Vicar's letter

Clergy Letter July 2017

 

Dear Friends,

You may or may not know that Richard and I have recently been on a special pilgrimage walk up the coast of Portugal and Spain, to Santiago de Compostella. This is one of a number of routes ending in Santiago, which are known collectively as The Camino or The Way of St. James. Historically Santiago is believed to be the resting place of St. James, the Apostle. It soon became a popular focal point for Christian pilgrims. (see below: The Cross of St. James)  

In Medieval times, it was a major pilgrim route alongside those to Jerusalem and Rome. Since the 1980’s it has become increasingly popular as a pilgrim route for people of faith or none, those seeking self-discovery and those just wanting a good walk. The film ‘The Way’, starring Martin Sheen follows one man’s Camino in memory of his son. It is readily available on DVD should you be interested.

During our two-week pilgrimage we walked 110 miles, having one rest day and three days in Santiago at the end. We walked in a group of 18 people, none of whom we knew prior to setting off. As the walk progressed we got to know each other well as we fell in and out of conversation along the way, shared meals together and compared blisters! We became aware of one another’s life stories, joys, struggles and fears. We laughed a great deal, but also had times when we walked in quiet contemplation.

The symbol of the Camino is a scallop shell. Pilgrims often travel with a scallop shell around their necks on a cord or tied to their back packs.  The scallop shell has become a symbol of pilgrimage. At baptisms, we use a silver scallop shell to pour water over candidates to remind us that the Christian life is a journey of faith, lived with Christ accompanying us along the way.

Whilst putting one foot in front of another each day, I began to realise that The Camino is a kind of parable for the whole of life’s journey. There are hills and valleys, rain and sunshine, times when you wish you didn’t have to get out of bed and set off again, times when you get a bit lost, times of wonderful refreshment and joy over a simple picnic with friends and strangers, times when you are not sure what the next day will hold. Carrying the scallop shell helped me to realise that many had pilgrimed before me on the way, laying way markers to point the way and that Jesus walks the road with us. The story of the Road to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel chapter 24 verses 13- 35, wonderfully shows Jesus coming alongside some walkers who are weighed down with disappointment and confusion. His presence helped them to understand God’s purposes and restore their sense of direction and hope.

This pilgrim theme is especially relevant to us at St Lawrence just now as on Sunday 16th July we are having a special Patronal Festival Service to launch St. Lawrence as a Small Pilgrim Place-as a new member of an existing network of other churches that seek to offer themselves as places of quiet contemplation for people seeking rest on life’s journey. The Bishop of Salisbury will be helping us mark this special occasion as we acknowledge the importance of St. Lawrence as a place of prayer and encounter with God in the journey of life, both for local people and pilgrims travelling through this beautiful part of Wiltshire. We will also be officially opening The Tompkins Room on that day and sharing a tea together. Please join us. Everyone welcome.

Timings are as follows:

3.00pm Gather up at Old Sarum in the grounds of the old cathedral with the Bishop. There will be a short time of worship followed by a pilgrim walk down the hill to church together.

3.00pm (in church is you are unable to manage the walk down from Old Sarum to church or if it is pouring with rain!) There will be time of worship and a reflective powerpoint presentation on Pilgrimage.

4.30pm Official opening of The Tompkins Room by The Bishop, followed by a tea in The Reading Room. ( If you just want to attend the opening, feel free to do that)

 

Please know that the church is always there for you to set and re-set your compass of faith and life, at whatever stage of the journey you might have reached. There is always a warm welcome.

 

Every blessing,

 

Tessa

Rev’d Tessa Mann