Here is a photograph of me, in the blue shirt, my wife Liz, and a friend called Peter, taken on pilgrimage last year. I thought that this would be a good place to start.As you can see I am not young and I am fat. I wish as was like my friend Peter, who eats like a horse and never puts on a pound.
So here we go!
My story so far.
I was ordained as priest in the Church of England in 1981. So by the time I got to 2006 I was feeling in need of some sort of change or refreshment. I heard about the diocesan scheme for sabbaticals and this seemed the answer to my needs. I had heard of other priests taking this time to go to Monasteries in the Sinai or other places to study some obscure piece of patristics. This was not for me, so I wondered what I could do that would qualify for the Sabbatical and more importantly for the grant that goes with it.
It's funny how things come together. Earlier that year, as a family, we had decided to go on a holiday to northern Spain. We like to get about, so a took a day of to go up to that great map shop in London, Stanfords to buy some maps of the area. Above the rack of maps was a copy of a guide to the Camino Frances and a book by Nancy Frey on the Santiago pilgrimage. So as I had
made a mental note that one day I would like to see the giant incense burner in Santiago, but knew very little about, I browsed these books. The books were purchased. I went home, reading about pilgrimage on the train as I went.
Pontius Pilate asked at the trail of Jesus 'What is truth'. I begin to realise that I am already beginning to drift a little from reality. I cannot remember which came first. The possibility of
a Sabbatical or me finding the above books. I am not sure if the Sabbatical was the peg to hang the trip to Santiago on, or if pilgrimage was a great way to use a sabbatical. The outcome is the same. I decided that it was a cool idea to walk 550 miles from the French border to the bones of St James in his Cathedral in Galicia Northwest Spain. The only problem was I am not a walker.
It was January. Like most priests I know I was running a car that any self respecting man would laugh at and call an old banger. Getting up one morning to do the same as yesterday, I got into the car to drive my children to School. The old banger did what old bangers do and refused to start. No option, a walk to school for me with the children. It takes about 30 minutes to get there. On the way back I thought that if a diverted a little and increased the distance then this would be the beginning of the training needed to be fit enough to do the walk. That was the start of a good period of preparation. Each day the distance was increased and the weight came down.
And this reminds me that it is now early February and the next pilgrimage is in May so I had better begin all over again.