have more structured journeys, with a greater focus on spirituality. And I would like to join them. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that St Mary’s Church is a very – but very – inclusive church – and everyone has been welcomed to take part. People who have rarely set foot in a church have been moved by the experience of sleeping under stained glass and saints. And I, for one, am proud to be part of that.

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