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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

1 July 2015: Rev'd David Rice, Petersfield Methodist Church

To be a pilgrim

Being relatively new to Petersfield and very much appreciating the new walking territory which I am discovering, I have somehow found myself involved in organising a pilgrimage on behalf of the town's churches.

There are six congregations in the town and a further six in the villages and hamlets around which are all affiliated to Petersfield Area Churches Together (PACT). Working out a route which connects them all yet allows sufficient time to enjoy the walk between them has meant finding a zig-zag course, coming into town and then out again, before coming back into town, before... You get the picture.

In town, I have discovered a wealth of mediaeval and later buildings, often cheek-by-jowl with modern developments. Out of town, I have enjoyed the gently rolling fields and woods, and also struggled up the hangers. The variety within a relatively small area is amazing. I have met a similarly diverse group of people as I have walked. All part of life's rich tapestry!

It is this encounter with variety and richness which for me lies at the heart of pilgrimage. You have to make clear plans, yet you also need to sit lightly to them if you encounter something or someone of unexpected interest. A pilgrim walks with purpose but remains open to the wonders and encounters which appear along the way.

When church people begin to walk* the route that I have explored, some will start as strangers but will, I'm sure, stroll home as friends. With the exchange - prayers for hospitality - at each stop, those who begin as walkers will, I believe, continue as pilgrims. The transforming power of pilgrimage brings hope to any community as we discover something new, about the place, about themselves and about God.

The pilgrimage will be over two Saturdays in July, 4th and 11th - see details of the Pilgrimages

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