Pilgrimage and schools

The idea of pilgrimage – a spiritual journey to a sacred place – is buried deep within our understanding of spirituality and religious practice.

Image 5

What is pilgrimage?

Pilgrimage is a meaningful journey to a sacred place. The journey is shared between all members of the community - Church, School and Families- to support and develop a deeper relationship as you walk and journey together. It provides the opportunity to step out of the non-stop busyness of lives, to seek a time of quiet and reflection. It gives us the chance to ‘walk through’ anything that we have on our minds, and is a time of ‘being’ rather than always ‘doing’.

Pilgrimage is a highly sociable activity, allowing us to enjoy the company of others we meet as we journey. It gives us the chance re-energise mentally, physical and spiritually. It allows us to reconnect with our local, cultural heritage and the awe and wonder of the natural world. For some, they may wish to use the time to refresh their faith or seek spiritual direction.

What are the benefits?

  • Intergenerational
  • Strengthens a shared identity
  • Encourages conversations and builds community
  • Develops deeper relationships between church and school
  • Gives space and time for reflection
  • Opportunity to celebrate awe and wonder of creation
  • Incredible experience which brings rural schools and church communities together
  • Supports character building in overcoming obstacles
  • Many cross-curricular links Environment, Local History, RE
  • A moving experience where people come away inspired, changed and energized
  • Joy and sense of accomplishment reaching your destination
  • Opportunity to leave behind/ let go of worries as you travel forwards
  • Gives opportunity to pause and be thankful for all in our lives

How do we make pilgrimage accessible for schools?

As sites of pilgrimage, most Cathedrals in the United Kingdom and Ireland offer school pupils of all ages the chance to enjoy educational visits onsite or online. These can cover a wide range of themes and topics but most of them feature the theme of Pilgrimage. However, if your local Cathedral is  beyond reach, a pilgrimage to your local church or Abbey may be a very good place to start.

Years 1 and 2

  • Half day visit to local church
  • Activity & reflection stations enroute
  • Guided tour around church with activity stations
  • Matchbox activity to collect special treasures along the way

Years 3 and 4

  • Day journey, visiting a few churches in local area.
  • Activity and reflection stations enroute
  • Prayer station opportunity mid journey
  • Journey sticks to collect memorabilia from the special day
  • Contemplative service to end the day

Years 5 and 6

  • Pilgrimage passport which is stamped at each location
  • Overnight ‘champing’ stay in a church
  • Activity and reflection stations enroute
  • Special service to end the journey at a local Abbey
pic 3

Where do we start?

Pilgrimages can be tailored according to your community needs and focus.

Step 1.
School and Church leaders to meet together to plan a local route for a specific age group.

Step 2.
Decide together the ‘theme’ and purpose of your pilgrimage. Suggestions include;

  • Awe and wonder
  • Well being
  • Appreciation and care of creation
  • Core Values
  • Festivals – Lent, Harvest, Easter

Step 3.
Recruit a team of helpers (parents and church community) using their different skillsets e.g. to creating a map and instructions, developing activities enroute, leaders of groups and activities on the day, volunteers to test the route, support at the destination church(es) etc.

Step 4.
Invite community to ‘save the date’ and share with them the purpose of the special journey that they will undertake together.

Step 5.
Final preparation / logistics meeting with school and church leaders.

With thanks to the Diocese of Oxford. Further support for churches and schools in the Diocese of Oxford is available from:

Diocesan Spiritual Adviser Revd Dr Sally Welch

Diocesan Chaplaincy Adviser Revd Charlie Kerr

Diocesan Church-School Relationship Adviser Angela Curran-Smith