Devon Pilgrim Invites Us to ‘Take a Journey of the Heart’
New pilgrimage routes linking Devon’s historic churches and ancient holy sites are part of a new project that launched at the Devon County Show.
Devon Pilgrim aims to offer all the inspiration and information people need to “take a journey of the heart”.
It has been created by the Diocese of Exeter’s Growing the Rural Church team, working with churches and other volunteers across the region.
Sarah Cracknell, the Growing the Rural Church Project Manager, said “Devon Pilgrim provides routes across Devon where people can safely walk, following clear directions, so they can focus on the purpose of the journey rather than needing to find their way.
“Pilgrimage is having a resurgence, whether it is the Celtic idea of the inner journey or the medieval tradition of travelling to a specific place to seek help or ask for direction.
“Both of those are still current. People do look for direction in times of need or to understand the purpose of their life.
“We also have a greater awareness now of our own wellbeing.”
The initial Devon Pilgrim routes are the Archangel’s Way (from St Michael’s, Brentor, to St Michael the Archangel, Chagford), the St Boniface Way from Crediton Parish Church to Exeter Cathedral and the Sacred Waters Way, which explores the spirituality of the river Dart from its source to sea.
The Devon Pilgrim project has its own website with details of all the routes with step-by-step guides to download, information about walking safely, and how to make a pilgrimage perfect for you.
The Archangel’s Way official opening event will be at Belstone Tor on Dartmoor on Saturday 31 July at midday.
It will begin with the first performance of a song commissioned to mark the opening of the Way by Devon folk musician Jim Causley.
Helping launch Devon Pilgrim at the Devon County Show was The Rev’d Paul Seaton Burn, Team Vicar of Michael’s, Chagford, which marks the end of the Archangel’s Way.
He said, “Pilgrims come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and these routes are for everyone.
“Not only do they invite people of all faiths and none to reconnect with this ancient landscape and their own bodies, but they are also opportunities to gain perspective and understand ourselves in a deeper way.
“Supporting local businesses across Devon is another reason why this is a brilliant project, as well as bringing all sorts of people together to offer hospitality and share stories with visitors and locals alike.”
Each pilgrimage is divided into sections which starts and ends at a church, so they can be walked in one go over several days or in shorter segments.
The churches all have a ‘pilgrim corner’ with prayers and meditations for people to engage with and a pilgrim stamp for walkers to mark their progress in specially designed Pilgrim Passports.
The Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Robert Atwell, said “We associate pilgrimage with the medieval world but in our generation, we have rediscovered its grace.
“People of all backgrounds are walking the ancient paths and, in so doing, entering upon a journey of the heart.
“Many of them are discovering that God walks with them in their life.”
There are plans to develop more Devon Pilgrim routes as time goes on and showcase existing pilgrimage routes in the county.
“This is a chance for churches along the routes to offer a Christian perspective on pilgrimage,” Sarah Cracknell said.
“People might not want to go to traditional Sunday services but maybe a guided pilgrimage walk, a meditation and some gentle introduction to prayer, is actually what they are seeking.”
The Archangel’s Way Blessing:
May our God of the high moor,
of tor and of the singing rivers
and inspire you
with truth, goodness and beauty
until your journey’s end.