Synod Pilgrimage: Faith Streams – Living Waters
Thursday May 19th
One again the day started just right with Mary’s prayers – today’s being a sensitive mix of reflective material and our own contributions on the theme of peace. And a peace dove from the Holy Land with oil in its lamp, ignited for the first time, kindled a flame of hope for the day ahead without the feared conflagration of the chapel.
After breakfast and the usual preparations, and a quick visit to the supermarket to buy lunch, we were on our way towards Keswick. Only a couple of weeks ago this would have been an impossible journey, as the main road had been swept away following the winter floods. But happily the re-opening has taken place ahead of the promised time, making a visit to Derwentwater a possibility once again.
We drove through Keswick and into Borrowdale, stopping finally at Rosthwaite. Following our usual custom, we began the day’s journey, outside the village hall, with a couple verses of a hymn. We weren’t to know that inside the hall a drama company were engaged in a live recording – and after their complaints we didn’t like to ask whether our voices had been recorded for posterity, and who might now own the copyright.
The first two miles walking to Grange took us through a variety of woodland scenery. There were fewer reflective stops than the past days, as we knew there were more miles to cover – but the sight of a yurt and a smoking chimney, together with Dave’s recollection of comfortable camping experiences, led us to express our gratitude for the variety of influences across the world that make our lives so rich today. And then in Grange itself we stopped for a few moments in the parish church – a real jewel in its simplicity.
The forecast had been grim. So far so good, but the rain threatened at lunchtime, and we were soon well waterproofed for the next stage of the walk. More miles through woodland, meeting up with Peter who had parked the bus at the end of the journey and had come back to meet us. Fewer stops, though one of the most memorable was at the carved hands which mark the spot (in an area of mixed woodland) where the National Trust had its physical beginning. Are the hands receiving or giving? – the Trust surely has been a channel for both, for so many people over the hundred plus years of its existence.
Finally we dropped down to the shore of Derwentwater at Nichol End – where there was tea and coffee to be purchased, as well as the largest scones known to humankind. And the boats were ready to transport us across to St Herbert’s Island – and the boatmen were more than ready to share their views about the stories of the saint, and their feelings about the spirituality of the island and their own love of the lake.
Once we were ashore we made our way to the centre of the island, and the ruins which could just mark the site of the hermit’s cell – or which may just be the remains of some 18th century folly. Who knows? But Dave reminded us of the life of St Herbert as recorded by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History, and of his strong friendship with Cuthbert – a friendship which lasted up to their deaths, on the selfsame day.
Lis then reminded us of the centrality of our own friendship with one another and with the one who calls us on our own life pilgrimages through a silent communion, and through the sharing of this special “picnic” of bread and wine.
There was just time for us to walk to the far shore of the island, and to look south across the expanse of the lake to the Jaws of Borrowdale and Castle Crag looming through the mist. How blessed we felt that the day had not been rained off as we had feared – and how welcome the friendliness of the boatmen, who took us for an extra trip around the island before bringing us back safe to the jetty.
A long day – a good walk. And somehow we had the energy once we were back at the Centre to walk to the local Italian restaurant and home again – and in our final prayers together to say “thank you, Lord” for so many good things that this final day of our pilgrimage had afforded.