Bishop Chris – A modern day pilgrim
Pilgrims of the past probably didn’t experience geocaching or have to consider getting to grips with Twitter and mobile signals, but Bishop Chris took both of these in his stride on his pilgrimage along the Cornish Celtic Way.
Why would anyone want to walk so far, for so long without knowing if there would be a bed offered at the end of each day? Before he set off, Bishop Chris explained that, for him, pilgrimage is an experience of body, mind and spirit.
“As humans we are all of these things, and more besides. So we feel most alive and ourselves when each different aspect of us is engaged.”
He said he anticipated the joy of walking, the awareness of his body, the twinges, aches and pains as well as the freedom of feeling air on his skin and a sense of progress as he passed through the landscape. With the wonderful weather we’ve been enjoying it’s not hard to imagine the joy of being outside, but even Bishop Chris would admit to some twinges he’d rather not have had, especially when the bindings on his beloved walking boots succumbed to wear, tear and puddles.
One of the things he has so appreciated is the way that others have joined him. Many have walked with him and, as he says, “I have been very struck by the quality of conversation that I have been privileged to enjoy when walking. There is something about being alongside someone, walking n the same direction, that makes it so much easier to talk on a deeper level.”
He has also been moved by the kindness of people who have met him at the various churches, holy places and meeting points along the way. “I’ve been overwhelmed by kindness. Just when I’ve needed a cup of tea or few words of encouragement, they have been there. It has been wonderful how people have been able to take such an active part in what I’m doing, even if they haven’t been walking with me.”
On Palm Sunday, Bishop Chris walked to St Piran’s Oratory, a holy place of prayer that has been partially claimed by the sand in the dunes behind Perran Sands. “As people gathered and lent on the walls around the Oratory, I was very moved by the story of how Jesus paused before he reached Jerusalem and wept for that city and the tragedy it was about to be part of. So we paused and prayed for the world’s cities and how they are currently suffering. We each picked up a stone, linked it to our prayers, and laid it on the Oratory, physically adding our prayers to the centuries of prayers laid down before.
Bishop Chris says he has been blessed by the youngest, including Woody, a young boy who gave him a woven cross for his backpack, and the oldest, Father Wynford, who will be 102 next month, and was every bit as sharp as young Woody.
One thing he hasn’t had as much as he thought he would, is time alone. He had said he was hoping to hear in “the silence and solitude of the path and the ancient sanctuary …the whisper of God.” But God hasn’t kept quiet. Bishop Chris has heard Him in the sounds of the waves, the breeze, birdsong and the conversations he has shared along the way. “I have so appreciated having the time to listen, to be open to spaces, gaps – breathers, if you like. Time, for me as a Bishop as for most people, is often compacted and accounted for. I would love to somehow find similar breathers in my everyday life, to be open and not fearful of silence, space and the possibilities that come from that.”
Bishop Chris also added, “My hope and prayer is that others will also be encouraged to try pilgrimage and that they will meet Jesus on the way, just as the disciples did on the very first Easter Day.”
The pilgrimage ended with a boat ride to St Michael’s Mount, a service in their chapel and the kindness that has marked the journey, with Lord and Lady St Levan inviting Bishop Chris, and the considerable collection of his accompanying pilgrims that day, to tea in their private quarters. As well as a good night’s sleep in Bishop Chris’ own bed.
You can see more photos from the final day of the pilgrimage on our facebook page here.