The Archbishop writes in the York Press on Christmas Eve as he continues his pilgrimage of prayer, witness, and blessing in the Diocese of York.
This Christmas Eve, I am out on the road, continuing my pilgrimage of prayer, witness, and blessing in the Diocese of York. This is my fourth week on the Pilgrimage – and this is a journey I have longed to do for some time.
I’ve visited every Deanery in Cleveland, East Riding and York across the Diocese and have spent time in each of the places since I became Archbishop of York, but there has not been the opportunity to do something on this scale before. I want to meet as many people as I can, to walk with them and to pray with them. I want to encourage everyone who I meet to follow Christ, and bless what God is doing. My pedometer tells me that I have walked 140 miles in 20 days – averaging 7 miles per day – some days have been longer, and the Pilgrimage continues up to Trinity Sunday – 22 May, 2016, at York Minster.
In many ways – it feels like I am returning to my roots! I’m a priest like any other, and a Christian like any other. As a parish priest for 17 years I would have taken many of the Christmas Eve services that are taking place in churches near you today.
I’ll be starting with 8.15am Morning Prayers at Christ Church, Great Ayton. I’ll be leaving at 8.45am to walk around the village. At 10am I’ll be leading a short prayer service at St Cuthbert’s Kildale. At 10.30am, I’ll be walking around Stokesley market. In the afternoon, we meet at 1.15pm at Kirkby Church Hall to walk around Kirkby and Great Broughton – all welcome. I’ll be leading the 4.30 and 6pm Crib Services at St Peter and St Paul’s Church at Stokesley. And at 11.30pm, I’ll be leading the Midnight Service at Christ Church Great Ayton.
Now, York Minster is a fantastic place to celebrate Christmas – its packed out and the singing is wonderful! And as Archbishop I would normally be preaching & joining in the celebrations there - but tomorrow, I’ll be leading the Morning Service at HMP Kirklevington, this is an open prison for adult male offenders which is focused on developing links with families and the wider community. Later on Christmas Day, I will be visiting staff and residents at Ayresome Court Nursing Home.
As you may know, I was a Prison Chaplain once and as Bishop for Stepney used to go into the two local prisons on Christmas Day. For those who are in prison, who are lonely, who feel lost or abandoned – each one is a stand-in for Christ. You can encounter Christ everywhere, even in prison! The birth of Jesus reminds us that God is in the business of making all things new. All of us can make a fresh start with God and with one another today.
I wish you all a joyful and blessed Christmas!