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Alone and together


Every faith journey is unique to the individual concerned, even though there are patterns and similarities between us. As pilgrims we have a two-fold opportunity: to spend time in solitude reflecting on our own; and to enter conversation with fellow travellers committed to the same endeavour.

Our ultimate guide, of course, is the Holy Spirit whose presence we discern in the unfolding of the journey and companionship of those we might not otherwise meet. For the normal cultural and social barriers become eroded on pilgrimage and we are informed by the stories of others, particularly those with whom we share bread and table. We gradually begin to trust these companions and our horizons are widened as a consequence.

Pilgrims throughout the ages have sought to offer practical assistance to other travellers, recognizing their own dependence on the kindness of others. As we journey on we are invited to reflect on the experience of the many people on the move throughout the world today. These global companions include the refugees and asylum seekers we hear about so frequently, often fleeing war and persecution, both secular and religious, in search of a better life.

Optional starter questions:

  1. What is my experience of trying to listen to ‘the still, small voice’ mentioned in the Scriptures?
  2. Who are those with whom I share my journey and what am I hearing from their stories that evokes a response in my heart?
  3. What does it mean to separate and yet ‘one’ in the world today?

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.

Luke 24: 15-16


Lord, teach me to listen to those near me,
The joys and pains of every day,
The emotions wrapped in an elaborate clothing of words and acts,
The individuals busy in the machinery of society,
The single pilgrim in the stream of life,
Help me to hear the calling of each one
to be accepted and loved.

Lord, teach me to listen to those far away,
The cry of the voiceless, the powerless, the hungry and the homeless,
The bruised, the battered and the bleeding,
Who bear the strain of the world’s struggles,
Help me to hear their calling for justice and peace.

Lord, teach me to listen to you,
In the lives of those nearby and far away,
In the midst of all the chaos of life creating new possibilities
And redeeming our failure,
In the depth of silence waiting to enfold
and renew.

Lord, teach me to listen.


Know Yourself

There is a world within you
no one has ever seen,
a voice no one has ever heard
not even you.

As yet unknown
you are your own seer
your own interpreter.

And so with eyes and ears
grown sharp, for voice or sign,
listen well –
not to these words
but to that inward voice,
that impulse beating
in your heart
like a far wave.

Turn to that sound and you will find
what no one has ever found,
a ground within you,
no one has ever seen,
a world beyond the limits
of your dream’s horizon.

Paul Murray
‘The Absent Fountain’

Opening ourselves to ideas, including those with which we disagree, this is what the good traveller should do. Happy are they who understand the words: ‘If you disagree with me, you have something to give me.’

If those who are with you always agree with you before you open your mouth, they are not companions but shadows. When disagreement is not a form of systemic blocking, when it rises from a different vision, it can only enrich us.

It is possible to travel alone. But the good traveller knows that the journey is human life and life needs company. ‘Companion’ means… the one who eats the same bread. Happy are they who feel they are always on the road and everyone they meet is their chosen companion. The good traveller takes care of weary companions. They guess when they lose heart. They take them as they find them, listen to them. Intelligently, gently, above all lovingly, they encourage them to go on and recover their joy in the journey.

Dom Helder Camara (adapted)

The act of hospitality, like the act of embrace, has four movements… We open our arms in offer (or open the door); we wait for a free response to accept; we close our arms in embrace (or invite others into our house and make them at home).

But finally and most importantly, we open our arms again (or let the guest go), symbolising a recognition of difference, a willingness for the other to be themselves, though perhaps now in a new space. These are the ethics and dynamics of hospitality and embrace.

Ross Langmead
‘Refugees as Guests and Hosts’

In the midst of all the violence
and corruption of the world
God invites us today to create
new places of belonging,
places of sharing,
of peace and of kindness,
places where no-one needs to defend himself or herself;
places where each one is loved and accepted
with one’s own fragility, abilities and disabilities.
This is my vision for our churches:
that they become places of belonging,
places of sharing.

Jean Vanier
‘Befriending the Stranger’


Every effort has been made to trace copyright. However, we would be glad to hear from any holders of copyright not traced so that due acknowledgement can be made.
All images istock except where indicated.
Luke 24 – Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Know yourself’ – Paul Murray (Stones and Stars, Dedalus Press, 2013)
‘Opening ourselves to ideas’ – Dom Helder Camara (adapted, in Around a Thin Place, eds Jane Bentley & Neil Paynter, Wild Goose Publications, 2011)
‘The act of hospitality’ – Ross Langmead (Refugees as Guests and Hosts: Towards a Theology of Mission among Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Exchange, Volume 43, Issue 1, © 2014, Brill)
‘In the midst of all the violence’ – Jean Vanier (Befriending the Stranger, Novalis Publishing, 2006)


Hilbre Island © Marianthi Lainas

Welcome to the 2016 CTBI Lent course

The CTBI Lent Course 2016 represents a departure in style and format from that offered in previous years. Each week, we are invited to gather in groups for reflection and spiritual conversation around a series of themes drawn from the overarching title of Pilgrimage’. The idea is that we embark on a spiritual journey through Lent, both alone and in company, sharing with others our personal reflections, stories and insights.

The notion of ‘Pilgrimage’ is presented in the form of collections of sayings, images, wisdom and prayers from a variety of sources, which are gathered into a pack of seven conversation booklets suitable for personal and group use. Each member of a group will need their own copy of the pack, which will be used as a personal journal.

Steps... up or down?


The Open Road

Where the invitation is to undertake a particular kind of journey, a sacred journey which involves both inner and outer dimensions. As we set out, what is our desire, or longing?


Dutch windmills


Taking and Leaving

Focus on choice. How do we choose what to keep, what we require for inner vitality and balance, and what to leave behind, things which may once have helped us but we now find burdensome and obstructive?






Becoming Present

Where the invitation is to become more attentive to our surroundings Where are the signs of God’s presence around us? How do we stay open to new insights?




Bread on sackcloth


Alone and Together

Focuses on our relationships with others. In our search for ‘unity in diversity’, how do we learn from ‘the other’?  What does it mean to be separate yet ‘one’?





Shepherd and flock walking down a tree lined path, Springtime


Living with Uncertainty

Where we think of times of alienation and separation that are common to us all. How do we live with unanswered questions?  From where do we find hope?




Approaching the top of a Medieval spiral stone staircase, light pouring in


Sacred Encounter

Where we are invited to contemplate the mystery of God at the heart of the Christian experience. Each step on the journey illuminates more questions, for example: what is the nature of suffering?




Reflecting over a cuppa, looking out of the window


Pilgrim Living

When we contemplate the significance of our pilgrim journey for the future. What people, networks, ideas, insights have we discovered that will continue to inspire us?




Whilst you may wish to print out the contents of these pages, we suggest you will find it more useful and less costly to purchase copies of the ‘Pilgrimage’ pack, which is recommended for conversation group settings and individual use.

Copies are £5.00 + p&p and are available from Church House Bookshop: either download an order form or


Pack Shot

BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship coverage