Canterbury Pilgrimage

Group at Canterbury Cathedral

Group at Canterbury Cathedral

To Caunterbury with ful devout corage (Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue)

Last week, in the footsteps of Chaucer's pilgrims, a group of nine young people from King’s College London walked an annual Lenten pilgrimage to Canterbury.  

Skipping the suburbs of London, we picked up the Pilgrims Way in Otford, home to the ruins of the old Archbishop's Palace and a well said to have been created by Becket. The hill which greeted us coming out of the station was the first test of our “devout corage,” but pausing at the top for morning prayer, we prayed for strength and fine walking weather, and we were blessed with both throughout the journey.

We were a mixed group, both in terms of denomination and of degree discipline and level, which contributed to the richness of the experience, and as we walked, prayed and ate together, we grew in fellowship and faith. Walking through the Kentish countryside, bathed in glorious sunshine, we experienced in a very immediate way the beauty of the Creator’s work; the landscape was abundant with the new life of spring. One of the many springtime joys were the fields of lambs, a reminder also of the Lamb and His Passion for which we are preparing to celebrate.

We encountered Christ in other ways: in walking through the pain of blistered feet and aching muscles; in keeping one another’s spirits up by singing songs; by slowing the pace so that no one was left a straggler. We met Him too in the hospitality we received along the way, from the warm reception we recieved at Canterbury Cathedral, to the pubs who welcomed us despite our bedraggled state, and above all, the parishes who provided us with roofs under which to lay out our sleeping bags (particularly memorable were the night sleeping in a box pew at Detling and the morning waking up to the sun shining through the East window at Chilham).

At Canterbury, we had prayers in the Eastern Crypt, at the site of Becket's first tomb. The place is currently marked by Anthony Gormley’s “Transport,” a floating human form created using nails from the recently restored roof of the cathedral’s south transept. The nails were another reminder of the Passion, of which we weary pilgrims, had come to know some small share.

Above all, we had made a journey, but not only the physical one which ended in Canterbury; we had also moved along our Lenten spiritual journey,  preparing in a deeply rich way to encounter Christ in Holy Week and Easter – in hospitality and fellowship on Maundy Thursday, in suffering on Good Friday, and in new life and jubilation at Easter.

Naomi is studying for an MA in Christianity and the Arts.

More information about the work of King's College Chaplaincy can be found at:

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