A short report on the inaugural pilgrimage on the Two Saints Way
First of all we were blessed with the most amazing weather. Wall to wall sunshine from March 25th to the 30th then two grey but mostly dry days before an absolute cracker of a day on April 1st. Secondly it was a great core group who completed the journey from Chester to Lichfield. I have led a lot of teams in my time, but this was a group that looked out for each other and was very welcoming to all those who joined us for days or half days. Finally we received the most wonderful hospitality all the way. Complete strangers were put up in people’s homes in every place where we stopped and churches put on amazing lunches and refreshment stops. It can rightly be said that the Two Saints Way is a product of hospitality.
So to some of the week’s highlights:-
- We began in a beautiful place – having a picnic in the cloister garden at Chester Cathedral beside the beautiful Water of Life statue by Stephen Broadbent. A moving commissioning service followed before the west doors were opened for us to take our first steps to Lichfield.
- When we arrived in Wybunbury, we were delighted to see the first Two Saints Way waymarks already in place beside the leaning tower of St Chad’s. It was a big encouragement to see this kind of local initiative. Later in the week, we put up waymarks between Tittensor and Stone expressing our desires for future pilgrims as we did so.
- On Wednesday March 28th the bells peeled out from St Bertoline’s Barthomley as we began the day’s walk, then they followed us all day ringing to celebrate the opening of the Two Saints Way at St James Audley, St Mary’s Wolstanton and at Stoke Minster at the end of the day. That was a lovely gesture that encouraged us on our way!
- On Thursday 29th we revived the ancient practice of preaching at the two old crosses at Stoke Minster and St Mary’s Trentham. Also we were joined by two Saxon pilgrims from the Poor Cnights of St Chad re-enactment group. They fitted in brilliantly and answered everyone’s questions about their get-up.
- Reviving pilgrimage practices was a major feature of the journey. On Friday 30th, we brought stones to Stone which used to be done to remember that the martyr princes Wulfad and Rufin were buied under a pile of stones. On the final day we walked in silence down Cross in Hand Lane carrying hand crosses made of olive wood from Bethlehem and then in the pedilavium at Lichfield Cathedral our feet were washed by Canon Pete Wilcox. All these were moving and meaningful occasions and amazing to think they had probably not been done for over 460 years!
- The final event began with us walking with the Bishop of Lichfield from the cathedral by Stowe Pool to St Chad’s Well, waving palm leaves and singing “To be a pilgrim.” A short dedication service followed during which the first interpretation panel was opened by the Bishop. It was a great occasion and many commented on the high quality of the panel.
Bishop of Lichfield with David Pott
My lasting impression is of profound gratitude for all the kindness and cooperation we have received and above all I am thankful to God, the source and inspiration for the Two Saints Way.
Photo Credits: Castle Ring – Tim Saxton, Bishop of Lichfield & David Pott – Ian Law, Spotlight