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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

'PILGRIMAGE The journey to remembering our story' : New book by Andrew Jones

 ‘The greed embodied in the financial markets, global warming and the stark inequalities in the political response, the huge influence of oil production on political decision making and the madness of celebrity culture. In the face of these concerns, there is a crisis of hope throughout the developed world, a crisis leading to a serious collective depression. These things are a manifestation of our exile.’

Influenced by the exile commentary of Walter Brueggemann, Andrew Jones’ argument is simple but vital. Many churches generally, and many people who hold a Christian faith specifically, are suffering the deep symptoms of an exile situation, which has many parallels to the sixth-century Babylonian exile of the Jews. Are churches finding it difficult to reach out because, like the sixth-century exiles, they are at crucial times singing an outdated and irrelevant song? How do you sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

Those first people of exile had to rediscover relevancy by passing through a particular chain of events that not only changed their lives radically but also changed the whole structure of their theological thinking. Under the leadership of prophetic voices, they found a new, relevant way to sing the old songs. The Church is likewise required to construct a fresh pastoral theology to enable an effective response to today’s cultural circumstances.

Andrew Jones believes that pilgrimage can provide an appropriate place for such a conversation, ‘as the act of pilgrimage is itself a spiritual laboratory in which Christians can start to work out what it means to be church today.’ And it is already happening. Jones claims that the experiences of renewal and refreshment of faith at places of Christian pilgrimage often now far outweighs what is happening in many churches. But why is this?

Journeying together inspires the sharing of the narrative of the Christian faith, rediscovering a sense of who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. It immerses the pilgrim in the story of God’s creative and redeeming work, bringing reassurance that God has created a relationship with his people and continues to work in and through them to fulfil his purposes. Just like those ancient exiles, pilgrimage provides the catalyst to recover and reconcile our past stories, to heal memories and to see the hope of the current and the future.

The sixth-century exiles also found renewed hope in being heirs of God’s story and likewise today, pilgrims can connect with God’s story by discovering a deep sense of inheritance from the pilgrimage sites. As Jones comments, ‘tourist pass through such sites but for the pilgrim the place passes through them.’ He supports his argument by recounting the stories of eight contemporary pilgrims who have reconnected with the story through pilgrimage to sites in the UK.

‘This book speaks to our condition: we feel exiled from our former sense of a familiar environmental, political and religious landscape. It compellingly points a way forward through prophetic, ancient faith-future faith pilgrimage.’Ray Simpson, Founding Guardian, the Community of Aidan and Hilda

‘In this inspiring and insightful book, Andrew Jones invites us to travel with him as he unravels enriching conversation between God’s story in scripture, the sacred locations of pilgrimage, and the joys and tragedies of individual human lives.’Leslie J Francis, Professor of Religions and Education, University of Warwick

Andrew Jones is Archdeacon of Meirionnydd and rector of four churches on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. He previously served as Director of Pastoral Studies at St Michael’s College, Llandaff and lectured in theology for Cardiff University. He regularly leads pilgrimages to sites around the UK and abroad and has also written Every Pilgrims Guide to Celtic Britain and Ireland (Canterbury Press, 2002) and presented the DVD A Celtic Pilgrimage to Bardsey.

Pilgrimage is published 20 May 2011, priced £8.99
ISBN 978 1 84101 834 8
pb, 208 pages.

The publisher is: 
BRF, 15 The Chambers, Vineyard, Abingdon OX14 3FE; Tel: 01865 319700 Fax: 01865 319701 email:

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