Pilgrim stories

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Revd Canon Dr Murray Harvey is Rector of St Mark’s Clayfield, an Anglican Church in the diocese of Brisbane, Australia.

“We ran The Creed series. It was well received. We only meet once a month so it took us most of the year to do it! We’ll continue with the Eucharist in February 2017. While the material was produced in the UK it was quite user-friendly for Australian participants, as was the supporting online material (videos etc).  It’s a joy to use such well-produced resources.

Our group meets at night, mainly for professional people who aren’t available for our day time groups or who aren’t wanting to commit to a house group. [It’s made up of] Mainly existing church members but two newcomers are part of the group.”


Ursula Sonnewald is a Reader at St Alban's Church, Copenhagen Denmark

"Our congregation at St Albans’s includes representatives of 25 nationalities, so in our Pilgrim group of six there were never more than two people from the same country, and we often had three continents represented. Using Turning to Christ, doing the prayers and studying the bible verses was very rewarding. Answering the questions led to lively discussions that brought out common views but also big differences in the raising of children for example between an African country and a European. The most positive thing to come out of our Pilgrim experience is the deepening of the faith of the participants."


Ann Barlow is a Reader for the churches of St Oswald's, Lower Peover with St Lawrence's, Over Peover in Chester Diocese.

"We’ve been using the Pilgrim course since 2014, when we used Turning to Christ as our Lent study material for a daytime group. We now use Pilgrim with two regular evening groups, one led by our vicar, Jane Lloyd, and the other led by me. The one I lead came together in the summer of 2014 and meets for six week blocks in my home. The other group meets once a month either in the Vicarage or in the home of one of the group members and uses sessions from Pilgrim to structure their Bible Study.


The group I lead has focused on working through the Pilgrim material - it's now calls itself The Pilgrim Group - and we are now studying book 8. It's a mixed group of mature Christians as well as explorers with little background and while the core group has remained the same for two years it has been joined by others for particular books along the way. In talking to our group, one member said that it had enhanced the community, and another that she feels more aware of the words she uses in services and what they mean, which means that she doesn’t “gabble” her way through the liturgy. As a group they felt that the material had helped us to get to know each other better as well as getting to know our Bible and understanding our worship better.  They also felt that the material has helped them to think more deeply about their faith. Some of them have chosen to buy their own copies of the course booklets because they felt that it was material that they could refer to in future.


As a leader, I found the course material very well designed and easy to use. My background before retirement was in education, and for several years I trained adult educators in teaching and learning. I've appreciated the structure of the sessions and the variety of input. I also felt that the discussion questions have been very well designed and allow for real discussion and debate, so that participants do not simply offer an answer. I've used courses in the past where the leader has to drag participants into thinking more deeply and as a result the course has floundered if the leader has been inexperienced. Pilgrim hasn't been like that and it could equally well have been led by someone without experience of facilitation - especially given the excellent Leader's Guide. We think it's a very good course. The question my group now have is: 'What do we do when we finish Book 8?'"



The Revd Barbara Sharp is Vicar of St Paul's Church, Sale, Cheshire.

"The first book we did which was Turning to Christ. We had 14 people join the group which is the most that we have ever had in our study groups. One lady said it was the type of Bible study she had been waiting for, for 20 years. The whole group found it very user friendly and liked the fact it was not too prescriptive but allowed them to discuss their views and issues. We have since worked through The Lord’s Prayer, The Commandments and The Bible. All have been well received although the Bible seemed to some to be too big a topic for one study. Some of the group thought that having two volumes to cover the subject in more detail would have been better. We are currently working on The Creeds and that has helped people to think a lot more about how they were put together and how they impact on our faith."  


The Revd Alex Jeewan is Assistant Curate for the Witham and Villages Team Ministry


"Firstly, we have used Pilgrim as a resource to help with confirmation classes. We used Turning to Christ for this and it was a good way in for those wanting a sound introduction to the Christian faith. We have found that the ‘Follow Stage’ is a good starting point for enquirers. We have also used Pilgrim to run two Lent courses. One took place before I arrived, which was on The Commandments but I understand that people really enjoyed it and engaged with it. Earlier in the year I helped run the course on The Lord’s Prayer. This was very well received indeed and people realised that they were saying the Lord’s Prayer without really knowing why and what the words actually meant. This led to a lot of ‘lightbulb’ moments and a lot of connections were made.


This year we ran an extra course during the summer on The Creed and this was due to the popularity of our Lent course. People actually asked us to run another course! This was our first attempt at a ‘Grow Stage’ course and we could see that they were deeper and more involved. We usually run open courses during the day with tea, coffee and biscuits on offer in our church hall. It runs for about two hours. Many people who are retired or have flexible working hours come. Our ages go from around 45 to 85! Some people have been Christians for many years and others are just beginning their faith journeys. At our last course we averaged 25 people for each session and had to provide an extra session as the discussion time was so long! Incidentally, some of our older congregation members often feel left out because courses are usually run for the young or those new to the faith. It seems Pilgrim fits the bill for them also.


People have really enjoyed using the Lectio Divina way of reading Scripture. They have found this a good way of seeing what God is saying to them. Initially, it took a bit of practise especially where people just had to mention words or phrases as many found that they wanted to go straight into why they had chosen those words or phrases. We found that because the ‘Grow Stage’ is more in depth we had a variety of different degrees of confidence with talking about the different aspects of the Creed. Some people were more ‘academic’ than others. To cater for this we split into small groups for the discussions and tried to shuffle the groups so there was a variety of experience or abilities in each.


I think Pilgrim has made a difference in that people have realised it is part of their calling to further their knowledge of the Christian faith. They have realised that things they took for granted have a tradition that goes back a long time and has been carefully chosen. It puts them into the larger meta-narrative of what God is doing in our world. They have become excited about finding our more and, equally importantly, listening to each other’s points of view. Perhaps, the most positive thing to come out of Pilgrim is a sense of fellowship and being on a journey of discovery together. Each one of us are Pilgrims and we all have a shared identity in Jesus Christ, wherever we are on our own individual journey."