Excerpted with permission from several writings and all photos by David Pott. This is an update on this post: Wanted: Coffin Carriers – Introducing the Lindisfarne Gospels Pilgrimage and more information can be found here: The Lindisfarne Gospels Pilgrimage
September 12-24 2022
This pilgrimage took place at an extraordinary time, following so soon after the death of the Queen. On many occasions we reflected on the similarity of St Cuthbert as a person associated so strongly with the gospels and the Queen herself whose life of service was also influenced so deeply by the gospels.
It was felt that carrying a coffin through the land at this time could easily be misunderstood and provoke negative responses, so the coffin was transported by car and taken out to show at the schools and churches we are visiting. In my email to schools and churches about the changes I wrote: “One of the most compelling reasons for going forward is that people feel the Queen herself would have wanted the pilgrimage to take place. Like St Cuthbert, she was a gospel person whose faith was well known and who always mentioned something about the gospel in her Christmas message.”
Although we did not carry the replica of St Cuthbert’s coffin in public we took it into schools and churches along the route and it was a great privilege that it rested overnight beside St Cuthbert’s tomb at Durham Cathedral on September 14th. It was also in the lovely crypt at Newcastle Cathedral on the night of September 16th.
A major highlight of the journey was that we engaged with 26 schools along the route with something in excess of 3,000 children being able to learn about the coffin and the facsimiles of The Lindisfarne Gospels and St Cuthbert’s Gospel loaned by the North East Religious Resources Centre. Most of the schools also had 12 pupils join us for short stretches of the pilgrimage and the 200 or so who did so were often very moved to be able to carry St Cuthbert’s Gospel in a leather pouch or our Co Durham flag with St Cuthbert’s Cross, both of which came with us every step of the 130-mile journey.
Among the many impacts this journey has had, I was moved by this response from a teacher:
We purposefully picked our pupil premium / disadvantaged pupils so that they would benefit from the outdoor experience. They were fascinated with all the artefacts and loved the experience of walking as a pilgrimage, observing the beauty of the landscape around them and understanding the importance of St. Cuthbert. They were excited and motivated to share their experiences back in school and felt empowered to have had the opportunity. Thanks once again for including us in the pilgrimage, it was a wonderful opportunity for our children and something that we feel will have a lasting impact.
The headteacher of another school wrote this:
Can I say a huge thank you to you and the whole team for allowing us to share a part of your pilgrimage. The children thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and are now ‘experts’ who will share their journey with their peers. As a man with no faith, I found the whole experience to be truly spiritual and I intend to take more time to walk the route regularly to reflect and re-group.
We were blessed with fine weather and only one day with rain which in no way dampened our spirits! The final day was sunny and cool and featured the famous walk across to Holy Island in bare feet, following the pilgrim posts. The pilgrimage concluded in St Mary’s Church with a memorable concert by the Canadian singer Alana Levandoski and the well-known poet Malcolm Guite who read his poems about St Cuthbert and St Cuthbert’s Gospel, holding the facsimile in his hand.
I am so grateful to my fellow pilgrims who managed so well and maintained good unity in what was often a very demanding pilgrimage with so many school and church visits and very little downtime. There are so many others who contributed to making the pilgrimage such a memorable experience including all our very generous hosts, the education team, teachers and pupils and the many who prayed for us throughout the journey. Above all, I am grateful to God for the initial inspiration and for daily strengthening when I so often felt my weakness and the challenge of my deafness. I wrote out some pilgrimage prayer requests in my journal on September 1st and it was wonderful to be able to put a tick against each of those requests!
In the days after the pilgrimage, David put together a slideshow of the journey. It is well worth a look
Did you know? Godspace has many resources available for the season of Autumn and the season of Thanksgiving! From harvest helps and reflections, holiday guides, an online retreat, litanies/liturgies, prayers, and more – check it out on our Seasons & Blessings page!