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A Pilgrimage at Home

by glynch — last modified 28 Sep, 2016 05:16 PM

Devizes worshippers visit every Christian place of worship in the town, while raising money for historic churches

by Alison and Robin Taylor

On the morning and afternoon of Saturday 10 September, Ride+Stride Day, Liz Overthrow, Secretary of Wiltshire Churches Together, led a guided walk around Devizes. Each walk lasted about two hours, with an itinerary of ten church buildings to be visited. As part of Ride+Stride, which raises money for county Historic Churches Trusts across the country, every walker also had the opportunity of being sponsored. Only six of the churches were officially open for that event, so Liz had kindly arranged for several others to be opened especially for us.

In the morning, seven keen walkers met at St John’s in Long Street. As it was also the annual Heritage Open Day, the four C of E churches in the town were jointly supporting The Trust for Devizes by showcasing their architecture and history. Built in the early 12th century, St John’s is the oldest of the buildings. Although we were on a mini-pilgrimage, rather than an architectural tour, Liz kindly gave us a brief informative history of each church building, before offering a prayer for those who worship there. The rain failed to dampen our spirits as we hurried from Saint John’s to our next destination, St Andrew’s Methodist and United Reformed Church, just over the road.

Unfortunately, we were only able to linger inside for five minutes before moving on. We stopped briefly outside the Maryport Street Baptist Church, before visiting the “New” Baptist Church in Sheep Street. Next was our own parish church, St James’, which occupies a lovely position in the town, just beside the Crammer.

Ten minutes later, with the rain still hurrying us up, we walked briskly to St Mary’s Church, before setting off to the furthest C of E church, on the other side of Devizes – St Peter’s in Bath Road. On the way, we briefly stopped outside the Georgian Salem Chapel in New Park Street, where The Rock Community Church now meets. From St Peter’s, we retraced our steps towards the Quaker Meeting House where we enjoyed a time of quiet reflection. Our final destination was the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception.

In the course of our pilgrimage, we saw buildings ranging from the Norman architecture of St John’s and St Mary’s to the plain and simple modernity of the octagonal Friends Meeting House: different in emphasis and expression, but all ten united in the common purpose of Christian worship.

That afternoon the two of us revisited the churches open for the Heritage weekend, learning more from the welcoming members of each congregation. At St Peter’s, we even managed to meet up with Liz again, as she conducted her second guided walk around the same ten Devizes Churches.



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