Pilgrimage Story – Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral

After 5 days of walking I expected to feel exhausted, desperate for the end of the walk. I also expected to feel a sense of completion. Neither was true. We often talk about ‘life changing experiences’ and, I guess, every experience changes us a little bit. But I honestly think that I will look back at those five days and realise they were a turning point. I am still not sure what my future holds but I have learned some important things:

Firstly that God wants us to live now. Not constantly worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. When I look back my most vivid visual memory will be walking through the beech woods before Rochester. The silver trunks of the trees moving in some mysterious pattern against the blue and green of bluebells and new leaves. I had hoped that the rhythm of the walking would slow my thoughts and so it did. And I finally realised that, by the grace of God, I am OK. Not unbattered by life’s storms, not unscarred, but really OK.

Secondly I have discovered that I really like long distance walking. I was lucky in that I had time to prepare but I love the gentle sense of discovery, a sort of slow motion uncovering. Having spent most of the last 25 years in front of a computer screen it was a great joy to use my body in this way.

Thirdly that there can be a great joy in supporting others. There were many times when those around me were struggling in different ways. I’ve never been particularly good at coming up behind people and helping them along but I began to see that I could do this.

Almost the last thing we did was attend evensong at Canterbury Cathedral. I wasn’t that keen. We had already had a private service. But it was exactly right. The beauty of the ancient ritual and the choir singing was like a gentle full stop to the whole experience. I will carry these five days with me for the rest of my life.