July and August are traditionally the best months for going on holiday: for one the weather is supposedly better (and if not at least the rain is warmer!). We decide on our holiday destinations carefully – it might be because of the better weather, a desire to see a place or simply to spend time with friends and family and ‘take time out’.
We might think that carving time out for rest and relaxation is a modern thing, but it has always been a part of the world in which we live. From the cycle of crops and our seasons to what we find written in the Bible: the Book of Genesis tells us that God rested on the seventh day, and the Bible is full of journeys and ‘holidays’.
This summer twenty or so members of the village community will be going on a different sort of holiday – that of a pilgrimage. We are going to visit the places associated with the Christian saints of 7th century Northern England – of St Cuthbert, St Aidan and St Hilda. This was at a time when Northern England was a key centre for Christian learning and understanding.
A pilgrimage is a journey to a special or holy place deemed more spiritually significant than home and this is certainly the case for the mighty Durham Cathedral and the serene and tranquil Holy Island and Whitby Abbey. We are going hoping to encounter God and also to journey towards greater self-awareness of both ourselves and each other, bringing with us our joys and our sorrows.
Yet any journey can become a pilgrimage if we do it with the intent of encountering God on the journey, from a holiday in foreign climates to a trip to the shops. Below is our pilgrimage prayer and perhaps you might want to modify it for whatever holiday you are going on this summer, because wherever you are going, God is already there to meet you.
As we follow in the steps of your saints,
seeing and learning about the lives they led and the places where they lived,
help us to grow in the knowledge and love of your Son Jesus Christ.
May this pilgrimage be a time:
of deepening prayer and worship,
of overflowing fellowship, compassion and friendship,
of letting go of all that holds us back from you,
and for taking on your Spirit afresh in our lives.
We ask this in the name of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.