Ever since Brother Daniel Faivre had the inspiration to start these pilgrimages to different places of worship with people of different faiths in 1986, there has been a multi-faith pilgrimage for peace in a different part of London or surrounding area every year. Each year it has grown from strength to strength, so much so that many participants from different faiths have said that this is not just an annual pilgrimage but a movement willed by God.
This year, we went to North London in the Borough of Haringey, from Muswell Hill, via Hornsey to Crouch End. It took a lot of planning and organising, which involved regular contact with our hosts and keeping pilgrims informed. It was a real labour of love, especially by Sister Elizabeth, who did most of the ground work. Pilgrims taking part all commented on the friendly atmosphere throughout the day and the deep relationship there was with all our hosts.
We had planned to gather at Our Lady of Muswell Roman Catholic church hall between 9.15 and 9.45am. When I arrived just before 9am to greet everyone, the hall was almost full with people happily chatting in small groups at tables with a drink and a biscuit in their hands. I was surprised and delighted. It gave me a chance to talk to each group and personally hand each person a pilgrimage booklet with the timetable, route and information on each place of worship. I also needed volunteers to distribute leaflets to passers-by and stewards for the walk.
By 9.45 there were over two hundred people present. Fr Mark Anwyll, parish priest of Our Lady of Muswell said the opening prayer and blessing and sent us off to the nearby Orthodox synagogue, where we were met by a ‘welcoming committee’ and waited for the Rabbi to come out and greet us. We were expected for a part of their Shabbat Service – the reading of the Torah and the sermon. The women went in first because they had to go upstairs. They were reading from the Book of Numbers, where Moses points out that God would always be with his people ‘in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night’ (Num. 14: 14). Although the Rabbi did not refer to the passage in his sermon, it struck me that this was also the Word of Life for June: ‘And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Mt. 28: 20). (See New City June 2014) It became the theme for the day. It also reflected the weather. The forecast was a fine day, no rain, but it did rain nearly every time we were inside a place of worship, but stopped the minute we left. The rain cooled the air and made the walking so much easier. We felt blessed. God was with us!
Listening to the inner voice
We went back to Our Lady of Muswell Church, where we listened to a presentation by the local Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Their local Meeting House was too small to accommodate us. In their presentation what struck me was the emphasis on ‘listening to the inner voice’. We returned to the Hall for a vegetarian lunch, provided by the Sachkhand Nanak Dham Sikh community, who come down from Birmingham every year to serve us with lunch. Their leader told us that their vocation was selfless service to humanity and that meant always being ‘the first to love’. They certainly live their vocation! It seemed we were being reminded of the points of the Focolare spirituality of unity at every step by people of different faiths.
Open and welcoming
Next, we walked to the Moravian church, where Pastor Joachim explained their origins and practices, which are based on Jesus’ words: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them’ (Mt. 18: 20). They also have a daily sentence from Scripture, which all the members try to live. As part of their spirituality, they are open and welcoming to everybody. Both the local Seventh Day Adventists and the Baha’is meet there regularly, as well as many other groups. We had an input from the local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, who stressed the unity of humanity and prayed that one day ‘we would all be one’.
Prayer for peace
At this point, it seemed a good opportunity to have a prayer. We all stood and shared the UN Prayer for Peace and left to go to the Islamic Cultural Centre about a mile away, where we were welcomed by members of the community, including two Imams, the president of the Mosque, his wife and daughter, who gave us a guided tour of the Mosque and Islamic centre in small groups. One of them told us: ‘We are all brothers and sisters of One God in heaven.’ We all ended up in the refectory, where we were treated to a very generous ‘high tea’. What struck me here was the emphasis on prayer, hospitality and community and the bond of friendship that existed between Sister Elizabeth and the leaders of the Mosque.
Living the present moment
The next stop was the Sufi Centre in Crouch End, where we were greeted by a group of young Iranian Muslims all dressed in white, who not only explained who they were but shared their style of prayer and meditation with us. They emphasized the importance of always living the ‘present moment’. This is why they dress in white to enter the ‘prayer space’ and leave the hustle and bustle of the world outside to be in the presence of God. In fact they call their place of worship: ‘The House of the Present Moment’.
While the meditation was taking place, young Sufi women were bringing out bowls of fresh fruits and jugs of drinks to share. It was a wonderful conclusion to an enjoyable, enlightening and spiritual day, which in a way never ended. Pilgrims spoke about their experiences all the way home. Many sent me positive comments about the day and wanted to know when and where the next multi-faith pilgrimage would be. In fact it will be on Saturday 13th June 2015 in the Hounslow area of West London.