Abridged from 'My Life Together' 2004 Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd p46 – p49 by Hilary Wilson. Hilary is member of L’Arche Liverpool
The word 'Pilgrimage' can have rather heavy or pious overtones today. We talk more easily about 'personal journey' or 'journey in life' in a metaphorical sense. Yet many readers of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales today get the impression that his pilgrims were really on what we would call holiday.
Actually pilgrimage is fun as well as challenging – at least as L'Arche communities have discovered it. It’s another experience of making real, of acting out, what is happening among us in the daily journey of community life, and of being welcomed and making new friends along the way.
Members of L'Arche Lambeth regularly wend their way through the Kent countryside on their way to Canterbury and other communities choose other destinations, finding hospitality in church halls, schools or student chaplaincies on the way.
L'Arche Liverpool has often chosen Liverpool itself as the 'holy place' for their destination. Beginning far from home in the Lancashire countryside, the community walks by stages pushing friends in wheelchairs along canal paths and through housing estates to meet with hundreds of members of all the different churches of Merseyside at a joyful ecumenical celebration of Pentecost in Liverpool's two cathedrals.
An assistant in the community remarked: "we needed to go on pilgrimage; I think we discovered the great gifts we have in the community." Not everyone can walk the full distance. Needing a lift, or a little help from your friends, is also part of life.
Pilgrimage, journeying together, 'walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain', leaving some of our familiar routines, meeting new people, facing new challenges, needing one another along the way. All of these form a strong image for a way towards unity, reconcilliation and the healing of divisions.