Warm thanks to everyone who shared in my Berkshire Pilgrimage in some way. It was a very good six days.
Together we visited 38 churches and the chaplaincy of Reading University. I travelled 17 miles by boat on 1 September across Maidenhead and Windsor Deaneries. We walked around 50 miles from Monday to Thursday across the Deaneries of Bracknell, Sonning, Reading and Bradfield. On Sunday 8th, the team cycled 16 miles or so across the Newbury Deanery from Hungerford to Thatcham and completed the final couple of visits by car.
We prayed in every place for our government and parliament, for the communities and churches and for Olivia as she prepares for her consecration as Bishop of Reading. I took a picture of the font in every church, and we prayed for the renewal of all the ministry which flows into and out of the font:
- Our welcome to the youngest members of the community whose parents have just enough faith to bring them to baptism
- Our nurture and care for children and young people in parishes and schools
- Walking with adult enquirers as they come to faith as disciples of Jesus and come to baptism and confirmation
- The ongoing formation of every Christian as we live out our baptism every day of our lives and seek to be a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world.
I was moved by the welcome and those who came to pray in every place. Sometimes there were a handful of people, often a group of 20 or more. I met hundreds of people across the week and heard some wonderful stories of hope and grace in the life of the local church as well as stories of difficulty. It was very good to spend time in our churches: these beautiful places of prayer and stillness often hallowed by hundreds of years of prayer.
The journey transformed my view of Berkshire. I normally travel across Berkshire in the car keeping to the motorway and the major roads. Often my journey is to the large, urban centres and back again. I was able to see the beauty of the county in new ways by boat and on foot and cycling and to build a clearer picture of ordinary church life.
It was so good to meet so many people: thanks to all who came and prayed and served tea (and cake!). Thanks especially to Captain Ainsley Swift for the boat ride, to the walk leaders each day and particular to Paul Cowan, my chaplain who organised the whole thing.
I ended the week with sore feet, aching legs, hardly able to sit down from the bike ride but with a very full and glad heart.
Thanks be to God.