Generally speaking, this pilgrim prefers to travel alone. I walk at my own (rather slow) pace and let my mind wander. But there is much to be said for walking in other people’s company, and this has happened recently.
I returned to St Benet’s Abbey with a friend, specifically to meet members of the Friends of St Benet’s. (FoSBA). There is a proposal for a pilgrimage from St Benet’s to Bury St Edmunds to celebrate Bury’s Abbey Millennium in 2020. The FoSBA are busy getting ready to celebrate their own millennium of their foundation. We wanted to talk to them more around how monks from St Benet’s might have travelled to Bury st Edmunds, and how it could be achieved now. We met at the beautiful church in Ludham, where a fifteenth century rood screen showed an image of Saint Edmund next to Henry 6th:
I also enjoyed a tapestry on display of the local landscape- stitches make delightful ploughed fields:
A group of around eight of us, led by the vicar of Ludham, Deborah Hamilton-Gray, set off after a short reading from the Rule of St Benedict toward the Abbey site. This gave us the opportunity to make friends and hear about their plans. This led us to think about how we could contribute to the Millennium of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, due to take place in 2020. They have worked hard to produce their excellent website, and other things already in place at their Abbey site: a large cross with the word PEACE has been erected at the former altar, visible for some way across the Norfolk Broads.
There was also a “singing bench”, which not only provided a comfortable seat, but Benedictine chanting fuelled by solar energy! It was surprisingly enjoyable.
And there were connections with the past: the abbey site is a ruin with a ruined mill within the gatehouse. Graffiti from centuries is scratched within:
The FoSBA were full of local knowledge about the past and possible routes now . It is likely the geography has changed since then, partly due to the use of peat, but a boat would be a good way to start the journey. They suggested a path to Horning, then Woodbastwick, and then on to Norwich via Salhouse and Mousehold Heath.
Making connections here was so important to us: gathering information, making friends, sharing and forming ideas. And the Benedictines? Maybe some connection was made there, too. The Rule addresses the monastic world of the 6th Century, but is still relevant. In her book A Life-Giving Way, Esther De Waal discusses the central precept of Christ in the Benedictine view of hospitality. Chapter 53 of The Rule advises that “Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received.” The final paragraph lends a note of caution, however: “no-one is to speak or associate with guests unless he is bidden” de Waal interprets this as a need (?mutual) of withdrawal to protect oneself. Connections have their place, but one’s own space is important, too!