Walking the Camino... virtually
Have you ever considered walking the famous Camino de Santiago but haven’t been able to do so?
Camino image | Jorge Luis Ojeda Flota | Unsplash
Thanks to a couple of Baptist ministers, help is at hand. You can now participate in the last 100km of that famous route from your own home via the virtual pilgrimage website pilgrimageonline.live.
The website was created by Andy West, who leads The Ark, a Baptist church in Doncaster.
Andy wants those who would be otherwise unable to undertake a pilgrimage – perhaps due to health, personal commitments, financial or time reasons – to be able to benefit. Andy became interested in pilgrimage about 10 years ago during a sabbatical, and has subsequently gone on two cycle pilgrimages.
‘What struck me then was the profound spiritual experience which was to be gained by doing a pilgrimage,' he says.
‘I have since then wanted, as part of my business and ministry, to set up a virtual pilgrimage site.
‘It seems even more important in a pandemic-impacted world where travel is impeded and mental health so challenged that there are opportunities to engage in virtual journeys like this.
‘The fact that I now have been diagnosed with a degenerative heart condition which means my ability to go on pilgrimage is limited has heightened a sense of urgency in me.’
Andy’s website features different virtual pilgrimage options. It launched with a 40-day Lent journey through the wonders of a small garden. The latest is the Camino de Santiago, which is led by Paul Revill, regional minister with the Northern Baptist Association. Paul is Andy’s spiritual director and walked the full 500-mile Camino route three years ago.
Paul leads reflections accompanied by videos which take the pilgrim through the sites and sounds of northern Spain to the iconic town of Santiago. In his introduction Paul explains as well as the journey itself, the online pilgrims will be invited on an inward journey, ‘considering your own life's path, where it has taken you, and what might lie ahead in the future.’ They will also be invited to consider how Jesus’ journey to the cross relates to their own life journey.
Those taking part are encouraged to set aside at least an hour for each day of the journey. The software uses means that after the first three sessions people cannot do more than one section a day, which will help them ‘slow down and truly engage with the pilgrimage and what God is saying,’ explains Andy.
‘Our hope is that it is a spiritual experience where they encounter God in new ways and if they are Christians grow in their relationship with Jesus,’ he adds. ‘It is a very conscious and deliberate way of stepping out of the routine of every day with an expectation that there is something more which God has for us and might want to say to us. The very act of stepping aside we hope will aid mental and spiritual well-being.’
The promotional video gives an glimpse into what the pilgrimage will be like: