Pilgrimage in prayer and worship

1. Scripture

A great many Bible passages link to pilgrimage in its various aspects.  Just a few are listed below with brief thoughts:

Exodus 13:17-22
The pillar of cloud and fire

Such guidance in the context of the Judean wilderness was perhaps more nebulous than we sometimes imagine; calling for attentiveness.

Luke 9:28-43
The Transfiguration

A transformational "sacred centre" experience, followed by a descent & re-entry to "normality".

Luke 24:13-35
The Emmaus Road

The dispirited disciples met Jesus on their walk, they listened to him open the Word, they offered him hospitality - and recognized him at the table.

Acts 16:6f
Paul and Luke's call to Macedonia

Not clear signposting, but "we concluded that God was calling us...". Remaining open to the Spirit of God in all planning and preparation.


2: Hymnody

Again, there is a rich supply of relevant hymnody; see especially the "Our journey with God" section in Singing the Faith (455-488) several of which the following specifically mention pilgrims/pilgrimage.  Also:

StF 611 Brother, sister, let me serve you

StF 755 We walk his way


3: Prayer and reflection

  • Methodist Prayer Handbook 2015-16 "To be a pilgrim"
  • Refugees as pilgrims?  Pilgrims as refugees?  Potential to link pilgrimage with current news stories about migration, (the Pilgrim Fathers & Mothers were also refugees). 


4: Poetry

Again, poems on pilgrimage are many and the following selection is far from comprehensive:

  • Pilgrimage by R.S. Thomas.  "He is such a fast God, always before us and leaving as we arrive" highlights the compulsion and the paradox of pilgrimage - we seek to "come see the place where he lay", yet are aware that "He is not here".
  • The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage by Walter Raleigh

Possibly written in captivity the night before he died and reflecting on life and death as a pilgrimage.

  • The Pilgrimage by George Herbert.   A poem which references John Bunyan's classic A Pilgrim's Progress
  • Mapsby Holly Ordway.  A contemporary poem which connects ancient maps with today's SatNav. and First Steps, Brancasterby Malcolm Guite.  Reflecting on a first outing after injury. 


5: Art


6: Prayer and Pilgrimage Exercise 

  • A brief exercise which could be used in a worship or study context and could give rise to pilgrimage in local situation:
  • PLACE: Where is your holy place/sacred centre/important site?  Could that site become part of a pilgrimage?  If you asked your congregation/group/friends the same question, what might result?
  • HISTORY/TRADITION: What event from history (biblical to last week) grabs your imagination?  Could that incident give rise to pilgrimage?  If you asked your congregation/group/friends the same question, what might result?  What other objects/experiences/happenings could lend themselves to pilgrimage?  Art?  Music?  Birth/death/family story?
  • FAITH/DOUBT/MISSION: What matters most?  How do we prioritise?  What are we carrying?  How could pilgrimage help?  With whom locally could we be in partnership?  Ecumenical/inter-faith partners; schools/colleges; rambling/walking groups/local history groups...