Friday 28th. February, 2014 – The long journey home 

Vadstena sits on the bank of a beautiful lake

I was woken by my alarm at 6.30 a.m. I showered and dressed and then packed my bag, stripped my bed and went for breakfast at 7.30 a.m. so that I could join the others in Church for the service of Holy Communion at 8 a.m. As it was Friday a painted crucifix with icons of Bridget ( called Birgitta in Swedish) and Katarina on the arms, was in front of the altar and we gathered around this icon for the service which was conducted by the vicar in whose home we had dined last evening.

The crucifix around which we gathered

We all walked back to our base together and the morning’s programme began – a discussion about membership criteria and about funding and the different and considerable additional sources open to us. We broke for coffee (across the lawn in the students’ refectory) and then resumed our discussions, centering on future meetings and on their format.

We moved into groups – the British ‘chapter’: Caroline from Canterbury, Kevin from St. Albans, Peter from Norwich and me from Scotland – discussed our ‘to do’ list – the launch at Canterbury, the secular partnership at Norwich, the work in Wales (with Chris), in Scotland and in Ireland. New areas were targeted with me talking through the possibility of engaging with Jarrow, the World of Bede, Euromine and so on. At least we all know what we are meant to be doing over the coming months!

The minutes raced by and soon it was time to return to church for the noon service of prayer, followed by lunch in the refectory. I loved my stuffed tomato with a glorious salad and sautéed potatoes.

In the hour after lunch a number of smaller meetings took place – to arrange a European pilgrimage to Canterbury; to complete a funding application. As I wasn’t required I nipped out and walked around the town taking some photos; the sun came out and I was truly blessed.

I walked by the lake, visited the castle, popped into the old station (now closed) but with some rolling stock on the line. I looked at the old medieval streets and admired the buildings – and I was so glad to have had the opportunity of taking all of this in.

The Castle entrance

The courtyard

A view from the drawbridge over the moat as the water goes out to the lake

An old railway carriage

The white building is the original Town Hall

The first town chemist’s shop is still in business

These two buildings were built centuries apart. On the left a nineteenth century building, on the right a seventeenth century one

One of the little streets along which I wandered

and I walked across this square (which is under some degree of restoration)

This mark, made by Pilgrims over the centuries, is by the front door of the Abbey Church

I was back after an hour (having met up with Kevin who had also escaped for a moment or two. Back at base we had a round-up session where we were each reminded of our tasks. I have responsibilities in Scotland, northern England and Ireland as well as some research to complete and write up. Now I have my summer house it will be fun to get started on that.

At 2.45 p.m. – what a lot we had packed into today – we loaded ourselves into a minibus and set off for the airport. Kevin was staying on for an extra night in Linkoping, the rest of us got on the 5.10 flight for Amsterdam – and there we all separated and went our different ways: Alison and Berit (along with the vicar of Vadstena) to Bethlehem; Martin to Bristol; Peter to Norwich, Caroline to Heathrow and me to Edinburgh.

The flight was uneventful enough and Rachel was waiting for me at Edinburgh. I was glad to see her – I was delighted to be home. It has been a wonderful three days and I have learned a lot: but it is good to be home.


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