Building community on the Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury District Pilgrimage

Ten pilgrims gathered for an evening meal in the Telford Methodist Circuit on Easter Monday, ready for a week’s pilgrimage that would bring them closer to God and to one another.

14 May 2024

The five-day journey, from Horsehay to Church Stretton via Ironbridge, Bridgnorth, Much Wenlock and Pitchford, covered 50 miles of Shropshire countryside. It was a journey that took the pilgrims back to the beginning of the industrial revolution and to earlier expressions of Christianity in the area.

But just as important was the spiritual journey, sustained by a pattern of prayer and by stretches of silent walking, while inspired by the beauty of creation all around. After a wet spring, the paths were very muddy, but the rain held off and there were even blue skies overhead.

The district pilgrimages were established by the Chair of the Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury District, Revd Rachel Parkinson, working with Ian Mason, a Local Preacher in the Stafford Circuit. Ian has taken part in pilgrimages across Europe with the Franciscan movement for many years. It was his experience that led to as much importance being placed on the formation of “an occasional Christian community” as on the walking itself.

For Rachel, a local pilgrimage also offers an opportunity for people to take part in a district event which is both low cost and with a low carbon footprint, as well as linking with many aspects of the Methodist Way of Life. Beginning in 2019 but with a break during the pandemic, this was the fourth pilgrimage to be offered.

Pilgrims arrived with various levels of hiking experience. Revd Denise ‘Dee’ Yeadon was a first-timer whilst Revd Suzanne ‘Sue’’ Shortman had followed walking routes before. Some pilgrims, like Jo Kudlacik, Circuit Steward in the Telford circuit, had taken part in previous years and were keen to come again.


For Dee, going on an Easter pilgrimage through the scenic English countryside was an opportunity she couldn't pass up this year. Preparing to minister in the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District in September, Dee saw the pilgrimage as "An opportunity to meet people and get to know some places in the district."

Being local to the area, Jo had planned and tried out some of the routes but also enjoyed days when others took the lead. "It was surprisingly nice just to go with the flow and enjoy the walk and not feel responsible. It freed me to just enjoy the moments rather than constantly thinking ahead."

Even though Sue had previously walked alone, she enjoyed the communal feeling of walking and cooking together. “We got to know each other quickly and had many conversations. Over the week, we created a community. It was very special.”

The pilgrimage is not for the faint-hearted with basic sleeping arrangements, no shower facilities and a lot of mud. "We slept on church floors or scout huts," remembers Dee. “You get used to roughing it,” said Sue. “It makes you value the comforts we often take for granted.”

The days started and ended with prayer and meditation.  A section of each route was walked in silence, which became a popular part of each day’s walk. "I like that idea of finding God outside in nature, meeting new people and finding God together whilst walking,” adds Jo.


For Dee, those quiet moments allowed her to be more aware of her surroundings. Rather than always looking ahead into the future, she became more attuned to details. As for Sue, she enjoys the mental space walking brings her to contemplate, reflect and simply be with God.

Kinship, community and laughter were the highlights of the pilgrimage, as well as worshipping and celebrating Holy Communion in unexpected places. When asked if they would join next year, they all said yes. Dee has already bought a new sleeping bag and wants to get better walking boots.

A video of the pilgrimage with a reflection written by Dee is now available on YouTube.