In these extraordinary times I am finding that plans are constantly having to be changed so that it is probably best to have alternative plans, ‘just in case’! In the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District we have been trying to walk the Two Saint’s Way. The original plan was to do the 93 mile Pilgrimage following the path of the two Saints, St Chad and St Werburgh, from Chester Cathedral to Lichfield Cathedral, over two years, in stages. We began with great enthusiasm last October and were thrilled when, as we waited outside Chester Cathedra,l we heard the great Pilgrims door being opened and a voice saying ‘Welcome Pilgrims!’ As we entered, we expected to walk down the aisle to St. Werburgh’s shrine but we were escorted through tables set for a Rowing Club dinner! We continued our Pilgrim journey through Chester and along the canal completing the stage at Waverton.
The next stage was planned for November, however, the weather was terrible but we chose a day to do a recce and off we went in the rain. This was the longest stretch and we ploughed through three inches of mud along the canal in the pouring rain, eventually arriving at a pub, covered in mud. We intended to sit outside under the brollies while we ate our sandwiches but the landlord welcomed us with open arms saying he had a vacuum cleaner! We abandoned our sandwiches for warm drinks and chips before continuing in the rain. We decided to postpone that phase until Spring; little did we know how the advent of COVID19 was to change our plans, numerous times. We eventually managed to do that stage last week in groups of four (distanced of course) and we couldn’t believe how enjoyable the walk was this time, even though it was drizzling.
In days gone by, pilgrims would have had to cope with all kinds of weather, no maps and no canals to follow. I wonder how many times they had to change their plans and routes? The constant is, ‘God is with us’, so no matter how many times we change our plans he is still there guiding and strengthening just as he was with St Chad and St Werburgh. The words of the hymn : ‘Abide with me’ spring to mind.
‘Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.’
StF 141 Henry Francis Lyte
Fifteen miles down, only another 78 miles to go!