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An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools


To consider life as a pilgrimage.

Preparation and materials


Leader: Whenever I think of pilgrims, which I have to say isnt very often, I always think of people with wide-brimmed black hats and women in black dresses with their hair drawn back in a tight bun. It’s because Ive seen pictures of the Pilgrim Fathers (and Mothers, too, I expect) setting sail for America over 300 years ago.

Reader 1: I know what you mean. It all seems a long time ago. I think of people in The Canterbury Tales. Apparently, about 600 years ago, people used to go on pilgrimage to Canterbury to visit the place where Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 to 1170, was killed. They used to stop off on the journey and make up stories to pass the nights away. These stories were written up by a man called Geoffrey Chaucer to form The Canterbury Tales.

Reader 2: People still go on pilgrimages today and they still go to Canterbury. Some go to Lourdes in France where there is a pool. People who are ill try to bathe in the pool and pray to God that they will be cured. There are other sorts of pilgrimage, too, though. On the television, Ive seen families fleeing war, desperate to get away from the fighting. Some try to enter other countries so that they will be safe.

Leader: One of the biggest pilgrimages today is when Muslims go to Mecca on the Hajj (which means pilgrimage). Just think how it must feel to be with two million other people on a pilgrimage.

So, there are lots of pilgrims. Some are religious pilgrims and others make pilgrimages to places where famous people have lived or died. Some even make pilgrimages to their favourite football grounds!

Reader 1: I think we are all on a pilgrimage. We are born, live and die. On the way through our lives, we do different things and meet different people, but as we go along, it is like a pilgrimage because we are all on a path of some kind. We are changed by people we meet, places we live or visit and jobs that we have. Life is just like a pilgrimage. Jesus said to his disciples, Follow me, and they did. They were on their own very special pilgrimage.

Reader 2: I remember when we had to write stories with titles like A Day in the Life of . . .. Or we had to write about things that had happened in our lives, a bit like a diary. It was like a record of our own personal pilgrimage.

Leader: Listen to this poem called A Day in the Life of Danny the Cat’.

Danny wakes up
Finds a private place in the garden,
He returns
Plays with the plants
And sleeps.

Continue to read this poem, which shows Danny the Cats pilgrimage through a typical day, punctuated by sleep!

Reader 1: Thats a great poem - if you like cats - but what has it got to do with pilgrimage?

Reader 2: I can see it. That is Dannys life. It is his pilgrimage through a day, just like us. We have a pilgrimage through a day, a week, a month and so on. Pilgrimage isnt always religious - we all do it. Sometimes, we just have to keep going because it isnt much fun or we moan and grumble, but at other times, its great.

Listen to this. What creature am I reading about? See if you can guess.

She goes but softly, but she goeth sure;
She stumbles not, as stronger creatures do.
Her journeys shorter, so she may endure
Better than they which do much farther go.
She makes no noise, but stilly seizeth on
The flower or herb appointed for her food,
The which she quietly doth feed upon
While others range and glare, but find no good.
And though she doth but very softly go,
However, tis not fast nor slow, but sure;
And certainly they that do travel so,
The prize they do aim at they do procure.

Its from a poem called ‘Upon the Snail’, which was written by John Bunyan.

Leader: Ive heard of John Bunyan. He wrote a book called Pilgrims Progress. It was about someone on a journey through life, just like the cat and the snail. I think he wrote it when he was in prison for being a Christian. Over 300 years ago, when John Bunyan lived, people were often persecuted for what they believed. They made a decision that they would continue on their journey with God even if others didn’t understand it.

Time for reflection

Reader 1: Each of us is on a pilgrimage. Each of us is on a journey.

Reader 2: It is our decision how we treat this journey: how we behave and how we treat other people.

Leader: It is the journey of life . . .

Reader 1: An exciting journey . . .

Reader 2: A journey that only we can take.

Dear God,
Help us to walk well on our journeys.
Help us to think about others as we walk 
through our lives.
Help us to enjoy the present.
Help us to look back with no regrets.
Help us to look forward with joy and hope.

Publication date: July 2019   (Vol.21 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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