For the first 18 years of my life, I lived in the North East of England. I have vivid memories of regular journeys into nearby Durham and my mam exclaiming (every single time!), “Can you see it? Can you see the Cathedral?” She nevers tires of the view of the Gothic cathedral peaking through the trees. Trips to this local holy place were often a holiday treat for us as a family, moments of exploring and prayer punctuated with trips to the cafe for a slice of cake!

As I got older, I realised I was spoilt for choice in the northeast for places to make a local pilgrimage. As a student I discovered that in the midst of student-land in Newcastle there’s a shrine to Our Lady in Jesmond Dene and St. Peter’s Church at Wearmouth built on land given by King Ecgfrith to St. Benedict Biscop in 673 AD. Further afield to the north, the beautiful island of Lindisfarne (known as Holy Island) is filled with stories of St Aiden and St Cuthbert, and to the south in Yorkshire there are many remains of huge monasteries. For those wanting to follow in the footsteps of saints that have trodden northern paths, the list could go on and on.

As I’ve travelled the UK, I’ve realised that this isn’t just a heritage belonging to the North East; the whole of our land is fruitful with Christian pilgrimage sites, both ancient and new.

In July, during the w/c 11th July 2022, our Ten Ten Year of Pilgrimage assembly is called Our Pilgrimage to…? and we are inviting schools to make their own pilgrimage locally.

The purpose of this is to help children realise that God is all around us and that faith has been passed down from generation to generation! Pilgrimages can take us far away, but also they can be really close to home. Special places and times set aside for God reminds us to think of Him and share our journey towards Him with our families and friends.

The assembly resource will work whether or not you are able to facilitate any kind of additional pilgrimage, but it is something that you might like to plan for as a way of increasing engagement and interest with the Ten Ten Year of Pilgrimage both at home and in school.

Here are some ideas that you might like to bear in mind whilst planning:

  • You could take all or some children on a school trip to a local pilgrimage site, e.g. the parish church, diocesan cathedral, a local shrine etc.
  • You could plan for pupils to document their experience in writing or pictures and present back about their experiences during the Our Pilgrimage to…? assembly.
  • You might like to contact your Diocesan Education Service, as the diocese may already have lists available of pilgrimage sites and shrines in your local area.
  • You could hold a ‘pilgrimage’ in school, e.g. setting up a shrine in your schoolyard, prayer garden or hall. You could have a procession to the shrine and a time of prayer when you reach the destination.
  • You might like to invite someone from a local religious community (a priest, brother or sister) to share with the children a little bit about their faith journey and explain who it was who shared faith with them when they were children/adults.

During the w/c 11 July there will be time in the assembly for pupils to share and reflect on their pilgrimage experience, so it would be ideal for any pilgrimage activity to happen before or during that week. It’s important to note that the assembly materials for that week will also work if your school does not take the opportunity to go on a local pilgrimage. If you do end up going on a holy adventure, don’t forget to tag @TenTen_UK in your photographs if you Tweet them – we’d love to see you on your local pilgrimages!