When I worked for Youth for Christ I worked with a singer called Maggi Dawn on a couple of occasions. Although I didn’t get to know her well I remember her positively as a good person to work with. She has subsequently gone down the path of Anglican ordination (so many of my friends and former colleagues have gone down that route – despite persuasions from some of these friends I haven’t yet followed ) and has made a name for herself in theological circles.
I recently noticed that Maggi has written a book called “The Accidental Pilgrim”. The title intrigued, and I’m always keen to get any new angle on this life we call pilgrimage, so I ordered it up and have started to read it.
So far it charts the changes in Maggi as she discovers that pilgrim places are not just about facts and first-hand knowledge, or even about having a ‘religious experience’, but about changing our perspectives and even transforming us. Along the way she describes some well-known pilgrim destinations and recounts the history of pilgrimage…it makes for a great cocktail!
“And, as in most religious gatherings, there was a pair of irritatingly over-keen evangelists who seemed to think that their God-given role on this trip was to correct everyone else’s point of view, interspersing every conversation with somewhat Pharisaical interjections about the ‘true meaning’ of the Bible.” p7
“Our scholarly adventure followed in the footsteps of worshippers who seemed to care little about the authenticity of the place (Jerusalem); their interest as they clutched prayer beads or sang with arms raised to heaven, was in an encounter with their God.” p15
“Looking back from the perspective of Christian history, it might appear that the crowds of people turned up especially to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, but it’s thought that on the first Palm Sunday Jesus and his disciples joined an existing pilgrimage into Jerusalem, which every year marked the hope of the long-awaited Messiah. It was only as the procession moved down the hill that Jesus gradually became the centre of attention” p19
“…my view of pilgrimage was a scattered collection of images like random pieces from a jigsaw with most of the bits missing and no picture on the box to help put them together. Was pilgrimage really about the journey or the destination? Did it matter whether the destination had any historical verification, or was it entirely a matter of tradition, or even superstition? Were pilgrims supposed to suffer penances, or – like Chaucer’s pilgrims or the pilgrims on the tourist coach – was pilgrimage equally valid made in comfort?” p25
“The difference between a tourist and a pilgrim is that, while a tourist travels to get away from it all before going back to reality, a pilgrim is transformed by the experience and returns home changed.” p48
I’m looking forward to the next chapter…”Pushchair Plgrim”.