The Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage has been a firm fixture in our summer music ministry calendar since 2005. Each year they give us an opportunity to find creative ways to bring the liturgies and the central message of the Gospel to life for the young people (and adults) who attend.
This year’s theme – Generation Hope – was powerful and timely. Living as we do in an age of rapid change, political, economic and environmental uncertainty, it is so important for our young people to discover the firm hope that is only found in Christ and to share that hope with others.
MONDAY EVENING: ‘The Future is Bright’
On Monday evening the 550 or so pilgrims gathered in the big top for the first time to meet the ministry team, be introduced to the theme for the week and make their first visit to the Holy House in procession. Our Chosen theme song for the week, The Future is Bright by Brandon Heath, made a tentative debut…
By the end of the week it was a firm favourite, with dance moves and actions that the young pilgrims seemed to have made up themselves.
As the pilgrims made their way out of the big top in orderly procession, we sang the Calypso Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nothing like a little calyspo rhythm to keep a Marian procession on the move.
TUESDAY MORNING MASS: ‘Word of Hope’
Our first morning Mass focused on the ‘Word of Hope‘, celebrating God’s promise to Mary at the Annuciation. We opened ‘Sister Act’ style with Hail Holy Queen and covered the extended sprinkling rite with a gentle, first-time rendition of Grace Like A Wave from Elevation Worship.
The original recording of Grace Like a Wave is a full-on, four-to-the-floor anthem. Using it in this context was a bit of a leap of faith. But the text is perfect for the sprinkling rite and as we’d hoped, it stripped-back beautifully to something more sensitive to the liturgical moment.
During the preparation of the gifts, we used the wonderful contemporary Marian song Blessed One. Our simple sung intercession response With Mary We Ask You served well during this liturgy too. Jo Boyce’s ever-popular setting of Magnificat was sung with full heart and voice during Communion.
On Tuesday evening the pilgrims processed the holy mile from the (RC) Slipper Chapel up to the Anglican Shrine Gardens, praying the rosary as they went. As they gathered prayerfully in the gardens, we sang the Rolinson setting of Hail Mary to echo the prayer that had been on their lips as they walked in procession.
Then, as the Blessed Sacrament was brought into our midst, we sang Your Presence is Heaven which flowed into the scripture reading and meditation led by Fr Kevin (priest-administrator of the shrine). At the end we sang Cornerstone…
“My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus blood and righteousness”
It was our first time using this relatively familiar Hillsong classic at the youth pilgrimage. We introduced it at this point knowing we planned to use it again in Mass the following morning.
WEDNESDAY MORNING MASS: ‘Child of Hope’
On Wednesday Morning it was Christmas in the big top! The scene was set during the opening procession with Marty Haugen’s Come to Us, O Emmaunel, starting as an Advent litany and becoming the Christmas Litany Gift of God, O Emmanuel. For the Gloria we used the refrain from Angels We Have Heard on High with the verses on Mike Anderson’s well-known Clappy Gloria. Probably not a musical mash-up you should try at home, but just the thing when you’re celebrating Christmas in a big top in the middle of August!
Chris Tomlin’s Adore was a wonderfully worshipful back-drop for Communion, segueing seamlessly at the end to the carol O Come All Ye Faithful. The final song was our marathon, foot-stomping version of Children Go When I Send Thee, which at almost 30ºC in a sweltering big top was an almost Herculean feat of physical endurance.
Wednesday afternoon was spent singing our hearts out with a keen group of young pilgrims in our music workshop. We prepare a group version of the theme song The Future is Bright, which we shared with the other pilgrims as part of the Evening gathering.
The start of the Wednesday evening in the big top is always an opportunity for a bit of a praise party, with few of the favourites. Our 500 Spirit-filled pilgrims almost blew the roof off the big top with high-energy favourites like Shine Jesus Shine (yes, really!), My Lighthouse and Dancing Generation.
Bishop Philip’s teaching and the video reflection on the Beatitudes reminded us that our hope for the future is lived out in the present. In response we sang the poignant Build My Life from the music collective know as Housefires.
“And I will build my life upon your love, it is a firm foundation.”
A profound silence fell as the Blessed Sacrament was brought into our midst and we sang Behold the Lamb. The time of prayer and ministry that followed gave opportunity for other songs like O Come To The Altar (Elevation Worship) , Lord I Need You (Matt Maher) and Paul Baloche’s Your Mercy.
THURSDAY MASS: ‘Hope of the Cross’
Wednesday is the longest, busiest day in the programme. And after all-night prayer in the big top, weary pilgrims gathered to celebrate the Hope of the Cross in our Thursday Mass of the Resurrection. By the time the bells rung out for the rousing Glory Glory by Chris Rolinson, the vigil-weary pilgrims had found a new lease of life.
After lunch, knowing there was only one more liturgy to go, our tired team enjoyed a bit of downtime in the sunshine at the seaside.
FRIDAY MASS: ‘The Bread of Hope’
Our closing Mass we focused on the Bread of Hope – Our food for the journey. In just a few days we’d journey from the Annunciation to the Resurrection and now, it was time for Corpus Christi. We opened the Mass with our Age to Age version of I Am The Bread of Life. We sang words that would be echoed in the Gospel reading from chapter 6 of John’s Gospel.
During the elevations in the Eucharistic prayer, we sang the refrain Behold the Lamb, echoing from our time of exposition and adoration on the Wednesday evening, and bringing a extra emphasis to this precious moment of the Consecration.
The words of the first reading from Corinthians were echoed in our Communion Song Remember Me (Extended) and our gentle reggae version of Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer was our nod to the traditional, as a our Song of Thanksgiving after Communion.
“Bread of Heaven, feed me ’til I want no more…”
After the mandatory reprise of this year’s pilgrimage favourites, the pilgrims left the big top, with faith restored and hope renewed. Whatever happens in the weeks and months ahead, we pray they will hold to the hope that won’t be shaken (as we sang in our theme song), secure in the knowledge that in Christ the future is always bright.
Photos by Graham Howard