Our local group in Sheffield has a very successful annual ‘Pilgrimage’ event. Revd Phil Borkett, a regular pilgrim, explains why this is such a powerful event.
I have been taking part in Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield’s poverty pilgrimages for the last five years or so. I have always found these to be stimulating and challenging. As well as helping me to discover new ways in which the church is working alongside those living in poverty, they have been wonderful opportunities to meet others and share common concern with people from right across our very diverse city.
Last year’s pilgrimage was, as always, extremely well organised. It gave pilgrims an opportunity to visit the Darnall area, to the east of Sheffield, and to learn about some of the projects that are working with our more disadvantaged neighbours. We had a glimpse of allotments, childcare projects, food-based activities of all sorts, sports facilities, intergenerational work, and projects working to build bridges between Christians and Muslims. We also experienced some of the worship that holds together the Christian community in one of the more challenging sections of Sheffield.
It was as ever stimulating, challenging, thought-provoking and deeply spiritual. All such pilgrimages have the potential to be life-changing but maybe I didn’t expect the change to be so profound for me! I have been a Methodist minister in Sheffield for 12 years, having worked in several churches mostly in an urban or inner-city context. Aware that I had a few more years to offer and that it might be time to make a further internal move, I went on the pilgrimage wondering if God might speak to me. And God did! During the day I had an increasingly strong sense of conviction that I wasn’t just participating in the walk as an observer; no, God was stirring me too consider whether there was a call to ministry in this area.
Well, there was an opportunity, and once the necessary formalities and procedures were undertaken I found myself as minister of Church of Christ, a joint URC, Anglican and Methodist church in the heart of the community. My first service there was in September 2017, just under 12 months since that prayerful walk through Darnall. I am certainly looking forward to the next step on my own pilgrimage to the community!
So, thanks to those who organise the pilgrimages, and a word of encouragement to fellow pilgrims to be open to what God might have in store for you!