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Sacred encounter

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


The ebb and flow of the pilgrim journey finally gives way to the proximity of our chosen destination. To this sacred place we have come to seek some form of encounter with Divinity. Yet these things cannot be conjured up, assumed or taken for granted. Sometimes our point of arrival raises more questions than it answers, particularly when first approached.

Patience is often required as we contemplate the mystery of God and renew our acquaintance with the essence of the Christian story. Here we find a profoundly counter-cultural message in the stories and the images we find – no more so than in the journey of Jesus to Calvary and beyond.

Many Christians have rightly sought to relieve the sufferings of others, yet somewhere in our faith tradition is the belief that suffering is something that may be learned from, strangely embraced and somehow turned to profound significance.
Waiting in the silence, as before the empty tomb, we are invited to consider the reality of pain and loss and wonder with growing confidence in the God who makes life out of death, goodness out of evil; and reconciliation out of discord in the triumph of the resurrection.

Optional starter questions:

  1. In reaching the unfolding drama of Holy Week, what emerges for us as we contemplate its significance?
  2. How is the saving pattern of death and resurrection of Jesus finding expression in my own life?
  3. What questions am I bringing as I stand before the Cross of Jesus, and what form of renewal is asked of me as a result of this experience?

Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23: 46


St. Martin’s Cross

In the intertwining of my life with yours
brokenness meets re-making.

In the intertwining of my life with yours
restlessness meets peace.

In the intertwining of my life with yours
bondage meets liberation.

In the intertwining of my life with yours
weakness meets strength.

In the intertwining of my life with yours
selfishness meets servanthood.

In the intertwining of my life with yours
death meets resurrection.

In the intertwining of my life with yours
your kingdom comes.

Pat Bennett
‘Around a Thin Place’


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the nights with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

Naomi Shihab Nye
‘Words Under the Words: Selected Poems’

Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in the face of the calamities of our world. The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling. But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self-confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that ‘sky and earth will pass away’ but the words of Jesus will never pass away. Let us be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood under the cross, trusting in God’s faithfulness notwithstanding the death of his beloved Child.

Henri Nouwen
‘Bread for the Journey’

In this darkness
I do not ask to walk by light;
But to feel the touch of your hand
And understand that sight is not seeing.

In this silence
I do not ask to hear your voice;
But to sense your Spirit breathe
And know myself a word of your speaking.

In unknowing
I do not ask for fearless space;
But for the grace to comprehend
That neither you or I are diminished.

In this death
I do not seek to escape from pain;
But embracing loss, to find
The strength to cross the bridge of waiting.

Pat Bennett
‘I will not sing alone’

Only God gives inward peace,
and I depend on him.
God alone is the mighty rock
that keeps me safe,
and he is the fortress
where I feel secure.
God saves me and honors me.
He is that mighty rock
where I find safety.

Trust God, my friends,
and always tell him
each one of your concerns.
God is our place of safety.

We humans are only a breath;
none of us are truly great.
All of us together weigh less
than a puff of air.
Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
or rely on great wealth.

I heard God say two things:
“I am powerful, and I am very kind.”
The Lord rewards each of us
according to what we do.

Psalm 62: 5-12


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 23 – Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘St. Martin’s Cross’ – Pat Bennett (in Around a Thin Place, eds Jane Bentley & Neil Paynter, Wild Goose Publications, 2011)
‘Kindness’ – from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, Copyright © 1995. Reprinted with the permission of Far Corner Books.
‘Standing erect…’ – Henri Nouwen (Bread for the Journey, Avalanche Publishing, Incorporated, 2007)
‘In this darkness’ – Pat Bennett (I will not sing alone, CD and songbook, ed John L Bell, Wild Goose Publications, 2009)
Psalm 62 – Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, used by permission.


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