Around 150 Christians from eight north London churches set out on a misty Saturday morning last week, for an ecumenical pilgrimage to Downside and Bath Abbeys in Somerset. Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists and members of the United Reform Church, went on the journey, which was organised by Rev Stephen Coles, Vicar of St Thomas the Apostle's Anglican Church in Finsbury Park.
That day, the Football Cup Final was taking place in Cardiff and the roads were crowded with fans on their way to the match. Travelling in three coaches, the pilgrims were passed by several stretch limousines flying West Ham banners. At a service cafe, pilgrim Sister Eugenia, from the Ursuline Sisters of St Angela Merici in Manor House, was amused to be asked to pose for pictures, with a group of West Ham supporters. She said later: "I didn't tell them I support Arsenal."
When the pilgrims reached Downside, they had a talk in the chapel with the guestmaster Dom Philip, who told them the history of the monastery. This was followed by a reflection on the Virgin Mary with Mother Sarah, an Orthodox Sister who teaches at Bath University.
After lunch in the refectory, the group went on to Bath where there was time to explore the town before they took part in an Ecumenical Evening Prayer Service at Bath Abbey. Rev Coles has organised the pilgrimage for the past 16 years. He said: "We wanted to show that as Christians we are all on a pilgrimage together. A journey like this is a wonderful opportunity to travel and worship together."
The pilgrims have been to a different place each year. Destinations so far have included Canterbury, St George's Windsor, Norwich, Salisbury, Cambridge, Ely and Lincoln. The churches which took part were: Finsbury Park Methodist Church; Manor House United Reformed Church, St Thomas More RC Church, Manor House, and the Anglican Churches of: St Andrew, Stoke Newington, St John's, Brownswood Park, St Mary's, Stoke Newington, St Olave, Woodberry Down and St Thomas the Apostle, Finsbury Park.
Bishop Alan Hopes was chief celebrant at a special Mass and procession to mark the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians at St Thomas More's in Manor House yesterday. Report follows soon.