New followers don’t know this, but four years ago, I did go on a Bristol Pilgrimage. The adult choir at my family church was singing at the Bristol Cathedral for a week. The spiritual areas we went to were day trips outside of Bristol. The pilgrimage actually began in London- that lasted only 2 and 1/2 days.
This year, the choir got to sing in Italy in Venice, Florence, and Rome. That was the pilgrimage I didn’t go on. It was due to the price. It was more expensive to go.
If I could pick one or the other, which would I choose?
I would choose England. For starters, there is no language barrier. Second, there is home base. All the pilgrims had their day trip and then afterwards got to back to Bristol each day. So, there was time to relax. There are many many many reasons why England meant a lot to me.
Let’s start at pre-pilgrimage. Yes, my family went up two days early. That was to get used to the time difference and to get a little bit more of London. That allowed me to see a musical in the West End. It wasn’t just any musical- I saw Les Mis in the West End that summer. The date was July 30th, 2015 where I ended up with an understudy as Jean Valjean. So, seeing Les Mis in the West End fit perfectly into pilgrimage- Les Mis is Jean Valjean’s spiritual journey- so I went from his spiritual journey to my own. This cast was epic, brilliant, powerful, passionate, and highly emotional. I still remember what it was like the moment I saw the theatre- I thought I was pretending- I didn’t know I was living it until I heard the orchestra.
Do you think seeing Les Mis was the only thing that made England special? It wasn’t- there was a lot of other things that made the Bristol Pilgrimage what it was. After all, Les Mis wasn’t part of the Pilgrimage. It happened the day before. The fellowship that was created between 72 pilgrims was strong- “we are pilgrims on the journey. we are travelers on the road. we are here to help each other. walk the mile and bear the load.” That quote from the servant song was something I realized much later on explained all of us perfectly- we were pilgrims, we were travelers, and we did help each other.
We did go to unknown places. Leaving London was scary. I did not know anything about Bristol. I did not know if I would like it. I already had fallen in love with London- I only spent 4 and 1/2 days there- with the group, we had seen Windsor Castle, gotten a walking tour, had Evensong at Westminster in the quire, and attended Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral under the dome. Leaving Bristol to me was going into the unknown- we arrived to Bristol in the Evening. Little did I know how much I was going to love that town.
By the end of the week, I had gone to Berkeley Castle, Bath, Stonehenge, Old Sarum, attended Evensong at Salisbury Cathedral, Tintern Abbey, and Chepstow Castle. In total, our flock of Shaun the Sheep went to 21- that is how we found we found out of 70. At Bristol Cathedral- I went to six Evensongs and one Eucharist. I did not think I would go to all of the church services, but I did. Here’s how I know how transforming the entire pilgrimage was- it was at the final Evensong. It was during the anthem, and I was crying- it was happy tears, and that reaction told me how much I was transformed during that trip.
What was my mountain-top moment? It was Stonehenge.
What was the best part of the pilgrimage? It was the Fellowship. If the Fellowship wasn’t that strong, everything that happened wouldn’t have mattered as much.
What was the best part of the entire trip (that is both the pilgrimage and the two extra days)? Les Mis
So, if I could actually could choose between Italy and England, I would still pick England. England was so transforming in so many ways, and because it happened- I heard the people sing. After Italy, my mom told me I would not like Italy because it was constant on the go- you do not get a moment to relax period. England it still my way to go. I loved where I went with England- since I was a pilgrim, I searched deeper in those scared places- that is what a pilgrims does- they search deeper in themselves to find the sacredness of a certain place.