Pause for thought: 'To be a pilgrim'
I am not a film buff, I don’t have lots of film knowledge, so it is always a surprise that I can remember the film Clockwise, starring John Cleese as a headteacher eager to make a good impression. Very briefly, he likes his school to run like clockwork, and in the film he is meant to speak at a headteachers conference in Norwich. Due to a number of unfortunate incidents he can’t get transport so he hitches a lift with a sixth former who is playing truant from school. A number of even more bizarre incidents ensue and he arrives at the conference just in time for the opening hymn. The hymn is ‘To be a pilgrim’.
The film is very funny and enjoyable but strangely, the part I remember best is that hymn. Each verse ends with the line ‘to be a pilgrim’. The whole hymn is about remaining constant to faith, to keep being a pilgrim, to keep following God. It is based on the words of John Bunyan’s, ‘Pilgrims Progress’. In the hymn there is the need to remain faithful no matter what is happening around you. It is a true commitment that, regardless of everything, we keep our faith, our vision and promise to be a pilgrim.
The word pilgrim often gives pictures of people trudging through hardship, long walks in groups, in the manner of something like Chaucer's Canterbury tales, but it is so much more than this. It is faith which causes us to keep following God. It is retaining in our minds always that triumphant moment of realisation that we can be confident that, even when it is hard for us to stay constant in faith and we sometimes just want to end our ‘pilgrimage’, go home and close the door and forget everything, God is constant and He never fails.
The hymn talks of being a pilgrim as being of great intent. I love this, we make a choice and we stick by it. In recent years on BBC there has been the programme ‘Pilgrimage’. In this programme people who have different faiths are brought together, and they go on a pilgrimage to a religious site. It is really interesting to watch people discussing their beliefs and talking about what faith and what questions they have. In each of the three series, it seems those who have a faith at the beginning end up with a renewed commitment to their faith. These people are on long walks but in the peace and talking with others they find their way to a deeper interest in faith.
This is what being a pilgrim is. As we journey, as we question and talk and listen, we find our way to a deeper faith, and we become intent on growing in our faith and letting nothing get jn the way. Enjoy the pilgrimage with great intent, let nothing get in the way.
Revd Helen Rees