On Wednesday, 18th March, Father Peter Farrington and Subdeacon Michael Kennedy drove from Kent to the ancient pilgrim destination of Little Walsingham where they had been invited by the organisers of the Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage to celebrate the Raising of Evening Incense for the participants in the pilgrimage. Walsingham is a wonderful destination at any time, peaceful and spiritual, a village given over almost entirely to pilgrims. It is the site of an appearance of the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, in 1061 and became an important place of pilgrimage until the destruction of the monasteries under Henry VIII.
Father Peter and Michael Kennedy arrived in the early evening, and began their visit with prayer in the Anglican Shrine, before joining the other pilgrims in the Refectory for the evening meal. By happy coincidence while checking in at the Reception of the Shrine complex they met Father Ivan Moody, an Orthodox priest and internationally renowned composer. Father Peter has been a friend of Father Ivan online for some time, but this was the first opportunity to meet in person.
Later that evening Father Ivan gave an interesting and informative lecture on the Virgin Mary in the music of the Orthodox Church in the Anglican Shrine. His presentation was enriched by the use of many excerpts of Orthodox liturgical music. Father Peter was pleased to see some familiar faces and greeted Bishop John Goodall, Father Stephen Platt and our old friend Stephen Penna. Later in the pilgrimage he was pleased to meet Metropolitan Kallistos and Mrs. Helen Brock, the wife of the celebrated Syrian scholar, Sebastian Brock.
On Thursday, 19th March, Father Peter and Michael Kennedy were very fortunate to be able to attend a lecture by His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, one of the Trustees of the Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage Trust. He spoke on the Virgin Mary in the writings of Sergius Bulgakov. It was a pleasure to listen to such a master of his subject.
The pilgrimage then moved from the Anglican Shrine to the Catholic National Shrine a little way outside the village, at the medieval Slipper Chapel, where pilgrims would once have removed their shoes and walked the last mile barefoot to the now destroyed Abbey. In the new facilities there a solemn Catholic Mass was celebrated by Bishop Alan Hope. Father Peter greeted the bishop after the mass and presented the best wishes of Metropolitan Seraphim and the British Orthodox Church.
While the pilgrims dispersed to enjoy a lunch of soup and sandwiches, Father Peter and Michael Kennedy greeted Father George Joy of the Indian Orthodox Church, who had been invited to speak about the Virgin Mary in the Indian tradition. Father George gave an interesting presentation on the Virgin Mary in the experience of the Indian Orthodox Church, and then it was late afternoon and time for the Raising of Incense. Our host, Father Mark Woodruff, had kindly produced 50 copies of the text of the Raising of Incense which were distributed among the mixed congregation. Father George kindly celebrated the service with Father Peter, while Subdeacon Michael Kennedy expertly diaconised even though we were in a place of worship we were not familiar with.
The pilgrims participated in the service and it was with some regret that Father Peter and Michael Kennedy set out for home, as the pilgrimage was continuing until Friday afternoon. It had been a most interesting and spiritually fruitful visit and the opportunity to participate had been well worth the journey.