What is it all about?
The background to Northern Cross and what it is all about
[also see our FAQs section – click here]
Every year for more than 40 years, during the week leading up to Easter, groups of pilgrims have been walking together from various places in the North of England and Scotland for between 70 and 120 miles to Holy Island on the Northumbrian coast of England carrying a large heavy cross.
So why do people do this?
Northern Cross is a unique way to spend Easter. As pilgrims we bear witness to the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Carrying a cross is a very symbolic act – pilgrims relive the road to Calvary and it reminds people we pass along the way of the importance of Christ, and more specifically Easter, in their lives. Pilgrims also share that witness with the people we visit along the way – by sharing witness and worship with our hosts, we serve to emphasise the meaning of Easter to them. It is a pilgrimage we can share with people of all ages, and all shades of Christianity – it is truly ecumenical. Our hosts are Anglican, Catholic, Church of Scotland, Methodist and Baptist; we join in worship with them all along the way.
On the other side Northern Cross gives us a chance to get away from the world – a retreat – in beautiful countryside, in the open air away from the daily grind, television and newspapers; a chance to think and reflect; a chance to share in a small Christian community for a week. A chance to breath, and find your own personal space. A chance to work out what are the important things in life – warmth, companionship, food, drink, religion. A chance to drop the trappings of everyday life and to get away from the rat race.
Along the way we talk; sing; tell stories; tell jokes; have silent periods; discuss anything and everything; and try not to get lost.
The friends you make on Northern Cross are life long friends. The community spirit that is built up with a small group, roughing it, sleeping on cold hard floors, experiencing physical and emotional pain and pleasure together, experiencing all that northern British weather can throw at you in spring, is a fantastic experience.
Walking 70 to 120 miles in a week is physically challenging, but not beyond the capabilities of most people. Not everyone necessarily walks all the way; there are jobs for car drivers, shoppers and cooks. It is a good idea to have a few substantial practice walks first, to harden your feet. We are also joined from time to time by local people who help to share our burden. We can cater for all ages – family groups with teenage children are certainly welcome.
While expecting the worst weather – it can rain, hail, sleet or snow – some years it hasn’t rained once and one group was caught paddling in a river; it was that warm.
Each route we walk is different, has is own atmosphere and highlights they all share one thing, the destination. The groups meet together at the mainland end of the Holy Island causeway on Good Friday morning, and cross the sands to the island along the pilgrims path while the tide is out.