With thanks to Priory 900 co-ordinator Penelope Weston.
Time for Guinness to stir his stumps again as he rejoined us for the final day, starting from Burton Fleming Methodist Church. We were joined by a new batch of final day pilgrims – Tish from Baildon, Pat from Scarborough and Nancy’s sister and her husband, from Filey. At the church we met Jenny who often plays the Priory organ, and her mother as well as key church members. So today we sang our hymn (Love Divine) with organ accompaniment! And another bonus: we were all given a Mars bar to sustain us! We paused for a proper group photo as Terry, one of the Priory 900 photographers, was with us (by car) for the day.
There was a certain amount of road to be covered before we could branch off onto a track across the hill as we made our way around and across fields on the way to High Cayton. Despite a forecast for cloudy skies, the sun shone, and we had time to share our stories (and our Mars bars!) as we walked. Nabcy’s sister is actually a Priory bell ringer, which I had no idea about, but then the bell ringers are a highly selective group! Today a three hour peal is planned, to celebrate the pilgrimage and of course St Augustine’s Day. But many of the usual team are walking, being also members of the Priory Walking Group. So they’ve had to call in ringers from as far away as Pickering to make up a team.
Harvesting was in full swing today, with combines, bailers and trailers all hard at work. We stopped in the corner of a newly cleared field where there was some welcome shade for our final picnic. Then it was off across a challenging stony potato field (just walk in the furrow – hard for Guinness) until we reached the road north of Boynton. Down this and across the main Sledmere road towards the church …. And goodness me, there were the Beverley pilgrims, assembling outside the church! There had been some uncertainty about how or indeed this rendezvous would happen, since they had a long walk in the morning, and we feared we might miss them. So this was a very happy meeting, it just seemed together with no effort on anyone’s part, which has been the story of the week ( although of course there has been a lot of effort and planning in the background). So all those who wished to came into the church for our usual short prayers, and much chat and exchange of experiences. Several people had come out to join us for this last stage – four from the Old Town community, Becky our priory 900 adminstrator and her mum,and two more from the Priory. Pat Norton, who had done as much of the Beverley walk as was feasible for him also rejoined his group, to loud cheers. Eventually, the two groups set off to follow their two route variants to the Old Town, us down Woldgate, the other group along Easton Road, meeting at the far end of Westgate. It was magic to catch the Priory bells on the wind as we walked.
So it was a goodly crowd of cheerful , sweaty and not unduly footsore pilgrims who followed down High Street, to the surprise of shoppers and shopkeepers. Now at last we could all see what it was about – and mutatis mutandis, perhaps not so very different from any medieval pilgrim company approaching that great building.
We were a little early in our arrival, so that the Augustinians, arriving to welcome us at 5.00 were surprised to find we’d absconded for a cup of tea and (for some) a change of outfit. But we were soon back, as the peal continued, for the celebration eucharist, with the specially reconvened choir. What a joyful occasion, with Nancy as celebrant and preacher, giving us a good word about journeys made in faith and the importance of the continued travelling, some cheerful hymns and moving anthems, and a presentation of commemorative badges to all the pilgrims.
And so to the Bull and Sun and suitably festive food to round off a day – and a week – to lift the heart and leave lasting memories of friendship , perseverance, beauty and God’s presence with us. Deo Gratias!
A comment from the Christianity and Culture entre at the University of York:
“Are the many who visit cathedrals, monasteries and other sites of religious significance for their artistic and historical interest, tourists or pilgrims – or the one in the process of becoming the other? A tourist may occupy the same space as a pilgrim, travel for relaxation and new experiences, and almost certainly bring home objects which recall those experiences. Analysis of individual accounts suggests that the crucial difference occurs when the observer becomes a participant and the experience of travel becomes infused with recognition of the need for change, whether this signifies healing for mind or body, inner peace or a new perspective on life. Many who begin as ‘pilgrims’, or unexpectedly find themselves becoming ‘pilgrims’ on the way, report that they return home changed in some significant way.“