Youth Pilgrimage 2009
On Monday 3rd August a group of young people and their leaders from Rochester Dioceses and St Michaels depart from St Augustine’s Belvedere in a somewhat cramped mini-bus filled to the brim with excited pilgrims. Some of the party took this time during the journey to catch up on some sleep, whilst others threw pieces of paper at those that slept. Having stopped off for lunch at a rest stop we journeyed on.
We arrived at Walsingham at 2.30 pm and set up camp, those that had not checked their tents before leaving home found that their tents were damaged, and had to borrow a tent from St Michaels. One of the Priests, Fr Clive, forgot to check that he had the right poles for his tent, so he had to borrow the store tent to sleep in. The tents came in all shapes and sizes, from a 2 man pop-up tent to a 6 man tent that you could stand up in. After the tents were assembled, we enjoyed a small meal of chicken Fajitas, some of us enjoyed the Fajitas so much that they went up for seconds before the leaders had been served their first helpings.
The First Service started at 7 pm, we made our way down to the Big Marquee 15 minutes early so that we could get a good space. At the start of the service, the Administrator at the Shrine, Bishop Lyndsay Urwin decided to get his moaning in early, he told us that we were restricted to 3 mins in the showers, and 6 pieces of loo roll. During the service we met the Ministry team, the Stewards and the Worship Band, which was once again CJM. We were told the theme this year was ‘Pass the Word’ and learnt the ‘Bible Book Bop’ a song telling us all the books of the bible in order, this was sang throughout the week. Each group was given a box of ‘bible promises’, pieces of paper with a bible verse written on. Everyone at the pilgrimage was to take one of these each day at breakfast and ‘Pass the Word’ by texting their verse on to someone not at the camp.
After the Service there was a bbq, some of the group went to the Disco that was held in the Big Marquee, whilst others stood outside the Marquee. The disco finished at 11pm, and the whole camp was supposed to be silent by this time, however, some of us were kept up by talking in the camp next door, and by Fr Clive’s snoring.
The next morning saw an early start as we knew the queues for the showers would be long. Breakfast, which was wonderfully cooked by Fr James was served at 7.30 am. Bible study was held at 9 am, all the young people from our group were required to go to at least 1 bible study session that week. The Bible study that morning was packed; as people from all the different groups came to listen to Bishop Lyndsay speak. The theme of the 3 bible studies that week was “Peter: legend for Christ” the first reading was of the calling of Peter, taken from St Luke’s Gospel. After the passage had been read Bishop Lyndsay gave an informative and enjoyable talk on the meaning of the passage.
Mass was held in the Big Marquee, after which we had Lunch and had a free afternoon in which the young people went down to the Village of Little Walsingham, where the Shrine is. One of the group was very generous and bought most of the group an ice-cream. At 4 pm we met in the Holy house, in the Shrine to make our First visit, we also watched the film in the new Welcome Centre which told of the Story of Walsingham.
Later that day, after dinner, we gathered in the Big Marquee for a Candle-lit procession. As we gathered in the marquee, it started to rain really hard and we thought the procession would be abandoned but we did not have to worry, Bishop Lyndsay gave a long sermon and by the time he finished it had just stopped raining. The Procession was supposed to be in silence, and, for the most part, it was. It was a wonderful sight seeing 800 young people walking in silence, something most adults wouldn’t be able to do. After the candle-lit procession Benediction was held in the Shrine Grounds.
Wednesday morning came and brought with it a shorter queue for the showers, and a lovely breakfast. At Bible Study that day we studied the story of Peter denying Jesus, and Bishop Lyndsay’s talk on it was as informative as ever. Unfortunately the Bible study was not as packed as the first day, although this may be because the young people had been told that they must attend at least 1 bible study session, and they had all chosen the first day as the day that they went. Some of our group complained that the bible study was boring, but they obviously weren’t paying attention. Mass was held, as per normal, at 10.30 am.
That afternoon the young people had the opportunity to participate in activities that included Rock-climbing, mechanical ball, arts and crafts, Brazilian Martial Arts. We had been given a bible quiz to complete which was really difficult so some of us did that then 2 of our young people took the opportunity to take a mid-day nap, although that wasn’t an official activity. Later we had challenged the Southend group to a rounders match but much to our disappointment they didn’t turn up. For dinner that evening we had invited Bishop Keith of Richbourgh to join us. Each young person had been told to prepare a question for him and we had an enjoyable time chatting to him about the life of a Bishop.
That evening the All-Night Liturgy was held, the first half of which was fun, with a Craziest Shorts Competition and the results of the bible quiz. The 2nd half of the Liturgy was given to various acts of Healing, for example there was Sprinkling from the Well, and anointing with Oil, and Confession, as well as the chance to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It was a very moving service, which went on all night. Each group had been asked to spend some time during the night there in prayer and reading their bibles. Our group chose to be there from 12 midnight to 1 am.
Thursday saw the last of the Bible Studies in which we studied the end of the Gospel of John, in which Jesus gives the commandment to Peter to “tend my sheep”.
Mass was 10.30 am. After Mass we went to Hunstanton Beach, where some of us went into the Sea, some of us sun bathed, and 2 of the Adults went off to the pub. Towards the end of the afternoon a member of the group was buried in the sand. When we got back to the campsite we finally had our rounders match with the Southend group and a group from West London who had joined us.
After Dinner that night, a certain young person was tied up by his thumbs and had make-up applied to his face, the others of us tried to get him to go to the Karaoke with his make-up on, but he insisted on wiping it off. The Karaoke was held in the Word Café, our young people were sent, unwillingly, to the Karaoke by the Priests. Most of the young people seemed to enjoy it, dancing to the Macarena, the Cha-Cha Slide and the Time-Warp. After the Karaoke we went back to our Camp site for late night drinks and then went to bed.
Friday morning saw us pack our belongings away before Mass, which was earlier at 9.30am as there was no Bible-study. As each young person received communion they were each giving a copy of St. Luke's gospel which had a message written in from Bishop Lyndsay. After Mass we took down our tents, and had left the Campsite by midday.
Unfortunately, on the way back home we ran into the traffic on the M25 and the Blackwell tunnel, this meant that we spent 3hrs in Traffic, which was ok for those of the group who had been worn out by the week, as they could go to sleep.
The week was a wonderful and interesting experience that had a profound effect 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 with God.
By Paul and Peter.