Pioneer Pilgrims From Denmark

Elizabeth Lidell, a Pilgrim Pastor, led ten Danish professionals on a pilgrimage along Cuthbert’s Way culminating in a five day retreat at The Open Gate. It was Saint Aidan’s Week. They wanted to explore two things: Celtic spirituality and a way of helping Christians who are tired of monochrome church to come fully alive communally. The weather was glorious, so they swam and sang to the seals who responded in kind. Each of them was also grateful for a personal spiritual conversation.

Elizabeth and her architect husband Andreas have joined with other organisations to pioneer a new pilgrimage route from Padborg, near the German border, to Viborg. The Association of Hostels along ‘Haervejen’ has turned twelve old farm buildings along the route into dormitory accommodation for pilgrims and other walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.

The vision of Christ, and therefore the Body of Christ (the church) having a relationship with creation gave flesh to a longing they had hardly dared name. The idea of churches with ‘every member ministry’ seemed new to the particular churches they belonged to, as was, in some cases, the idea that the purpose of church members is to build the kingdom of God in their locality. The holistic nature of Christianity and the possibility of churches developing elements of a village of God seemed to grip imaginations.

A Belgian priest who was staying elsewhere on the island asked if he could join the retreat sessions and was warmly welcomed. Since the Malines conversations in the 1920’s many Belgian catholics have regarded the church in England as a common home.

The day preceding the retreat I joined Scottish members of our community at the Edinburgh Fringe to see a Harold Pinter play about justice at the Quaker Meeting House and to discuss it over tea afterwards. I had ninety minutes before I needed to depart to beat the closing tide, so I joined the Royal Mile ‘Celtic Spiritual History Tour’. We payed £10 to a man dressed as a Celtic monk. It turned out to be a ninety minute marketing exercise for the Free Church of Scotland. In front of portraits of great dissenting Divines we learned about those who threw off power politics in the church because Christ was their only leader, about how their devotion to freedom of conscience had an influence on Enlightenment free thinkers such as David Hume and even influenced the founding fathers of USA. Much to learn: much to think about.

Posted at 09:05am on 31st August 2016
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