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Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:29 UK
New Bishop oversees pilgrimage
By Louise Priest
BBC Norfolk

Our Lady of Walsingham (Roman Catholic)
Hundreds of pilgrims travel to see Our Lady of Walsingham

In August 2009, hundreds of young Christians descended on Walsingham in north Norfolk for the annual pilgrimage to The Shrine of Our Lady.

The Rt Rev Lindsay Urwin, the new administrator running the Anglican shrine, was delighted to see the pilgrims arrive.

"It was a week of activities with some incredible and extraordinary worship," he said.

"It's about changing lives and I watched that happen," he added.

Bishop Urwin, the former Bishop of Horsham, Sussex, spoke on BBC Radio Norfolk about how he was appointed with the role of administrator for the shrine in March 2009 and talked about what happened during the extraordinary week of prayer.

Louise Priest (LP): So you took over the job in March, were you headhunted?

Bishop Urwin (BU): I've been involved with Walsingham for years coming on the pilgrimage myself. I am known as a guardian of the shrine - a group of people who care for the shrine and oversee it.

When Father Philip North, the previous administrator, left, a few of the guardians said, "What about you?" It was a bit unusual to come from being a Bishop in Sussex for 15 years.

I felt maybe it's a prompting - you never quite know what God wants you to do, so you have to get indications.

(LP): How did you get to become a guardian?

Our Lady of Walsingham depicts the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus
There are two shrines of Our Lady, one for the Roman Catholic faith and another for the Anglican belief, both based in Walsingham
In 1897, Pope Leo XIII re-established the restored 14th Century Slipper Chapel as a Roman Catholic shrine, now the centre of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
In 1922, the Anglican statue was set up in the Parish Church of St Mary by Father Alfred Hope Patten OSA, who was appointed as the Church of England Vicar of Walsingham
The shrines welcome over 10,000 residential pilgrims every year

(BU): I arrived from Australia in 1976 and one of the first places I was taken to was Walsingham. It's always been important to me.

One of the reasons why I decided to say, "Yes" to the job is that my youngest brother was converted to Christianity walking to Walsingham.

He came over as a young Australian and hadn't even been baptised. He didn't even want to come. By the time he got to Walsingham he was asking, "What do I have to do to be baptised?"

In a sense, I've come to Walsingham in thanksgiving for his conversion.

He's still a practicing Christian back in Australia. That was a tremendous event in my life, let alone his when that happened, so I owe Walsingham a lot.

(LP): What happened this week with the pilgrims?

(BU): My predecessor, Father Philip North, had already enhanced the pilgrimage. It had really grown in size during this millennium.

Hundreds of young people came in 2009 with their leaders to camp in Norfolk.

One evening we had an all-night vigil. Imagine, 3am in the morning, masses of youths sitting in a circus tent reading their Bibles, just praying and reflecting in the presence of the Lord.

Some were gently singing - it was amazing, things you don't imagine young people doing.

Funnily enough, they wouldn't imagine themselves working together, but the pilgrimage turns them. It's a week of fun, but it's serious business.

(LP): Why do people perform a pilgrimage?

(BU): A pilgrimage is simply an intentional journey associated with faith. People make pilgrimages to where they were born or where their parent's married.

Pilgrimage is a journey you make to a place for a purpose. It stands in contrast to the idea that life is about lurching aimlessly from crisis to crisis.

It's a sign that the whole of life is a journey - the Christian belief.

(LP): You have experienced many, what was your experience of the 2009 Walsingham pilgrimage as a man in charge?

(BU): Let me tell you about the most marvellous experience of the whole week.

Rt Rev Lindsay Urwin
The Rt Rev Lindsay Urwin is the new administrator running the shrine

On the Tuesday morning I had to tell the pilgrims off for their behaviour on the Monday night. Imagine confronting 700 youngsters!

I had to read the riot act about their behaviour. I didn't like doing it and I knew some would have been put off.

I said, "Those of you who misbehaved, you know who you are. It's unacceptable. You will have to leave if things don't improve, now forget it".

In the Christian tradition we name, but we don't shame. A call for sorrow, and move on.

Two days later the young people involved came to me and said, "Bishop, we want you to know it was us and we're sorry".

The theme of the week was the Bible, so it was about words and the word of God. It was quite clear what was being spoken by the young people was contrary to that.

(LP): Did these teenagers really want to come to Walsingham?

(BU): Yes, they all belong to church youth groups. For many of them it's the great week of the year in terms of worship.

It's quite a tough call for young people. Sometimes we ask the youth to be old in order to belong to the Church. This week liberates them and allows them to be themselves, but it's a struggle.

All the messages children get from the world are very different from the Christian message. There is what I call "false shepherds".

In one sermon I had copies of Chat and other teenage girl magazines and I was comparing what they said about young people and what life is about, to what the Bible says. It's a struggle - our youngsters are hearing all sorts.

This week was to try and create an environment where they could hear the words of the Scripture; what Jesus says about young people, life and the world.

A new blend of Norfolk worship
16 Jun 09 |  Religion & Ethics



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