Background. Rev Becky Richards, Curate at St John’s Benefice in Ingestre near Stafford, had a vision several years ago following the Stafford Hospital Enquiry. The result of prayerful discernment of this God-given picture is that Becky and a group of walkers will be making a pilgrimage from Stafford hospital to St Thomas’s in London during the Archbishop’s national 10 days of prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come”. As a compassionate agent of healing, the National Health Service is truly an expression of God’s Kingdom. This Pilgrimage of Prayer is for our NHS. They will be praying for the NHS and the thousands of health care workers who are under mounting pressures and suffering from increasingly low morale. Each day during the walk a different church in Stafford will be meeting at the hospital chapel to pray for the pilgrimage, and a service will take place at each place where the walkers stop for the night.
At a meeting at Milton Keynes hospital last week, Becky hastened to explain that this is NOT a political demonstration, but a move of prayer, recognising God’s heart. The organisers are hoping to connect with local churches ecumenically along the route and invite local Christians to join their leg of the walk. However, if anyone feels moved to walk the whole way, they would be made most welcome!
The plan. This is to walk approximately 18 miles a day, stopping at hospitals along the route to worship and pray. They will be carrying the cross which had previously been set up in a field by those who had been protesting about losing so many departments from Stafford hospital. This cross is covered in blue ribbons holding the prayers of the people of Stafford.
The route. This will take walkers through Cannock, Walsall, Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Rugby, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Luton, Hemel Hempstead, Harrow, and will pass by St Mary’s Paddington and go through Hyde Park, before arriving at St Thomas’s, where a final Service of Thanksgiving will take place. The walkers will be arriving in Milton Keynes at about 6.00pm on the evening of Tuesday 30 May, and Rev Philip Winn, Hospital Chaplain, is co-ordinating the service at Milton Keynes hospital chapel.
People can follow the pilgrimage via social media. A dedicated Facebook page is being co-ordinated in Stafford to keep people informed, and a map showing the route will be published daily. There is also a website (www.nhsprayerwalk.co.uk) which will probably be live by the time you read this.
If you wish to participate in this pilgrimage in any way at all (see list below), please contact me, Linda Kirk (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Philip Winn (Chaplain, MK Hospital). The closing date for signing up will be Saturday 6 May. There is no petition to sign. However, the organisers plan on having a ‘Just Giving’ page linked to the website, where people can make donations to cover expenses. (These include printing costs, blue bibs for walkers, prayer books etc. Any excess will be donated to the hospitals visited.)
How to Help:-
- Pray – individually and as churches – for the NHS as an instrument of God’s Kingdom in our nation. Pray that God would bless and encourage all who work in health and social care. Pray for the walkers, our hospital and health service, both in Milton Keynes and those along the route, as well as for GP surgeries. Give thanks for our own health and healing. (Prayers will be available on the website, which can be used however you want.)
- Offer simple hospitality (food and accommodation) for those pilgrims walking the whole route. Those involved will probably want to go to bed as soon as they’ve eaten!
- Volunteer to join the support team for our leg of the journey. (This will involve wearing a yellow jacket and being willing to deal with any protestors if there are any problems.)
- Offer to guide the pilgrimage to the hospital once it reaches Milton Keynes.
- Provide a rest stop at your church if it is on the pilgrimage route.
- Put up a poster at your church, club or place of work. (Download here Invalid download ID..)
- Spread the word!
The pilgrimage will cover 180 miles. It will be a sacrifice of time and energy, especially as it is taking place over Half Term Week. It is hoped something good and beautiful will come out of it, and with God’s help, something surely will.
“Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).