To be a pilgrim?

I’m going to start the meat of my blog by talking about pilgrimage.  There seems to me to be a complete misunderstanding of the nature of pilgrimage around, particularly among churches which are very proud of their identity as pilgrim churches.  Pilgrimage is not a package tour.  It does not restrict itself to familiar places and routes, and nor does it make any guarantees as to the structures which will be around to support progress.  We are called, it seems to me, to sit lightly to the structures which accompany us at any given point, and to seek connections with pilgrims through and around them, and to at least consider pruning and amending them as the conditions of our pilgrimage alter.

Churches, being institutions concerned above all with their own preservation and the retention of their membership, find it in their interest to offer a package tour rather than a pilgrimage.  It is more comfortable to both sides not to explore the world outside, even to label it a threat to the pilgrimage itself, i.e. as sin.  To me this is a misunderstanding of the character of the creation of a loving God.  Exploring that creation is the word of life, not of death, a call into God not a dangerous distraction from God’s love.  If individuals and institutions can’t face this truth, it is hard to see how they can embrace the reality of God, which infinitely stranger and more familiar to us than we are are to ourselves.

Of course, there is much here that needs exploration, and I would caution against the over-easy rejection of church structure which I seem to be promoting.  The call to sit lightly to a given form is addressed as much to the church itself as to its members – it’s a call to organic life, to growth and development, to focus on relationships as the means by which that life is developed and maintained, rather than a given state of church structure as being eternally right and desirable.  As human beings made in the image of God, we also need to embrace our own pilgrimage, and be willing to set aside long cherished understandings of ourselves as partial and provisional rather than the final word.  The final word is only found in total union with God.

Julian has much to say about the intimate relationship Christ calls us into with God, and about the intimacy of the relationship that the trinity itself constitutes.  I will explore this as my blog develops, and I look forward to reading your comments.

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