One of today’s tasks is to do some planning for the parish pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It is sometimes called England’s Nazareth, where Mary’s “Yes” to God is commemorated, and where at the heart of the shrine is the miracuculously revealed Holy House. Walsingham is one of the “thin” places, and is very special for many. But it is located in a rather obscure corner of Norfolk, and expecially a very long way from Liverpool.
An opportunity is being missed to open the riches of England’s Nazareth to a wider audience, to remove the barriers of distance and travelling time and to broaden Walsingham’s appeal. We propose that the Guardians should develop a franchise arrangement along the following lines, giving the Walsingham brand a penetration throughout the country, and addressing the differing needs of modern pilgrims:
The new luxury accommodation at Walsingham has been a disappointment to some who nostalgically remember the early days of inadequate sleeping arrangements, and to pilgrims on a budget. They, and the ascetically-minded, will be catered for at England’s Bethlehem, where accommodation will consist of straw bedding in open-plan dormitories. A petting zoo will be available for girl children throughout their stay; however, during the pilgrimage season boys under two will be removed from the shrine on the first night of their visit. This will ensure a continued income for the Guild of All Souls.
For the more socially minded pilgrim, England’s Cana will dispense with too many services and concentrate on the going-to-the-pub part of the programme. Hymns in the Pilgrim Handbook will include Do whatever he tells you (to the tune of As I kneel before you) and Woman, what is that to me? (the Lord said) (to Moses, I know you’re the man). Appropriate sponsorship is being sought, and therefore drinking water will not be available on site. It is not thought that appointing a priest administrator will be difficult.
Many visitors to Walsingham find the highlight of their stay is the service of Sprinkling at the Well. For these pilgrims England’s Siloam will be the perfect destination. The Wednesday evening procession will take the form of a race to the shore where pilgrims will receive holy water in three ways: poured into their shoes, splashed into their faces, and forced into their lungs by the trampling feet of those behind them. At the annual National Pilgrimage one lucky party will be chosen for a special role in the destruction of a tower previously erected without a faculty.
Details of England’s Golgotha are still confidential for legal reasons. However, it can be revealed that a central London site is being sought, located in Westminster between the Supreme Court and the offices of the Church Commissioners.
Finally, evangelism has always been at the heart of Walsingham’s mission, and this ministry will be extended with the opening of England’s Damascus, specially designed for fringe members of churches, and those new to the faith. As they walk the last mile to the shrine barefoot, they will be met by shrine staff with high-density searchlights. After forced baptism while still disorientated, advanced interrogation techniques will continue to persuade the reluctant to give a Year for God. Plans to offer training for Anglo-Catholic priesthood under the title the Straight Way are being challenged under the Trades Descriptions Act. We can, however, confirm that over the gate of the shrine will be the text It is hard to kick against the pricks, and this motto will doubtless prove a good introduction to ministry in the Church of England as a whole.