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June - July 2015

posted 9 Aug 2015, 01:01 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 9 Aug 2015, 01:01 ]

Dear All,

Pilgrimage is a fashionable term today. As I write this, I've been reading an article on-line about some Canadians who made a '2,000- mile pilgrimage for Kentucky Fried Chicken'. Not what I would usually consider a pilgrimage. It left me wondering what we mean by the word 'pilgrimage'.

Pilgrimage is both a spiritual concept and a physical concept. It is possible to go on pilgrimage without leaving the comfort of my armchair. It is possible to climb mountains, to seek – and never find. Pilgrimage is a journey of heart and soul, of mind and emotions. It may or may not have a physical element. As a Christian, I speak of my journey of faith – one that does not begin or end with belief, but winds throughout my life. Sometimes on my journey it has felt almost as though I am touching fingertips with God. An intimate soul friend, breaking bread with me along the way. At other stages in my life God has seemed so remote as to be almost invisible, a silent puppet-master. All this is the pilgrimage of my life.

The best pilgrimages raise questions. They may never result in answers. They fill ones heart and mind and soul – sometimes with confusion! A short stroll can leave you emotionally and physically exhausted – a long trek through the wilderness can invigorate and fill with delight. Pilgrimages are contradictory. Often we go in search of something, not knowing what that something is until we find it – or don't find it.

What is the difference between going for a walk and going on pilgrimage? That was a question I was asked a few weeks ago, at the Scottish Pilgrimage Routes Forum. I was there to speak on Pilgrimage and Story. But the question didn't arise in a formal session, but over lunch, as such things tend to. I think the conclusion we drew is that what separates a walk from a pilgrimage is that of intent. Yet I'm not convinced that's the whole answer. When I step out of my door for my early morning walk by the river, sometimes I go for a stroll and sometimes I go on a pilgrimage. Often my walk is a 'walk and pray'. Sometimes that's the intention - and I end up just enjoying the world. Sometimes I just walk for sheer pleasure – and I end up meeting God. For me, pilgrimage involves an awareness of God, a willingness to respond to him. It is the context in which I journey which is important.

Here in Deeside there is a group working to establish the North Deeside Pilgrim Way, using already established paths for the most part. Some of the sites on the way will have religious significance. Some will be historical curiosities. Some points will lead to greater appreciation of the natural world. But hopefully as the route is developed and walked, it will open hearts and minds to explore more of God.

And that is what I hope and pray for us all. That in our pilgrimage through life – together and as individuals – we will open our hearts and minds to God, and walk alongside him.

With every blessing,


Rev'd Vittoria Hancock