Last Sunday, I walked to church. What makes this unusual is that the church in question was six miles from my home and I would usually travel by train or tube.
Walking there was a great experience, not only because it helped me to get in training for my pilgrimage in June, but because it was great to see so much of London in such nice weather and to remind myself of how good it feels to walk relatively long distances.
I’m sorry to say that in over six years of living in London (in four different parts of the city), this is the first time that I have walked from home to central London. I had a satisfied feeling as I arrived at places to which I have never previously walked from home – London Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the First Out cafe in New Oxford Street and finally Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, where the minister Simon Perry gave a helpful sermon about violence in the Old Testament.
This is the church that will also mark the end of my pilgrimage for repentance for homophobia this summer. I will speak at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church on the evening of 1 July, the day before Pride. By that point, a six-mile walk is unlikely to feel like a long distance. While my training is now progressing more rapidly, I’m aware that I really need to pick up the pace before I begin the pilgrimage from Birmingham in around two months’ time.
I’ve just read an article about pilgrimage by Adam Weymouth in the March issue of Third Way. He is walking from England to Jerusalem, which makes Birmingham to London sound rather feeble by comparison. I was struck by his description of the realities and benefits of pilgrimage:
“I saw the destination as a framework, a crucial part that would distinguish the journey from a directionless wander, in the same that an artist fixes his [or her] ideas within the confines of the canvas. But in engaging with that painting, with that line on the map, spaces are created that allow much deeper ideas and experiences to emerge.”