There’s something slightly unchristian about planning I’ve always felt. This is an opinion I believe commonly held throughout the Anglican Church… certainly the various diocesan administration systems seem to rely very much on the movement of the Holy Spirit. Not planning at all is just plain foolish of course, but planning too much suggests you don’t think God will know what he’s doing when the situation actually comes round and would rather rely upon your own human preparations, which, as Robert Burns points out correctly, for mice and men alike, usually go awry.
So how does one go about planning a pilgrimage? Well what I didn’t intend to do is have a rather daft-beautiful vision of a nice long walk to special places and just tell people about it… and what I DID intend to do was to secretly plan it (in a loose, open-to-the-guidance-of-the-spirit, groovy kind of way of course) down to the last minute detail and then quietly get on with it, somewhere along the way (preferably at a point when I would look all wise and calm) people would somehow instinctively become aware… perhaps God would tell them in auspicious dreams.
I didn’t do that. I did the first one. I had this thought in the middle of the night… I shall walk to all the Cathedrals, one after another, praying, that would be lovely! I got out of bed, then and there and started by counting the Anglican cathedrals in England and then began to plan a route. And then a few days later I started to tell people, ‘I’ve had this thought, that I shall make a pilgrimage, to all 42 Anglican cathedrals in England, on foot… doesn’t that sound lovely?’
I expected people to say ‘No Jemma, that sounds ambitious and vainglorious, and also tiring and rather silly.’ I expected then to have to explain that it was actually a lovely idea and I wanted to do it whether or not they liked it. But actually the response was gently encouraging… yes, it DOES sound lovely.
So now I’m mildly confused… I had not intended to tell anyone till I was ready, and had thought everyone would raise their eyebrows and tell me I was being unrealistic, and I would show them with sensible plans and figures that I was being perfectly practical…
…instead everyone (and by ‘everyone’ I mean my husband, my fellow ordinands, and a couple of monks) has agreed it is a lovely idea… so now I am the only one who is slightly concerned that this idea seems utterly impractical and wonders how and if I am actually going to go ahead.
What is certain is that I shall keep planning, with my husband’s help, and sort of just get on with it.
A piece of me wonders if I am recieving the sort of encouragement which is given freely as it seems to bear no relation to reality. ‘You’re going to build a chocolate hospital so that poorly butterflies can recuperate? That’s lovely Sammy dear, go ahead.’ (Actually as I write that, I realise a hospital for sick lepidopterae would be better made of sugar as that MIGHT actually have some restorative properties.)… oh dear, there have been so many silly ideas by clergy, so many eccentric clerics over time that the chances are I will be one of them.
But as long as God knows, and I remember, it’s about him and about his people, and about all our walk together… then the planning really doesn’t matter that much -but I shall do it anyway, so that when I fail I know it’s what God meant to happen, not the result of halfheartedness.