We are a group of four Anglican parish churches who enjoy working collaboratively in serving the people and communities of Beech Hill, Farley Hill, Grazeley, Riseley, Shinfield, Spencers Wood, Swallowfield and Three Mile Cross. Our four parish churches are delightfully different in history and character, each offering a different take on what it means to be active, forward-looking, community-focussed churches of the 21st century. Each church also has its own style of worship, weekly activities and pattern of services that continue to evolve. You should find all you need to know about us as you engage with our website, but if you’d like to meet and talk something through in person… don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Walking the Walk
I’ve recently been watching a TV programme broadcast on BBC2 called ‘Pilgrimage : The Road to Santiago’, also known as the Camino de Santiago (or Sant Iago) – The Way of Saint James. In the programme, a disparate group of celebrities was brought together with the sole purpose of walking as a pilgrim group to Santiago de Compostela. They travelled together for around 15 days, and it was interesting to see how their relationships developed along the way.
The origin of the Camino goes back 1,000 years or so, and, over time, several medieval pilgrim pathways to Santiago de Compostela have evolved, all of which form a network of routes beginning at different locations around Europe. All routes lead to the same destination; the shrine of the apostle, Saint James the Great, whose remains are said to lie in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Northwest Spain.
The BBC2 programme was a little like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the make-up of its cast, which included a couple of comedians, a dancer, a singer, a soldier, an ex-convict and a priest! All the participants had a story to tell from their own perspective, and there were some interesting exchanges of views about faith along the way. The pilgrims freely shared their atheistic, agnostic and Christian views, so there was plenty of disagreement, and some refreshingly honest exchanges of view, laced with a little ribald humour. An up-to-date version of the Canterbury Tales set in Spain!
It was interesting to observe the sense of camaraderie that developed over the short pilgrimage (depending on the starting point, the journey can take about a month to six weeks to complete), and to see how the different characters related to each other. It seemed to me that strong bonds were made and that an underlying ethos of the acceptance of differing views and opinions was encouraged. But it was at the end of a long, hot and sometimes gruelling day, that the most meaningful and revealing conversations were had, usually over a hearty meal and a glass or two of wine. It was on these occasions that it seemed that a real connection was made, as the exhausted pilgrims shared a meal, dropped their guard and revealed a little more of themselves to each other.
The post-Easter story of disciples on the road to Emmaus strikes me as being very similar to the experience of the Camino pilgrims.
Two disciples were walking away from Jerusalem towards Emmaus (about seven miles), talking to each other about the events of the past days. Unannounced, Jesus joins them and asks what they’re discussing. They don’t recognise Jesus for who he is, and can’t quite believe he doesn’t understand that what has just happened in Jerusalem is foremost in their minds. So, they relate the story of the empty tomb and their dismay and upset at the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Jesus puts them right about a few things.
When they reach Emmaus, the disciples urge their travelling companion to come and stay with them, as it’s getting late in the day. They have a meal together and it’s then that the two disciples recognise Jesus as he breaks bread, blesses it and shares it with them.
It’s no accident that food and drink play an important part in our lives; Sunday by Sunday in our churches, we bless and break the bread and pour the wine to raise our consciousness of God’s presence through our remembrance of Jesus and the Last Supper. You have an open invitation to join us at the table…there’s always enough to go around, and the meal will help sustain you on life’s pilgrimage.
PS You’ll find the story in Luke 24:13-35