Alabama pilgrims have jazzed up Holy Island this week. Their musicians filled The Crown and Anchor with Irish songs for two evenings, which many others joined in singing. This group was led by Bill King. He gave up being his Episcopal Bishop's senior staff member in order to minister to a small country parish and develop pilgrimage. He gave out copies of his little gem of a book.

In Chapter One Bill outlines four traditional types of pilgrimage, and then a fifth which is emerging for twenty first century Christians which he calls Re-Membering Pilgrimage. He writes 'Many Christians have the Cross and the sacred books, and even the sacraments, but do not have a connection with holy ground from past ages. We simply do not know our family history and sacred home sites, and we no longer remember the stories of family members from ages past... Re-Membering Pilgrimage helps us rediscover our spiritual roots, which we must do to be spiritually whole and complete.'

In Chapter Two he recounts what he did on his 2004 visits to Jerusalem, Rome, Canterbury and Lindisfarne, where he visits The Open Gate and writes poems. He then asks the question: How do people who can't keep going to such places make pilgrimage in their own back yard? He chooses twelve 'secret places of prayer' from his extensive sabbatical travels in his home state of Alabama. They include an Orthodox, Catholic and Baptist church each with some special drawing power. They also include a North American Indian sacred site, Dr. Martin Luther King's former church where civil rights actions were birthed - and a grocer's shop. Here, in 1965 a gunman was about to shoot Ruby Sales when Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian, stood in front of her. He died and she lived. Now there is a monument to this young man who gave his life for another, and a little space in the market place where people may ponder the qualities of a hero.

Readers in continents outside Europe, as well as those in Europe who cannot travel far, may be inspired to discover their own 'secret places of prayer'. I'd love to hear from you.

Posted at 12:03pm on 22nd May 2009
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