Hundreds gather for annual pilgrimages

Emma Knights After walking for days to reach their destination, pilgrims from all over the country arrived at England's Nazareth yesterday to celebrate the Easter weekend.

Emma Knights

After walking for days to reach their destination, pilgrims from all over the country arrived at England's Nazareth yesterday to celebrate the Easter weekend.

More than 250 people taking part in the annual Student Cross pilgrimage gathered at the Roman Catholic National Shrine of Our Lady, Walsingham, yesterday afternoon as they completed their long journeys by foot.

Ten different groups of pilgrims had all walked up to 120 miles over Holy Week to be at Walsingham for Good Friday, and each group had carried a life-sized cross.

Dave Stanley, Student Cross national director for 2010, said: “Everyone was in good spirits as the groups completed their very long walks to get to Walsingham, and there was lots of cheering and singing as they arrived.

“The Student Cross is an intensely rewarding experience and the wet weather this year has not dampened our spirits as we celebrate Easter.”

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Tomorrow at 11.45am the pilgrims will take part in a “Holy Trot” when they will take 10 decorated crosses around Walsingham's holy sites.

The Student Cross first started walking from London to Walsingham in 1948 and was originally a male-only Catholic pilgrimage. Nowadays Christians of all denominations take part in Student Cross.

Meanwhile, a big wooden cross was carried to the top of a landmark hill looking over Sheringham in the annual Easter procession.

About 300 people took part in the Good Friday silent walk behind the cross through town, stopping at the clock for a short service led by the Salvation Army band, before the hail and hardy did the final uphill journey to the summit of Beeston Bump.

On the hilltop the gathering of pensioners, parents, children and dogs stood around the iconic symbol of Easter for further hymns and prayers - huddled against a cutting wind under the grey cloud-laden skies.

Salvation Army Major Ian Robinson set it was an appropriate setting overlooking the town “just like 2,000 years ago - except it may have been a little warmer.”

The procession is organised by Sheringham Churches Together, a group of seven congregations who run joint events all year round. Chairman and Methodist minister the Rev Colin Sherwood said the position of the cross, on the hilltop, was important as it displayed the symbol of Easter to wide area.

At Cromer a similar procession snaked through town centre before stopping outside the Hotel de Paris overlooking the pier and the parish church to re-enact the Easter story through church members in the crowd.

Vicar the Rev David Court said the drama was added this year as the church increased its range of activities to engage more with the public, including giving away hot cross buns and doing car washes.

The real meaning of the first Good Friday was observed in King's Lynn and at Downham Market when people took part in the annual Procession of Witness around the town centres.

At Lynn, more than 80 people took in the event which was this year led by the Rev Corin Child, of St John's Church. Voluteers took turns in carrying a large wooden cross and stops were made at various "stations" around the town centre.

The event was organised by Churches Together and the Vicar of St Margaret's Church, Lynn, the Rev Canon Chris Ivory, said there was a mixed reaction to the Act of Witness, reflecting on the day that Jesus was crucified.

"Some shoppers passed by, some stopped to look at what was happening and some asked what was happening?," said Mr Ivory.

At Downham Market, around 70 Christians processed in silence as they reflected on events of the first Good Friday. Volunteers carried a wooden cross and the group stopped at various points in the town centre for a Bible reading, prayer and a hymn. It was organised by Downham Churches Together.

Similar processions also took place all over Norfolk, including in Dilham, near North Walsham, Diss and Norwich, where scores of people turned out.