Alex walks his virtual camino (picture supplied by Elizabeth Wyatt)

For one set of Churches in Gateshead, COVID 19 has put their plans to make a pilgrimage from the Angel of the North to Durham Cathedral on hold. But then Revd Alex Crawford, a curate in The Low Fell, Bensham & Teams area of Gateshead had a good idea! Along with other church leaders in Gateshead, they hatched a plan to get everyone involved and use their daily exercise plan to walk the equivalent of The Angel of the North to the shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Along the way, they would be raising a pound for every mile walked to help fight food poverty in Gateshead.

Calling it the Virtual Camino (Pilgrimage), the plan is based upon one of the routes of the Camino De Santiago (the way of St James) one of the ancient Christian Pilgrimages dating back to the middle ages. The total distance needing to be covered by the Virtual Camino being over 2,100KM.

 

Revd Alex said: 

“We thought rather than give up we would do a different kind of virtual pilgrimage. We asked ourselves: ‘What if we add together all the mileage covered by people in the deanery who went out for a walk somewhere in the northeast, however small, could we walk the equivalent of Gateshead to Santiago?’ 

“We set ourselves ten weeks to do it, but after six weeks we had already achieved the equivalent distance to Santiago – so we have now extended it to Rome! At the moment we are halfway to Rome from Santiago; somewhere near Marseille.

“The idea has captured the imaginations of people from our Deanery, and further afield too. It’s been fantastic for us, as we’ve felt our fitness improving, we’ve got to know so many new beautiful places around the North East, and it’s bringing people together in a collective effort.

 

“We’ve got little children adding two miles here three miles there and all sending in selfies where they can. I’m doing a weekly or two weekly video update with some of our pictures so we can document our Virtual Camino.

“So far we’re up to 2085 miles contributed by more than 50 people, from young children to mature adults.  We have pledges of over £1600, though some are sponsoring individual walkers, and will wait to get their final figures.  So we’re on course for £2000.”

Asked how the money raised is going to be used Revd Alex said:

“The amount we raise will determine what we can do, but we’re trying to be a bit creative about how we can help people, maybe do something around cooking on a budget. 

“And obviously, we’ll support the local food banks, which are doing a fantastic job feeding almost 900 people a week at the moment.  Food poverty has been a real issue in Gateshead, like so many places, for a long time, but we’re concerned about how people are going to cope in the future, with the economic and social disruption that COVID has brought.”

The Rt Revd Paul Butler Bishop of Durham said:

“Pilgrimage 2020 for us in the Diocese has had to be rethought and much moved into 2021. Gateshead Deanery has come up with a wonderfully creative, collaborative and productive alternative for the world of COVID 19. A great project!”

Gateshead churches’ hope that their Virtual Camino will conclude by the 4th September which will be the anniversary of the translation of the relics of St Cuthbert into Durham Cathedral, which coincides with the celebration of Cuthbert’s final steps on his pilgrimage and the focus of so many other pilgrimages through the ages.

 

Anyone wanting to support the Gateshead churches Virtual Camino Pilgrimage can do so by visiting: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/gateshead-camino

Their progress can be followed here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiczP6Yn07iAbF1k34zCzig and here www.gatesheaddeanery.com/blog

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