Planning music for a week’s worth of liturgies is always a little bit of a daunting task. Especially when there is a theme that needs to unfold in a particular way throughout the week, and the liturgies are to be the primary vehicle for that.
We are keen on the principle of trying to find a balance of old and new – finding ways for the traditional to meet and sit alongside the more contemporary. In the case of the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage – we are also trying to have a “youthful” appeal overall.
This balancing act is no mean feat.
This year’s theme was “Who Do You Think You Are?” – an invitation for our young people to reflect on their identity as Children of God redeemed by Christ. A powerful and relevant message in this digital age dominated by social media and celebrities who are famous for nothing other than clocking-up followers and video views.
Under new leadership, there was perhaps a shift of style and focus in the youth pilgrimage this year. As always though, the liturgies remain very much at the heart of the week’s programme. Thoughtfully chosen themes and readings unfolded day by day with the pastoral leadership and insightful preaching of Bishop Philip North. (It was great to work alongside him again, as we had done many times before when he was Shrine Administrator, leading the youth pilgrimage himself.)
MONDAY EVENING: “Who Are Ya?”
The opening Liturgy and first visit usually recalls the Annunciation in some way. This year we reflected on the idea that we find our identity – like Mary – in responding generously and give ourselves completely to God’s call. Our key song in this liturgy was I Give Myself Away by William McDowell.
After our opening praise and worship and ministry team introductions, the pilgrims processed to Altar of the Mysteries of Light in the shrine gardens to make their official “first visit” to the Holy House.
TUESDAY MORNING MASS: “Who Are Ya? Friends”
In the first Mass of the week we explored God’s call to us and our vocation as disciples. We opened this liturgy with Paul Baloche’s The Same Love which picked up the theme of being ‘called’ beautifully. Although this song was new to most, they picked it up quickly and sang it really well.
During Communion we sang the Delirious? classic What A Friend I’ve Found, knowing that anyone who truly responds to God’s call discovers a Friend like no other. We closed with a Rend Collective inspired, foot-stomping version of Will You Come And Follow Me?
Tuesday evening’s open air gathering at the Altar of the Mysteries of Light has become a bit of a highlight over the years. This time around, heavy rain and light flooding put paid to the usual bare foot holy mile procession from the Roman Catholic Shrine to the Anglican Shrine. Plan B was a soggy but much shorter walk from the Shrine back up to the big top.
Plan B made way for its own beautiful surprises, though, and there was nothing soggy about the worship that filled the big top that evening. In the candle-lit, Spirit-soaked presence of the Blessed Sacrament the rain-soaked pilgrims lifted their hearts and voices. We sang Sweet Sacrament Divine, Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You and the Matt Redman favourite 10,000 Reasons.
WEDNESDAY MASS: “Who Are Ya? Followers”
In Wednesday’s Mass, our first reading from Acts 2: 37-47 reminded us that we find our identity as followers who reflect the holiness of Jesus, and share his life in fellowship with others. Our Gospel reading reminded us that Jesus is the true vine and that our very life comes from him.
We reflected this musically in a few key songs: We opened with We Will Follow – a lovely reggae-style song with the catchy refrain “You’re the way, you’re the truth your’e the life, we will follow…“. At the offertory we pushed the boat out a bit with a rendition of I Will Follow Him from the movie Sister Act.
Our final song – Alive by Hillsong Young & Free – was introduced for the first time in the liturgy. It took a while to settle into the repertoire. But once we found the right key (Gm) and the right tempo (about 128 bpm), it proved to be one of the favourites of the week.
WEDNESDAY EVENING LITURGY
The first 20 minutes or so of the ‘late night liturgy’ is always a bit of a praise party. We prepare of set of both old and new favourites and the young pilgrims raise the roof of the big tip. Glorious! And loud!
Later, as we settled into the teaching, Bishop Philip’s homily invited us to turn our eyes towards the cross and gaze upon the wounds of the One whose sacrifice set us free to be who we are truly meant to be. We sang When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and a prayerful silence fell across the big top.
We led into the time of healing ministries with O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship…
“Are you hurting and broken within?
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin?
Jesus is calling…”
THURSDAY MASS “Who Are Ya? Witnesses”
In the story of the Visitation we find Mary being the one of the first witnesses to Jesus. As she brings Good News to her cousin Elizabeth and proclaims the greatness of the Lord, we are invited to do the same.
Paul Hillebrand’s song Witnesses provided the soundtrack for our offertory and we closed with arousing blast of Tell Out My Soul.
FRIDAY MASS “In The Power of the Spirit”
Our closing Mass was all about being sent out in the power of the Spirit to live our life in Christ as friends, followers and witnesses. We opened with an updated, calypso-style version of the traditional hymn Breathe On Me Breath of God. It was a bit of an experiment, but it seemed to work.
We used the refrain of the 2008 World Youth Day Theme Receive the Power as our Gopsel Acclamation and reprised it in its entirety as our first Communion song. Our second Communion Song was the lilting modern hymn Holy Spirit Living Breath of God by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.
After Communion, we ended where we had begun when we gathered on Monday evening – giving ourselves away as friends, followers and witness of Jesus to be bearers of God’ goodness, mercy and love.
“I give myself away…
I give myself away so you can use me”
Until next year…with the help of God, we will.
Photos by Graham Howard
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