My almost-empty diary has just a few engagements written in before the Covid-19 crisis; and I see that today I should have been going on the Little Gidding pilgrimage. It was very many years ago I first read T S Eliot’s poem ‘Little Gidding’, and many since we made our first visit to the tiny C17th church in its hamlet in deepest Huntingdonshire. Then, a few years back, we happened to call by on a frozen February day and learned about the pilgrimage.
It happens every year, and it’s simply a walk from the church at Leighton Bromswold a few miles through the countryside to Little Gidding. It was at Little Gidding in the early C17th that Nicholas Ferrar set up his mini-monastic Anglican community, mostly composed of family members. His friend, the priest and poet George Herbert, was responsible as rector for the rebuilding of the nearby church at Leighton Bromswold – hence the pilgrimage linking these two friends and two places. Lying on his death bed in 1633, Herbert sent his manuscript poems to Ferrar, with the instruction to burn them should he think them unable to encourage Christian living. Thank God, Ferrar made the right decision!
Today I shall have to remember Ferrar and Herbert, and past pilgrimages. I shall have to remember Eliot’s poem, and the tiny church where, as he wrote, ‘prayer has been valid’; and the poem’s assurance that ‘all shall be well.’