When Wendy (my wife) and I were beginning to plan our move to the Borders of Scotland and England, she came up with the expression “metaphorical coracle” to describe the ‘journey’ we were about to make.
Although we were setting out in the spirit of the Celtic travelling monks, who sailed away in their coracles in search of a ‘desert in the ocean’, our mode of transport was altogether more modern and less prosaic, hence the ‘metaphorical’ bit.
Northumbria Community uses two metaphors to describe elements of Celtic Christian spirituality – ‘cell’ and ‘coracle’. The cell speaks of the inner journey, of monastic life and contemplation, whilst the coracle speaks of geographical and physical travel, of mission and journey “for the love of Christ”.
I must confess that I have always had a bias towards the ‘coracle’ bit rather than the more static cell. Being a contemplative on the move, enjoying community ‘on the road’ has always appealed to my more pioneering and adventurous side. Pilgrimage has been an exciting discovery for me…I believe that every place was sacred, that God’s presence is everywhere in God’s world, but I have learned that it is more possible to be aware of that presence in some places than others.
I’ve just got back from leading the annual pilgrimage along St Cuthbert’s Way for Northumbria Community. Once again I have enjoyed the company of another varied bunch of pilgrims, deep conversation, aches and pains, silence and solitude, side-splitting laughter and happy ‘chance-encounters’.
It comes as the culmination of lots of thinking about a new context (a replacement for ‘Community’) to work out my relationship with God through Jesus; I finally believe that my new metaphor for this journey is, appropriately “Pilgrimage”. In one sense there’s nothing new…the road goes on, the journey continues. But in another sense it feels like a more dynamic and mobile metaphor than the settled and static metaphore that community had become.
I have been and am doing a lot of reading, thinking and meditating, the fruits of which will, no doubt, spill over slowly onto this blog. I am also planning more walking pilgrimages to special places with associations to my relationship and history with God, but along with these literal ‘walks’ I am also beginning to find new motivation in the whole idea of “Life as Pilgrimage”. Perhaps it has to do with the approach of my 60th year (yet another mid-life crisis!), but I find it a stimulating and energising metaphor.
“Life as Pilgrimage”…watch this space!