THE Vicar of Todmorden is looking forward to the challenge of completing the inaugural Paulinus Way pilgrimage to York next weekend.
Canon Owen Page will embark on the week-long walk with parishioners of St Mary’s Church and other churches in Todmorden, as well as pilgrims from as far away as Sweden and New Zealand.
“The aim is to share with people the excitement of spiritual pilgrimage,” he said.
“It’s about hospitality and camaraderie. We won’t go striding off. We’ll keep together. That’s the great thing about pilgrimage.
“To be a Christian and a person of faith is an exciting journey in this life. It has its difficult challenges and it has its wonderfully exciting times.”
Three years of preparation have gone into preparing the Paulinus Way after the discovery that St Paulinus would have walked the tops of Todmorden on his journey from York to Cumbria.
The pilgrimage route was set up to mirror St Paulinus’ journey.
It will be launched at the Paulinus Festival over the bank holiday weekend, which will feature a variety of community, medieval themed activities.
“Months and months of preparation have gone in it, putting together all the different aspects, and we are almost there,” Canon Page said.
“A huge amount of people have got involved and taken on work.
“It’s been a real exercise in recognising the gifts of all sorts of different people of all ages.”
He and the other pilgrims will depart from Todmorden on Sunday August 28 following the regular service at St Mary’s, at which the Honorary Assistant Bishop of Wakefield Tom Butler, who used to be known as the knitting bishop, will preach.
“We are greatly honoured to be welcoming him to Todmorden,” Canon Page said.
“He will bless our new font, commissioned by a local craftsman, and join us on the pilgrimage.”
Canon Page said the pilgrimage will appeal not just to religious people.
“I think the really important message to get out to people is it’s for everybody. It’s not exclusively a Christian pilgrimage way,” he said.
“Paulinus is a Christian saint so people will get a lot from walking together in the footsteps of Paulinus. But everybody will get something from it, members of any faith or none.
“It’s all free. This is offering a gift to the community in celebration of pilgrim hospitality.
“We are in this together and if that brings people into church, mosque or any other place of worship, we feel that we are beginning to fulfil a purpose.”
Pilgrims will walk between ten and 12 miles a day, stopping at churches in Mytholmroyd, Halifax, Dewsbury, Leeds, Tadcaster and York, where they will be welcomed by the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and the Bishop of Wakefield Stephen Platten at a celebration service at York Minster.
All those who take part in the pilgrimage will receive a medal and a certificate from Dr Sentamu.
A Paulinus Information Centre is being established at St Mary’s so people interested in walking the route can find out more details.