“THE realisation creeps on us gradually that we are in this for the long haul, that life has changed and we may never return to how it was,” Sally Welch writes in Journey to Contentment. This is one of the many moments when the book has both resonance and answers for living during the ongoing pandemic, and especially for those suddenly like Martha, with endless caring or domestic duties. Although written before the virus hit us, it manages to be a prescient book.
Sally Welch, a parish priest, is best known as a Bible Reading Fellowship editor and pilgrimage leader. She is also the keeper of Oxford diocese’s giant travelling labyrinth, which is often thrown down at big events to encourage contemplation. But this book is initially for solo indoor reading along the road on which the author says that she, too, is seeking contentment.
With 52 short “sections”, it can be a two-month journey or a year-long exploration. Each section starts with a scripture quotation, including psalms, from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, followed by a reflection. The conclusion is always a suggested activity or exercise, which, the writer admits, some will skip, although planting seeds for our prayer space must appeal to many. The themes, such as “Finding the rhythm of the way”, climax in various paths of contentment.
To meditate on St Paul’s suggestion that we “run with perseverance”, there are surprising motivational quotations from Jesse Owens, Marilyn Monroe, and Oprah Winfrey.
Towards the end, we are encouraged, like the pilgrim, to talk to fellow travellers and so find mutual support and companionship to do God’s work better. The reward, it is suggested, can be happiness and living longer. The book turns out to be an enjoyable and easy-to-read course for living in the new normal.
Leigh Hatts is the author of Walking The Pilgrims’ Way (Cicerone, 2017).
Journey to Contentment: Pilgrimage principles for everyday life
Church Times Bookshop £8.10