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Orienteering ‘The Pilgrim’s Course’: The Revd Peter Crumpler


Here is what Church House Publishing says about this major new initiative from the Church of England.

Pilgrim is a major new teaching and discipleship resource from the Church of England. It will help enquirers and new Christians explore what it means to travel through life with Jesus Christ.

A Christian course for the twenty-first century, Pilgrim offers an approach of participation, not persuasion. Enquirers are encouraged to practice the ancient disciplines of biblical reflection and prayer, exploring key texts that have helped people since the earliest days of the Christian faith.

Believing that the Christian faith is primarily about relationship, Pilgrim aims to lay a foundation for a lifetime of learning more about God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ and what it means to be his disciple. Assuming little or no knowledge of the Christian faith, Pilgrim can be used at any point on the journey of discipleship and by every tradition in the Church of England.

Pilgrim is made up of two parts: Follow and Grow. Each consists of four short courses and a leaders’ guide. Follow introduces the Christian faith for complete beginners, while Grow aims to develop a deeper level of discipleship in those who have turned to Christ.

Each short course contains six-sessions, supported by online audio-visual resources. All sessions combine a simple framework prayer, reflection on the Bible in the lectio divina style, an article by a modern writer, and time for questions and reflection.

This first book in the Follow Stage, Turning to Christ, explores the questions candidates are asked when they decide to become followers of Jesus.

I asked The Revd Peter Crumpler to share with us his initial reaction (which he was kind enough to agree to before having had a chance to try it out on his parishioners):

“I played a small part in the inception of what was to become The Pilgrim Course before I left the Archbishops’ Council to train for ordination just over two years ago. So I was eager to open the package that delivered the first booklets into my waiting hands.  I was not disappointed. I set aside time in the re-ordered Hudson Library at St Albans Abbey to look through the Leader’s Guide and the first two work books and was soon struck by the care that had been taken to put the course together.

But before jumping to the content, a word about the design. I was impressed by well laid-out pages and good use of white space to guide the eye through the sections and make the teaching accessible in bite-size chunks and easy-to-follow headings. There were no lengthy, dense paragraphs to deter the would-be pilgrim from signing up or weighty manuals that would put off any but the most determined group leader. Both are no small achievements.

So what of the content? The Church Times heralded Pilgrim’s arrival as “not the Alpha course”, highlighting Alpha’s position as the ‘brand leader’ in discipleship courses. But to describe Pilgrim’s attraction mainly as an alternative to the Holy Trinity Brompton-inspired course sells it far short.

The authors –Steven Croft, Stephen Cottrell, Paula Gooder, Robert Atwell, Nick Baines and Stephen Conway– bring with them much experience in communicating the Christian faith in a range of media. They demonstrate a keen understanding of what can be realistically achieved in around 75-90 minutes in a parish context, and helpfully set out a template for a group session.

A key feature of the sessions is what the authors describe as “the reflective and critical reading of Scripture.” The selected Bible passage is read through three times. After the first reading, the participants reflect on it in silence. Then the passage is read again and people are asked to say out loud a word or phrase from the passage that has struck them. After some silence, the passage is read aloud again and the participants discuss the passage together or in smaller groups.

The main teaching content of the sessions follows at this point, using short reflective articles written by a range of people.  Those taking part then discuss questions prompted by the reflection. The session ends, as it began, with prayer.

The authors state that “a key part of learning about the Christian faith in this kind of group is the opportunity for group members to ask the questions that are central to their search and journey.” My sense of this course is that the participants are learning together, going on a journey of faith together, exploring what it means to be a 21st century Christian. Guided and encouraged, but not directed. Orienteering rather than a route-march.

In a lengthy description of ‘the Pilgrim Way,’ the authors helpfully set out their thinking behind developing “material suitable for catechesis” including the course’s important focus on beginning with basics, whole-life discipleship, following Christ, the importance of the Scriptures and drawing deeply both from Christian tradition and ‘the Anglican way.’

This focus on Anglican values underlines the authors’ description of Pilgrim as “a specifically Anglican resource which follows Anglican belief and practice at every point.” In doing so, it may answer many people’s questions about what it actually means to be an Anglican today.

I’m excited by The Pilgrim Course. I can see that lots of careful preparation has been devoted to it. Much has been done to make it easy-to-use by all kinds of parishes in all kinds of settings – including online video and sound files. I’m looking forward to road-testing it in a parish setting and seeing how participants respond. For many, I believe, it will be an important step on their journey of faith.”


Courtesy Albans & Harpenden Review

Courtesy Albans & Harpenden Review


The Revd Peter Crumpler is Curate at St Leonard’s Church, Sandridge, Herts. He was Director of Communications for the Archbishops’ Council from 2004 to 2011.

He highlights: “PS. As a statement of mission, it was interesting to see Back to Church Sunday now listed in the Leader’s Guide right alongside Harvest, Remembrance, Christmas, Holy Week & Easter and Pentecost as key events in the Christian calendar.”

1 comment on this post:

Jill and John Pauling said...

A great introduction….we now need to get hold of a copy of part 1 to see if we can use it with our fellowship group here in SW France. We already have a great respect for most of the contributing authors so, all in all it sounds exciting

15 October 2013 15:39

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