On a beautiful sunny day in late April, a small group of pilgrims gathered at St. Winefride’s Well, Holywell as we began our pilgrimage journey from Holywell to Shrewsbury. We were welcomed by the local clergy, who prayed with us and blessed us on our way, and by the Guardian of the Well Shrine who shared the history of this holy place, visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. (Read more of the account of St. Winefride’s dedication and faithful following of God’s call on her life, and further details of the pilgrimage, on our diocesan website. Please do join us for the later stages, as we journey towards Shrewsbury.)
During the first two days of our pilgrimage I was struck by the generous hospitality and prayerful support of the churches that welcomed us during our journey. It has been so encouraging to hear the good news of God at work through the faithful and creative witness of these communities of faith, often serving a wide geographical area of isolated rural communities.
In the New Testament we see the Greek word for ‘hospitality’ used, which literally translates as ‘love for strangers’. It is clear in the bible that there is an understanding that showing hospitality changes all those involved in the act: those receiving hospitality, and those offering are no longer strangers. This has certainly been my experience of the hospitality shown by our host churches - we are no longer strangers but pilgrims together as we follow Jesus.
I have also been deeply moved by the generosity of my companion pilgrims in supporting one another along the way. To journey together requires a significant measure of honesty, openness and vulnerability as we celebrate the joy of the journey, appreciate wonderful mountain views, the warmth of Christian fellowship, prayer together and a deepening of our faith. But also in acknowledging when we are tired or are finding a particular section of the journey especially challenging, in listening carefully as people share of themselves and their personal journey of faith and in sharing life together as community.
As beloved children of our loving God and followers of Jesus, we are all called to demonstrate the extravagant love of God in acts of generous hospitality of the heart as we walk the journey of faith and life together. St. Winefride’s story is one of
restoration, transformation, healing and blessing. I hope that you will join us in giving thanks for this remarkable life of faith and in sharing the good news of God’s love, shown to us in Jesus, as we reach out into the communities we serve.
+ Sarah Shrewsbury