Fresh Expressions Pilgrimage to Coventry with ++Rowan of Canterbury

Well, I am back home after a long drive down from Coventry and have now the space of 12 hours to think back over yesterday’s pilgrimage to Coventry Cathedral, a product of Round Table 5 for the Catholic & Contemplative Traditions and led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. He was accompanied by other bishops, including  the Bishop of Reading, Stephen Cotterill and the Bishop of Pontefract, Tony Robinson; both of whom I have a particularly soft spot for; as they have shown their real support and commitment to catholic mission and evangelism.

[caption id=”attachment_646″ align=”alignnone” width=”480″ caption=”++Rowan, in front of one of Blesséd's most common opening lines”++Rowan, in front of one of Blesséd's most common opening lines[/caption

It was a big gig: nearly 500 people came. Lots more had to be turned away. No pressure then. You might recall the challenges we had creating the liturgy – no arguments, but constructive engagement; it was more of a philosophical chalenge to merge the many different styles and approaches and then fit it in a more constrained ‘Anglican’ tin – as there are obvious limits that having the Archbishop of Canterbury saying Mass. It was never going to be as radical as I would like, but I think we showed what was possible.

The Cathedral were great, and really accommodating. We turned the Cathedral upside down and then set fire to it.

The integration of Blessed and Visions video styles came off, and despite the failure of the video at the end of the Mass – we had audio, but not video (never, never, never use MPG2 again, it’s back to good solid and dependable MPG1 forever!!!), it all came off.

My Blesséd Prayer Stations were really well received, as people took mp3 players and did 3 of my stations: Love & Self Control from Stations of the Spirit; Let My Prayers Rise from Firebox and Reflect from Blesséd Belong.




[caption id=”attachment_650″ align=”alignnone” width=”480″ caption=”Fr. Edward poised for action”dsc_0313[/caption



[caption id=”attachment_653″ align=”alignnone” width=”480″ caption=”Mother Sue Wallace and the ministry of Pixel Pushing”Mother Sue Wallace and the ministry of Pixel Pushing[/caption


Now the official report:

Archbishop leads pilgrimage

An Advent day of prayer and pilgrimage led by the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Dr Rowan Williams, in Coventry Cathedral yesterday, cemented already strong links between Fresh Expressions and the catholic tradition of the Church of England.

Over 500 pilgrims joined Dr Williams for a day focused on worship and devotion, marking the feast day of the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It was an extraordinary day in so many ways.

The bishops of Coventry, Pontefract and Reading were amongst those bishops present.

Bishops, priests, religious and lay people began the pilgrimage to the sound of a deep drumbeat as baptism vows were renewed in the exhilarating sacred space which is Coventry Cathedral.

Innovatively, the Creed was reaffirmed as pilgrims shouted “Yes!” to simple questions asking them to reaffirm their faith. Traditional and modern evocative music, accompanied by computer generated electronic presentations continuously beamed on large screens throughout the Cathedral, gave the liturgy a fresh feel.

The day was structured around a central eucharist, stations for prayer, the litany and benediction.

The Archbishop relayed what “a great joy it is for me to be with you today and to share in this experience.” He stayed for the whole day and seemed to genuinely enjoy every minute.

In his address before the Eucharist, Dr Williams said that “a good catholic theology of the Church starts well back beyond any issues around institutions; it starts by asking how a community embodies, practically and visibly, some of the things we’ve been thinking about”.

Seeing the church as an event was key: the church as a calling together of different people: ” and that when this calling together has happened, what follows is a set of acts and words that get us walking in step with Jesus, praying his prayers, living his life, not as a matter of historical reconstruction but as a kind of singing in tune with his eternal relation with his Father.

Dr Williams said that the challenges for mission were huge but he was sure that “a genuine catholic vision of the Church can give us indispensable resources for seeing the Church in its fullness, flexibly and hopefully, because it makes us see it in and only in the light of God’s own action”.

There were plenty of workshop opportunities in the afternoon (ranging from “Body Prayer in the Christian tradition”, “Looking with Mary to God’s possibilities and “Monasticism, New Monasticism and the Contemplative tradition”) and time to mingle over coffee, lunch and tea.

Affirming Catholicism were a sponsor for the day: “We were looking forward to a pilgrimage where we could experience the richness of our tradition in a fresh way,” said Jonathan Clark, Chair of the Board of Affirming Catholicism.

Dr Steven Croft, Leader of Fresh Expressions and soon to be Bishop of Sheffield, said: “It really has been a great day. We have looked forward to it for some time and the whole Fresh Expressions initiative is strengthened and emboldened by today. Mission is about the whole of God’s Church and our focus today has been on renewing that ministry through prayer for mission.”

The day drew on the expertise of a number of fresh expressions of the catholic and contemplative traditions including Blessed, Contemplative Fire, Feig, Glorious, mayBE, Moot, Nightchurch and Visions.

The organizing group for the day (Fresh Expressions Roundtable5) have pledged their ongoing commitment to developing initiatives, sharing good practice, encouraging the catholic constituency and furthering theological reflection in the area of mixed economy of church.

Images (by Norman Iveson of Fresh Expressions) are available via this link:


As usual: God delivered. His Blessed Mother was honoured and we were reassured that the Grace shown to her would be shown to us. Deo Gratias!