The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, this week completed a six-month pilgrimage of prayer, witness, and blessing around York diocese.
He had been “energised and encouraged” on his journey of 1578 miles, he said, by the people he met along the way.
He had the idea of finding out more about his “patch” of 2661 square miles some time ago, during his annual retreat on Holy Island, when he heard a voice tell him: “On the road.” He had to seek permission from the Queen to leave his episcopal duties before he started his walk on 1 December, at the coastal town of Whitby (News, 27 November 2015).
His aim was to meet people, to pray with them, encourage them to follow Christ, and to bless what God is doing.
“I’ve prayed with 25,100 people, using prayer beads and saying the Lord’s Prayer, as well as singing a Taizé chant in over 480 churches. I also said prayers in most schools and hospitals. I have visited 148 schools, including nursery pre-schools, primary, secondary, and sixth-form colleges. . . I have visited 22 hospitals and hospices.
“Throughout the pilgrimage, we have distributed many booklets, exploring how one encounters Jesus Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit, 60,000 bookmarks, and prayer cards.
“There have been so many amazing God moments: for example, 13 baptisms, confirmations, prayers for healing, and many, many blessings.” One baptism was conducted in a fountain at Castle Howard, and another in a well. In one meeting he prayed with a woman who had just received her third cancer diagnosis.
Dr Sentamu, who is 66, passed through 21 deaneries, staying overnight in the homes of a widower or widow, and only returning to his own home outside York at Bishopthorpe for one night of the week.
“I have walked in all weathers — rain, wind, hail, sleet, snow, and glorious sunshine,” he said. “I have met people in factories, on farms, and on the streets. I would like to thank all who have joined me in prayer, and the many who encouraged me on the way.”
In an interview with BBC Radio Tees on the morning he completed his pilgrimage, he said: “The lesson I have learned is that we have got to be out and about, simply sharing the sheer joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ with all our friends and neighbours.
“People should be out blessing the good things that they see. We should be blessing, and be grateful, and be thankful, not constantly looking for a thing to blame or grumble about.”