On Wednesday, March 13, Rev. Stephen McWhirter and I embarked on a mini pilgrimage from Trory to Rossorry.

At 7.30am I left Trory Parish Church on foot and walked to Rossorry Parish Church in time to celebrate the 10.30am midweek service of Holy Communion. This began a church swap for the day.

I led in Rossorry, before Stephen continued the pilgrimage on water, taking a kayak across Lough Erne to Trory jetty, before preaching at the evening Lent midweek service in Killadeas Parish Church, bringing the day to a close.

Trory and Rossorry parish churches have a historic link through their stained-glass windows.

The Te Deum window in Rossorry, and the Ascension window beside the pulpit in Tory, were both created and installed in memory of Andrew Johnston and made in Dublin in the Purser studios circa. 1920.

This was only a tiny pilgrimage of a few miles, but pilgrimages both great and small are a part of Christianity going back through the ages.

Pilgrimages are one way we can find out more about other people and places, putting ourselves (literally) in the others’ shoes.

(I shall wait until Lent is over to put myself in Stephen’s shoes, as he has been barefoot all Lent to raise awareness of the needs of the homeless.)

The age-old adage, ‘Don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes’, is good guidance on many levels.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of the other makes us experience the world as someone else does, even if only in our mind’s eye.

If someone, for example, wears shiny black shoes to work, from where you sit, do you see someone who is successful, someone who is uncomfortable as the shoes are new and causing blisters as they start to fit into them, someone who is trying so hard at their career that their family life is falling apart, or a polished black exterior which feels comfortable and secure inside?

From the outside, we only see the polished shoe; we have no idea what is going on inside.

If we walked a mile in them, we’d know all the lumps, bumps, foot mouldings, bloody patches, and what living life in that shoe feels like.

This is what we do when we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and it is also what we do when we walk for miles alongside another person who takes a pilgrimage with us.

We get to know the other person much more deeply than we did before, and we are changed by the shared experience together.

Personally, I know there are things I only talk about when I’m on a long hike in the mountains, and only with certain people.

A pilgrimage and walking the same route in the same shoes changes your mindset, and you open up in ways you wouldn’t otherwise.

For Christians, our metaphorical walk with Christ should be a pilgrimage walk.

Christ came to earth, and walked the miles in our shoes, but often we don’t reciprocate.

He walks in our shoes, but we don’t walk in His, or maybe He walks life’s journey with us, but we don’t try to walk alongside His journey by coming together in church regularly with other people on the same walk.

Walking through the year in Christ’s shoes should be as important to us as asking for help from the Christ who walked the ultimate pilgrimage in our shoes.

Holy Week pilgrimage is a reminder of walking in the shoes of the other.

Palm Sunday’s triumphant procession into Jerusalem (walking in a parade), the hike up the mountains with friends to pray (Gethsemane), the walk under arrest to be sentenced, the walk where it all gets too much for the human body (Simon of Cyrene carries the Cross), the walking past of the jeering crowds, the walk which brings Christ’s body from the Cross to the tomb (a funeral procession), and the walk the women made that first Easter morning to find the empty tomb.

The walks continue throughout Easter, as the risen Jesus meets the various women and disciples, while walking with them.

For those of us who are Christian and observe Holy Week, it is a great time to examine what sort of a walk we are on in our faith.

Holy Week examines our attitudes in the world, not just in faith.

Do we want the pomp and circumstance, being part of the popular crowd, but run away when the going gets tough (Palm Sunday)?

Do we make time for friends and family, to be there for them when they need us (Gethsemane)?

Do we help strangers who need us, regardless of our own circumstances (Simon of Cyrene)?

Do we jeer and condemn those we don’t understand as we walk by on the other side?

One short final thought on pilgrimage. On the day of publication, it is Maundy Thursday, March 28, a day when the Monarch historically makes a short pilgrimage to a particular cathedral within the UK to hand out Maundy money to those who have put the needs of others and their community ahead of their own.

This year, it will be Queen Camilla in Doncaster Cathedral giving out the symbolic money.

Maundy Thursday also reminds us of the pilgrimage of Christ’s life on earth, not least with the symbolic washing of the feet of those who serve in a parish or church community during the Holy Communion service.

A reminder that we are to walk alongside those who need help, and when we do, we are going to get dirty, tired and sore in the process.

We need to have someone to look after us, after we look after those around us.

For centuries, that place where the weary traveller finds rest, and the troubled soul searching for answers (a soul on pilgrimage) finds solace and comfort, has been the church. It still is, or should be.

I hope and pray when you go to church this Easter season, even if it is your once a year pilgrimage, that you will find solace, comfort and rest, perhaps an inquisitive mind ready to walk in the shoes of the church throughout the ages, to become a more active part of your local church today, and to be a pilgrim alongside those on the same journey, supporting each other as you go.

If this column has piqued your interest in physical pilgrimage, here are some thoughts.

Take a short trip with friends to Trory and Rossorry churches to see the Johnston windows.

Take a tour to Devenish Island and engage with Celtic Christian history and heritage.

Soon there will be a new Lough Erne Pilgrim Way, launched by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

The ancient graveyard in my parish of Killadeas is part of this trail, but more on that in another column.

Rev. Mark is the Church of Ireland rector of Trory and Killadeas parishes.