Ecumenical Walsingham

Under the auspices of the Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust, Anglicans of various shades, Roman Catholics, Scottish Presbyterians, Orthodox of several Patriarchates and Methodists now make a significant biennial visit to Walsingham

In 2002 a small group led by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia considered inviting those of the key denominations to celebrate their regard for the Mother of Jesus in a shared devotion and spiritual life centred on the holiness and inspiration of Walsingham. Out of the common core of scriptural teaching about the Mother of God and the Church’s traditional devotion to the Mother of the Lord the ecumenical Marian pilgrimages began celebrating the twofold grace of unity and diversity.

Living together

Over the past ten years the Trust has run a number ofresidential ecumenical pilgrimages which have included participation in each tradition’s distinctive liturgies and enjoying the fact that Walsingham is blessed with Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Methodist churches. Significant papers and devotional talks have

been contributed by a wide range of representatives of many Christian traditions, including the Syriac and Coptic Churches, during the various four days of Pilgrimage together.

There has been great gain and blessing in the exchange of views, the unique ecumenical ethos and in the formal and informal conversation, reminding us all that there are rich and diverse patterns of doctrine and devotion, some comfortable and some less so. The Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God, Choral Evensong, exposure to the life of the Coptic and Armenian traditions, attending Church of Scotland, United Reformed and Methodist Church liturgies have all given new insights to many. Our pilgrimages have combined the familiar with the less so.

A balanced programme

Talks, homilies and papers provide a balanced programme to interest and stimulate the wide variety of ecumenical pilgrims who have numbered between eighty and a hundred on each occasion. The welcome given by the local churches to clergy and people of our disparate community each year has always left very happy and fruitful memories. A residential pilgrimage allows time for socializing and fellowship and gives further opportunities to improve mutual understanding of those from different traditions. It is a matter of receiving as much as giving. The contributions

of Anglican evangelicals, including Bishop Peter Forster of Chester and Bishop Christopher Cocksworth of Coventry, have been significant. In past years, the Apostolic Nuncio and a former President of the Methodist Conference have presided at liturgies within their respective traditions.

Publications and other pilgrimages

The Trust has published most of the talks, homilies  and papers in a series of volumes under the general title, Prospects of Mary. The contents of those volumes – now out of print – may be found on the Trust’s website, <www. EcumenicalMarianPilgrimage.org.uk>.

In addition to the Walsingham residential pilgrimages, the Trust has arranged day pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Caversham, when the Abbot of Douai presided and preached, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Evesham, to Buxted (‘Nazareth in Sussex’) with its Walsingham associations and to Heron’s Ghyll with its historical connections to the Duke of Norfolk.

Next year

The forthcoming Walsingham pilgrimage in March 2013 includes talks on Mary in the Lutheran tradition by the Very Revd Tom Bruch, a paper by the Methodist scholar Dr Margaret Barker on Mary and the Temple Tradition, and on Mary in the life of the

Orthodox Syrian Church of India. Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia will be giving a paper on the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God and the Very Revd John Salter, Patriarchal Counsellor for Ecumenical Relations of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Antioch and Chairman of the Society of St John Chrysostom, will speak on the ecumenical work of Fr Fiennes Clinton. In addition to a Church of Scotland Communion Service at the Methodist church, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham will preside at Mass at the Catholic National Shrine and Bishop Jonathan Baker of Ebbsfleet will preside at the Anglican Eucharist in the Anglican Shrine church.

The singing of the Akathist before the Icon of the Theotokos, from the Chapel of the Life-giving Spring of the Mother of God in the Anglican Shrine, will be led by Metropolitan Kallistos who will serve the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom at the Orthodox church of St Seraphim.

The Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust is not a membership organization. It relies on those able to support its activities. Details of next year’s pilgrimage, Tuesday to Friday 12–15 March 2013, are available from <pbmarr@dircon.co.uk>, or from the Trust at 31 Kingsley Road, Plymouth PL4 6QP. ND

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