Youth Pilgrimage 2008
Monday the 4th August a few young people and their leaders left
St. Michael’s for St. Mary’s Swanley. There we met up with a group of young people
from St. Mary’s and
We set up camp and, because there was still 3 hours until the first service a group of us decided to go into the village and visit the Shrine. In the village we talked to a local who took up a considerable amount of our free time talking about our schools and what modern languages we studied. After our conversation we entered the Shrine, where many of the group lit candles and looked around. We made our way back to camp, where we went to the first service of the pilgrimage. During this service one young person from each group took up a lit candle and was given an icon for the week. We met the Ministry team, who were 9 volunteers from all over the country. We found out this years theme was 'You are what you eat', we would be thinking about the Eucharist and why we receive communion. To do this we would be focusing on the 5 F-words; First Visit, Freedom, Forgiveness, Friendship, and Fanks! After the service there was a barbeque.
The next day, we rose early due to 2 of our number talking very loudly at 5 am, neither were from our church. The young people were told that they had to attend at least one bible study session, so 7 young people went off to the “Mega Bite Café” to listen to Brother Maximilian talking about the Feeding of the 5 thousand. Mass followed at 10.30am. Before the Mass we were not allowed into the Big Marque until 10.20, before this the Ministry team stood outside dressed up as hippies and singing songs about freedom, The Theme for the Mass was Freedom. In the Mass we had sprinkling.
That afternoon we had free time so we went down to the Shrine again and walked around the village for a while. That evening we were supposed to be having an ecumenical service with the Roman Catholic from the New Dawn Camp that was happening opposite the RC Shrine. However, it had rained a lot that afternoon and some of our group were not enthusiastic about an ecumenical service, so some stayed behind to finish the washing up, they decided that they would meet up with the rest of us on the Holy Mile, the route from the RC shrine to the Anglican shrine. The rest of us set off for the RC shrine along an old railway line, singing “100 green bottles”.
Having timed the song to perfection, so that we were finished just as we entered the RC shrine, we found a place to stand, there were no seats free. The service brought together 800 Anglicans and 400 Roman Catholics, we had brought along our worship Band, CJM, who started the service by playing a few songs. The Roman Catholics provided a mime artist and a rapping priest, both acts were unique. After our show of unity we went our separate ways, the RCs went off back to their own campsite, and we walked the Holy mile to the Anglican shrine. Our entire group did this barefooted, as is tradition, and we sang joyful hymns. At the Shrine we had Benediction and then made our way back to the campsite.
On the Wednesday we went to bible study and mass as usual, the bible study was about forgiveness and confession, the reading was the story of Jesus and the sinful woman how washed his feet with her hair. We were kept waiting outside the Big Marque again before this Mass. This time when we entered the Ministry Team were standing or sitting around the Altar, making a montage of Da Vinci's The Last Supper. Each member of the Ministry Team then went one at a time to get a pilgrim who took their place in the montage. After lunch there were various work shops for the younger pilgrims to enjoy, three of our group choose to take part in the camera phone competition where you had to journey around the picturesque village of little Walsingham, taking photos of the important landmarks and situations, for example the shrine priest’s house, reinacting the annunciation, and impersonating Fr Phillip North. We won this competition of one team.
That evening the late night liturgy was held. At the start of the service a number of competitions were held, these included The Best Mohican, where contestants had to go out the front and have a Mohican hairstyle. At the service we had laying on of hand, then Benediction and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament followed and an opportunity for pilgrims to go to confession. The Sacrament was left out all night and there was the opportunity, from 11pm onwards for the different groups to spend time praying with Jesus. Our group had a slot from 11pm-11.20 pm, and a number of us also went back at midnight for an hour of prayer, where most people fell asleep. Fr Philip remarked the next morning that when he went into the marquee at 5.20 am there were about 80 young people there, and it had been like that all night.
Thursday started as usual with bible study and Mass at 10.30 am, the theme for both was friendship. Our group were having a different theme to the food for each day and today was Chav day, Fr David got in the mood by wearing his England Boxers. After the Mass we went to the beach for the afternoon 2 young people got buried in the sand, and we wrote messages on the beach.
Whilst at the beach we could hear the rumble of thunder in the distance, and, when we were driving back to the campsite, we drove into a massive hail storm, the minibus was battered by hail the size of tennis balls, the village was flooded, and so was the campsite. One of the tents was flooded, but it became clear that we were one of the lucky groups; some groups had 4 or 5 tents ruined by the storm. At Mass the next morning Father Philip told us that that was what happened when you pray “Hail Mary” and told us to be Thunderbolt Christians and not wishy, washy grey ones.
Friday was the day that we returned to our daily lives, so we said our goodbyes to our fellow pilgrims, and Fathers Philip North and Philip Barnes, both of whom are moving onto pastures new at the end of the pilgrim season.
We left Walsingham right after Mass, the theme for which was ‘Fanks’. On the journey home some fell asleep, while others sung the Walsingham Pilgrim Hymn. We arrived back at Swanley at 5 pm and said our goodbyes to those from Swanley and Belvedere.
The week was a wonderful and interesting experience that had a profound experience on the pilgrims’ lives. It wasn’t just a holiday; it was a chance to build new relationships with other Christians, from other parts of the country and from our own diocese, and God.
Written by Peter and Paul