In the Middle Ages the Church encouraged people to make pilgrimages to special holy places called shrines. It was believed that if you prayed at these shrines you might be forgiven for your sins and have more chance of going to heaven. Others went to shrines hoping to be cured from an illness they were suffering from.

The most popular shrine in England was the tomb of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. When Becket was murdered local people managed to obtain pieces of cloth soaked in his blood. Rumours soon spread that, when touched by this cloth, people were cured of blindness/ epilepsy and leprosy. It was not long before the monks at Canterbury Cathedral were selling small glass bottles of Becket’s blood to visiting pilgrims.

Another important shrine was at Walsingham in Norfolk where there was a sealed glass jar that was said to contain the milk of the Virgin Mary. Erasmus visited Walsingham and described the shrine as being surrounded “on all sides with gems, gold and silver.” He also added that the water from the Walsingham spring was “efficacious in curing pains of the head and stomach.”

At other shrines people went to see the teeth, bones, shoes, combs etc. that were said to have once belonged to important Christian saints. The most common relics at these shrines were nails and pieces of wood that the keepers of the shrine claimed came from the cross used to crucify Jesus.

untitled2Important shrines in the Middle Ages included those at St. Winifred’s Well, Lindisfarne, Glastonbury, Bromholm and St. Albans. When people arrived at the shrine they would pay money to be allowed to look at these holy relics. In some cases pilgrims were even allowed to touch and kiss them. The keeper of the shrine would also give the pilgrim a metal badge that had been stamped with the symbol of the shrine. These badges were then fixed to the pilgrim’s hat so that people would know they had visited the shrine.

Some people went on pilgrimages abroad. In Palestine, for example, it was possible to visit a cave that was supposed to contain the beds of Adam and Eve and a pillar of salt that had once been Lots wife.

Travelling on long journeys in the middle Ages was a dangerous activity. Pilgrims often went in groups to protect themselves against outlaws.

Wealthy people sometimes preferred to pay others to go on a pilgrimage for them. For instance, in 1352 a London merchant paid a man £20 to go on a pilgrimage to Mount Sinai.

In August 1535, Henry VIII sent a team of officials to find out what was going on in the monasteries. After reading their reports Henry decided to close down 376 monasteries. Monastery land was seized and sold off cheaply to nobles and merchants. They in turn sold some of the lands to smaller farmers. This process meant that a large number of people had good reason to support the monasteries being closed.

In 1538 Henry turned his attention to religious shrines in England. For hundreds of years pilgrims had visited shrines that contained important religious relics. Wealthy pilgrims often gave expensive jewels and ornaments to the monks that looked after these shrines. Henry decided that the shrines should be closed down and the wealth that they had created given to the crown.

The Pope and the Catholic Church in Rome were horrified when they heard the news that Henry had destroyed St. Thomas Becket’s Shrine. On 17 December 1538, the Pope announced to the Christian world that Henry VIII had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church.


So in the age of transport and when Christianity is looking to it’s past for it’s future what does teh mnodern day spilgrimage look like and where do we find it?




Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

No sooner is Christmas over than we are dashing towards Ash wednesday and forty days of lent.

I am leading our service for lent this year and it is as follows:


Start with images of the desert/sam brown music

Opening prayer
Marc: Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
All: Teach us, Lord, to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Through Christ our Lord Amen (from Psalm 90)

Paul: Worship song one

Marc D Reflection on giving things

Laraine: Lectio Divina, a meditation on the word Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Paul Worship song

Imposition of the Ashes
Marc AC Explanation how it works and why we do it and to lead us into it.

Spent a bit of time in reflection with some Gregorian chant

Gracious God, out of your love and mercy
you breathed into dust the breath of life,
creating us to serve you and our neighbours.
All In this season of repentance,
restore to us the joy of our salvation;
strengthen us to face our mortality,
that we may reach with confidence for your mercy;
in Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Paul: Worship song 3

The Blessing
Lord, during this time of Lent, teach us how to pray, so that those for whom we pray may know your help, and that we may rely on you for all our needs. We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The end

gb_christmas_wreathWhen I was a child Christmas Eve was special time.

The milk and mince pie were carefully placed by our fireplace, oh and not forgetting for Rudolph; I didn’t want to upset Father Christmas or his reindeer.

 After all he was the one coming with all the gifts and I had been a good for the whole year… well most of the year anyway!

The presents would be wrapped in a multitude of bright colours, the red of Santa’s coat, the green of the Christmas tree, with silver and gold, shinning and glistening…always beckoning me ever closer in those dark, still, early hours of Christmas day.

I had helped my mum put the decorations up. After hours of licking and sticking, the paper chains finally crissed crossed the ceiling.

Then my dad scrambled up into our dark, and I have to say somewhat scary attic. It was mysterious and creepy darkness with cobwebs and spiders.

After fumbling around for some time dad would bring down some large dusty brown boxes with the words ‘xmas stuff’ scrawled on the side. I knew what treasures lay within.

Our Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room – it looked huge. Its tip leaned ever so slightly to the left with the weight of the gold star. Was it real gold I’d wondered?

We hung baubles after bauble, old and new. The chocolates hung temptingly in their shiny foil, but no – I mustn’t, Santa was coming – I wanted my presents and I was good, honestly!

And then we put out our little nativity scene, Mary, Joseph, two sheep, one cow, three wise men, two shepherds and my brothers contribution…a cowboy on a horse!

And of course Jesus in his manger, in the middle, between his mum and dad, it was after all his birthday.

And then it was time for bed, not that I could sleep….

I heard someone complaining the other day that Christmas is for children and they are right. Christmas is for children and we are all children of God. And we await the coming of Jesus with the awe and wonder of that child on Christmas Eve.

The word ‘advent’ is Latin for ‘a coming or arrival’.dscf0040-11

The idea behind it is that God came to earthly life and lived among us, which is news to stop the presses for. It’s something to celebrate, rejoice, because just by being in it, God was giving the supreme blessing to the created world. But this birth led to an execution of this same God on behalf of us, and then the greatest news that death will not end it all. So it’s not something you just go rushing into. We need to take stock of what that baby Jesus was here for. When we see the baby and the birth, the adult Jesus and His execution are also in sight.

And with this comes symbolism used by most churches.

So we will focus the simple Advent candle.

The Candles symbolize that Jesus is the Light of the World.

There are four candles, one for each Sunday leading to Christmas and a fifth candle for Christmas day. The four Sunday candles are usually tapers. There are variations in the colouring of the candles, often there are three purple and one pink candle. Occasionally, all of the candles are purple. The central candle is usually a large white pillar candle.

The purple represents repentance. The pink symbolizes joy. The central candle is called the Christ candle and is not lit until Christmas day. When you light the candle it is customary to read a few verses of scripture that relate to meaning of the candle. Often the person who lights the candle recites a short statement of belief and faith as the candle is lit and then everyone unites in prayer.

The First Candle (The Candle of Prophecy/Hope)

The first candle is sometimes called the candle of prophecy because it symbolizes the promises the prophets delivered as messages from God; promises that foretold Christ’s birth. Others consider the candle to be a symbol of the hope we have in Christ and so it is called the Hope candle.

The Second Candle (The Candle of the Way)

The second candle shows that Christ is the Way. Christians are lost in sin and Christ is the Light sent into the world to show them the way out of darkness.

The Third Candle (The Candle of Joy)

The third candle indicates that the only lasting Joy to be found in life on earth is through Christ. All other joy is fleeting and does not last.

The Fourth Candle (The Candle of Peace)

The fourth candle reminds that Jesus comes to bring Peace to both the world and to people’s hearts. Without Christ there is no peace in this world.

The Fifth Candle (The Christ Candle or Christmas Candle)

The fifth candle represents Christ himself who is born to save people from their sins. It is a celebration of the fulfilment of prophecy as represented in Christ’s birth and hope in the final fulfilment when Christ comes again and Christians join him.



Last Saturday, I led a small group from our church on a pilgrimage to Worth Abbey in Sussex.

Worth Abbey is a Benedictine Abbey, a fairly modern one having been built in the 1930’s.

We arrived after a 45 minuite journey. I couldn’t find anyone to open up the room we had hired but eventually Father Luke found us, relaxing and contemplating the day in the monks private garden area…oops:)

We then broke for refreshments and Father Luke chatted about the monastery, the calling, what they do and we asked some questions and he asked some questions of us. One stuck in my mind which has been perplexing me.

He asked ‘Do you have anyone who is Holy in your church?’ 

I am really not too sure what he means…what is Holy…how do we define Holy?

Anyway we joined the monks for their midday worship which is oddly at 1pm. A zither accompanied the monks as they sung mass, a few of us joined in and few of us just listened.

It was a wonderully calming worship and so very different to the soft rock of contemporary worship.

Lunch beckoned and then we went our separate ways for silence, contemplation, prayer or just peace. Some went to the Quiet Garden which is set away from the monastery for just this puropse.

I sat by one of the two ponds, the sun refleced on the water and dragonflies danced along the surface leaving small ripples.

I was considering Gods creation, the beauty of the colour of the waterlillies, the swiftness of the dragonflies. In the distance a mower started up…

We finished off on a local tea room on a farm chatting and discussing our day…

…………Dominus illuminatio mea

I have organised as ‘Pilgrimage’ to Worth Abbey for a small group from my church…

but what is a pilgrimage today in a world where nothing is sacred anymore?

For us it is simply so time to make a trip to a specific place, to come together and be as one with God and the Body of Christ.


Worth Abbey is a Catholic Benedictine monastery and we are a protestant evangelical church with a difference…we follow the church calendar and celebrate not only Christmas and Easter, but Lent, Epiphany, Good Friday, Ash Wednesday, Christmas Eve…our year revolves around the liturgical calendar.

So our day at Worth is set out as follows:

9.00am Meet at our Church Centre where we will have a simple breakfast followed by prayers for the day ahead.

11.00am Refreshments when we arrive and a look around.

12.00 midday A talk by Father Broderick

1.00pm Principal prayers

2.00pm Lunch

2.30 – 4.00 Contemplation time.

It should be a great day…