Walking priest treks 350 miles to Walsingham
2010 : A priest from Edinburgh has successfully completed a 350-mile pilgrimage to Walsingham, raising money for Christian Aid
Fr Simon Tibbs set out from his home church, Old Saint Paul’s, and arrived a month later on 22 June, tired but triumphant.
The 39-year-old priest decided to do the pilgrimage to give thanks for his ordination last August, and to support the development charity.
“Christian Aid is an organisation I’ve long had an admiration for,” he said. “I like the way they work through the local church. I’ve been involved for many years, partly by doing door-to-door.”
He said that “in a trivial way” the physical hardships of the walk made him more aware of what people in the developing world were facing. “You begin to wonder what it would be like without medical help,” he commented.
Fr Simon was also raising money for his home church, which he described as “very beautiful and spiritual”.
He started the walk with his dog Poppy who, however, cut a paw at York. He announced the injury on tweet, and providentially a friend on a train from London to Edinburgh picked up the message. The friend broke the journey at York Station and took Poppy home.
It was one of several incidents where God’s hand seemed to be upon the walk – as when a stranger opened up about discovering a long-lost son, or when a church warden appeared just four minutes before a radio interview and was able to charge a dead mobile phone.
Fr Simon kept up a rhythm of prayer by reading Morning and Evening Prayer off his phone, and sang hymns as he walked. “I had a list of people I was praying for, and intercession became more and more the heart of the thing.”
He spent his last night sleeping in the Holy House at the Anglican shrine in Walsingham. “The Holy House was very much at the centre of the pilgrimage,” he said. “It was the place where Jesus spent his boyhood, where he felt secure in the Father’s love.”
Fr Simon said that he hoped his pilgrimage “would strike chords with people outside the church”. He thought that there was “a terrific desire for an encounter with the holy”.
Did he have any tips for people thinking about following in his footsteps? “Think carefully about the weight of the pack,” he said. “And don’t believe anyone who says you can’t do it.”
The pictures show Fr Simon at the Anglican Shrine (above) and reflecting on the walk with Christian Aid co-ordinator Eldred Willey (below). Readers can learn more about the walk on www.fathersimon.org.