Seventy-five people from many faith traditions, eastern and western, gathered in Walsingham for a four-day pilgrimage beginning on Tuesday, 17 March. This biennial meeting, organized by the Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust, has the support of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, the Catholic League and the Pontifical Society of St John Chrysostom. Accommodation was at the Anglican Shrine, which has had some significant new developments in the past year in particular the Milner Wing where those fortunate enough to have an en-suite room found it very agreeable. The architecture of the new buildings harmonizes well with the older structures.
There was a full programme of liturgical services, scriptural meditations and formal talks. After the welcome by the newly appointed Administrator of the Anglican Shrine, Bishop Lindsay Urwin (previously Bishop of Horsham), the proceedings opened with a Liturgy of Reconciliation in the Shrine Church. This was followed by a Holy Communion Service in the United Reformed tradition conducted by the Revd Dr Colin Thompson, Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and held in the Methodist Church. Prebendary Norman Wallwork in his sermon compared the thanksgiving and praise in Mary’s Magnificat with that of the Eucharist. After supper, the Choir of Norwich Cathedral sang Choral Evensong in the Anglican Parish Church. The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester preached on the theme of ‘God’s choice’.
Wednesday began with a Scripture Meditation on the Marriage Feast at Cana by Dr Thompson followed by a talk from Metropolitan Kallistos who, reflecting on the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, considered her vocation and our own vocation. At noon, Bishop George Stack, Auxiliary in Westminster was Principal Celebrant at the Roman Catholic Mass in the Reconciliation Chapel. After lunch Fr. Mark Woodruff spoke on Arca Foederis: the Mother of God, Lambert Beauduin and the Church’s Prayer for Unity. This was followed by the Ecumenical Office. Returning to Walsingham and to the new Church of the Annunciation there was Benediction and a reflection on John 19:25-27, Mary at the foot of the Cross, by Fr Philip Swingler. After supper Jon Cannon gave an illustrated presentation on English medieval Lady Chapels.
During Thursday morning Bishop Lindsay Urwin was officially Licensed as Administrator of the Anglican Shrine by the Bishop of Norwich in the Shrine Church. So our pilgrims moved to the Anglican Church of St Mary for a reflection on Mary at Pentecost, and her relationship with the Holy Spirit, by Metropolitan Kallistos. Dr Athanasius McVay, a church historian and priest of the Ukranian Greek Catholic Basilian Order spoke on the Pre-Ecumenical Uniates and the Ecumenical Eastern Catholic Byzantine (Greek) Catholics yesterday and today. After which the Anglican Eucharist was celebrated by the Revd John Hunwicke, Priest-in-charge of St Thomas’, and Senior Research Fellow, Pusey House, Oxford. In the afternoon the Revd Sandy Williams – Senior Tutor at Wesley College, Bristol – spoke on Rescue, release and Redemption: Mary and the Exodus Traditions in the Gospel of Matthew and their relevance today. Fr Shnork Baghdassarian (Armenian Orthodox) followed with a talk on St Mary in the Armenian Church: doctrinal position, rituals, feasts, customs and tradition. In the evening we shared in the Akathist Hymn and later in the Panel Discussion.
The Friday programme began with a Passion Meditation. Helen Brock together with Paul Paniccia and John Hanks read a Syriac Dialogue Poem: The Cherub and the Thief. The main Eucharistic service of the day was the Orthodox Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified in the Orthodox Church of St Seraphim celebrated by Metropolitan Kallistos. The Pilgrimage ended after lunch with ecumenical prayers in the Anglican Shrine Church.
Fr Peter Marr who organized the pilgrimage is to be congratulated and thanked for the success of this truly great pilgrimage/conference. All went very smoothly and the contribution of all the speakers was outstanding. The weather was kind and one met many friends from previous conferences and pilgrimages. It was a very blessed event.