Monday, 23 September 2019

Walking promotes sense of wellbeing

ARE you feeling weary? In need of refreshment? A recent scientific study has suggested that sending employees on a pilgrimage-style retreat could help to improve both physical and mental wellbeing.

In addition, May is National Walking Month, so this seems a good time to think about being a pilgrim — whether that’s globally, locally or from our armchairs!

Pilgrimages have become increasingly popular in recent times with the BBC producing two series of programmes following well-known personalities in the centuries-old practice of walking pilgrim routes to spiritual destinations.

First, a group walked parts of the near on 500-mile Camino from the foothills of the French Pyrenees to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. More recently another group was featured walking parts of the 1,000-plus miles of the Via Francigena, which stretches from Canterbury to Rome.

So what is the attraction? And do you need to have a faith to go on a pilgrimage? The eight celebrities walking the Via Francigena are a mixture of diverse faiths and none.

It is tough going: some struggle physically, particularly with carrying their packs as they cross the Alps. They stay in a variety of hostels (some are better than others…). However, as they come to know each other and listen respectfully to one another’s beliefs, outlooks, lives, they naturally explore faith as they walk and as they appreciate the beauty of God’s world.

Pilgrimage can be very similar to our walk through life. We may find ourselves carrying heavy loads, climbing mountains, enjoying beauty. The truth is that we are all on a journey. Our journeys, like pilgrimages, can raise questions about faith, about belief, about life. Jesus spent much of his ministry walking from one place to another and was frequently confronted by people asking these very same questions.

Our celebrity pilgrims pondered some good questions that may help us to reflect on our own paths: What’s going on in my life at the moment — with God and with others? Who is walking beside me, supporting me on my journey? Are there people I too can support along the way? What am I carrying in my pack — not just the material things, but all the inner “stuff” that can whirl about in our heads and slow us down?

Eventually, the eight celebrities reach their destination, Rome, and this was perhaps the most moving part of the journey as they have the privilege of meeting Pope Francis and they are touched by his humility and love.

So whether you need refreshing, are keen to take part in National Walking Month, or are simply interested in exploring pilgrimage, there are plenty of opportunities on the doorstep. The Oxford Diocese has its own pilgrim route for anyone to travel: www.oxford.anglican.org/
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There are often opportunities for pilgrims to be blessed along their journey and so may God bless you this week as you continue through the pilgrimage of life!

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