Pilgrimage during Lockdown
It was Mothering Sunday 2020 at Southwark Cathedral- a most unusual day. Historically, Mothering Sunday was the day when workers, particularly those in service at the great houses of our nation, were given a day off. This enabled them to return to their 'mother' church, the church of their baptism and their family home in order to give thanks to God. It naturally combined an opportunity for families, who had been apart, to come together. So, Mothering Sunday became the day when families could honour mothers and be together. But not in 2020.
The Co-vid 19 virus meant that we couldn't hold a Holy Communion service for the cathedral community, as public acts of worship had been prohibited, for the reasons of spatial distancing. However, the cathedral was allowed to be opened for individuals to come in and pray, collect flowers for their families and enjoy the peace and serenity of this holy space. Mothering Sunday afternoon, I made myself available to be a 'chaplain' for those who came in.
While I was in the cathedral, far fewer visitors came in than would normally do so. This gave me a few moments for personal reflection. As I was looking around
the now empty cathedral space, I noticed a stain-glass window that I hadn't spotted before. It was of John Bunyan, the writer of Pilgrim's Progress. It seemed providential that I should see his image at the beginning of the Co-vid 19 lockdown, as he was imprisoned for his faith. During that time, he wrote one of the best selling books of English Literature, Pilgrim's Progress. I listened to the whole work whilst cycling a very wet eight hours from Calais to Abbeville France (on my St. Olav's Pilgrimage.) During this season of lockdown, and prohibited movement, what can we learn from John Bunyan and others about pilgrimage in isolation? The next blog will explore this important subject.