I’ve been thinking of pilgrims, pilgrimages and journeys in life. Is a pilgrim an allegory for the latter? Is it a shared experience or a very personal encounter with … yourself, God, a higher being? What does it mean to you?
The first pilgrimage I witnessed was the Easter Monday walk to St Alban’s Abbey which, as far as I know still happens today. At a very young age I was aware of streams of walkers along the footpath beside our house which led to Verulamium Park and the Cathedral. When I was about fourteen I joined it for the first time but, since we attended St Micheal’s Church on the edge of the park, our banner was a giveaway that we’d only strolled a few hundred yards to join the queues of people flowing up the hill towards the Abbey. A few purported to have walked from as far as Bedford staying overnight in Harpenden and others had been bused to outlying towns and villages. We were still the closest by far I should think. All were in good spirits, some more than others. We met a group from near Bedford one year who had refrained from drinking alcohol for Lent, but had stopped off at The Blue Anchor for a couple on their way. They were decidedly giggly!
The next year we walked from Harpenden but the funny thing was, when we congregated around the lake people looked at our banner and didn’t believe us. It was amusing at the time but taught me one lesson, that our own achievements are not always appreciated or celebrated by others, so we have to look for some kind of inner sense of fulfillment.
The first year I joined the walk was with church members and the last time with friends. Here they are sitting on the wall outside St Michael’s School, a historic building in itself where my mum taught for several years and I was a Sunday School Teacher. I’m obviously taking this shot.
The next photo below is of me and two of my best friends. That’s me on the left with all that hair!!! It is odd looking at these pictures. I was wearing embroidered jeans which my parents had banned me from using outside the home, appearing quite irreverent and yet we were on our way to worship. A bit of a rebel really.
I still remember the sense of awe as we arrived and stood in the vast nave, all the furniture removed. Every inch of floor space, even behind the towering pillars, was covered by the masses of folks singing, praying and listening.
It left quite a lasting impression on me and St Alban’s Cathedral, the light on the hill from whichever direction you approach the city, will always be a special place for me. I’ve returned many a time and dwelt on precious memories but also to absorb the quiet sense of spirituality which pervades in the vast nave and in every chapel and shadowy space therein.