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A BEACON OF LIGHT
The Lindisfarne Gospels Pilgrimage
This article was written by the organisers of the pilgrimage and appeared in the August/September 2022 edition of Link, the monthly newspaper for the Diocese of Newcastle.
The iconic Lindisfarne Gospels will be returning to their homeland with a display at The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle from 17 September until 3 December 2022.
To celebrate this occasion, a challenging 140-mile journey will be undertaken with pilgrims carrying a replica of St Cuthbert’s Coffin containing facsimiles of the Lindisfarne Gospels and Cuthbert’s Gospel of John from the River Tees to Lindisfarne itself.
This pilgrimage will be about learning from the past, to live well in the present and to contribute towards shaping a better future.
To help us live well in the present and shape a better future, the pilgrimage will focus on three themes that were prominent in the life of St Cuthbert and are also major themes in his favourite gospel of John. They are Love, Life and Light.
St Cuthbert was a man of great compassion. He reached out to the needy and marginalised, especially when he travelled to remote parts of Northumbria where people were illiterate and very poor. As we seek to follow St Cuthbert’s example, we will be supporting the charity Feeding Families.
The original stories of Cuthbert are about the way he seemed to live on after his death. It was said that his body had not decomposed when they opened his coffin before interring him at Durham Cathedral, more than 300 years after his death. Although we will be carrying a coffin, we will be talking about life. Gospel means ‘good news’, so we will be carrying the good news that if we follow the example of St Cuthbert in following Jesus Christ, we will know life in all its fulness!
A 10th-century poem describes how through St Cuthbert, “God’s shed His radiance gleaming across the water and Britain”. His life was suitably celebrated through a great illuminated manuscript. Light for us is therefore associated with creativity, and we want to encourage creative responses to the pilgrimage, especially through decorative handwriting.
One of the possible crossing points for the coffin across the Tees was Gainford, and this is where the pilgrimage will begin. The route will continue via the historic Saxon church at Escomb and Bishop Auckland to Durham. Remembering the fact that the monks were originally intending to take the coffin to Lindisfarne, the route will continue to Chester-le-Street, where the coffin and the gospels found their longest resting place and where the interlinear translation in early English was inserted. From there, it will continue to Newcastle Cathedral, arriving on the day the Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition opens. It will then proceed to the coast at Seaton Sluice before following near the coast to Lindisfarne itself.
How to get involved
You can join the pilgrimage for days or half days, bringing your own food and making your own transport or other arrangements. Keep an eye on the website for more detailed information about where to join the pilgrimage by early August. There are lots of ways to get involved, and the organising team would be grateful to hear from churches along the route where the coffin and gospels can stay overnight and be visited by local people. They are also looking for accommodation for the core team of eight in homes, churches and church halls.
The diocesan website has more detailed information, and you can contact David Pott, Pilgrimage Consultant, Diocese of Durham, on 07932 790525 or email email@example.com.
Image banner: St Cuthbert’s coffin with monks by St Cuthbert’s Cave from the album cover of Take Up My Bones by Arð – Artist: Gabriel Danilchik