As part of the BPT’s work developing the Old Way, we are working to provide sanctuary to pilgrims along the path: low-cost accommodation with a high-impact experience. Once this project is up and running on the Old Way, we see the provision of Sanctuary upon pilgrim paths opening out across Britain: welcoming pilgrims into the heart of communities across the UK. We encourage people to take it on in their local area, all around Britain.
For many centuries in Britain, those making pilgrimage would have relied upon churches to provide shelter along a pilgrim path. When the tradition of making pilgrimage in Britain came to an end with the Dissolution of the Monasteries (the pilgrim sanctuaries of the time) in1538, so too did the practice of welcoming pilgrims into the heart of the community through which they were travelling – at that time, always a monastery or church.
Regardless of one’s faith or non-faith, churches are extraordinary keepers of collective memory: they bear witness to a community’s lives, loves, and losses. They are vibrant places that hold communities together. They come alive through our use of them.
Inspired by this ancient tradition of welcoming pilgrims into social and spiritual centres, we have been working with a growing number of churches along the Old Way to put this concept into practice once more. We will also be exploring how to expand this project: social and spiritual centres of community in modern Britain are not, of course, always churches.
From March 31st 2020, contact details of churches and church halls – and over time, other centres – which have agreed to welcome pilgrims overnight, will be listed on our ‘Sanctuary Project: Pilgrims’ page.
Pilgrims will be able to contact sanctuaries directly in order to organise accommodation along the Old Way.
All offers of sanctuary are made in exchange for a donation – at each church’s discretion, between £5-£20 per pilgrim, dependant upon facilities offered, or with a sliding scale based on a pilgrim’s income.
Sanctuaries: What to expect
The BPT is encouraging the uptake of sanctuary, and is working hard to facilitate the project – but each centre is responsible for sanctuary within their community.
You should not expect a rise in your insurance premium as a result of up taking the sanctuary project. Ecclesiastical Insurance Group – the major provider of insurance to churches in England – is supportive of the project, and has made those churches insured by them this guarantee that no additional premium would need to be charged for hosting as this is automatically included within your policy cover. If another group insures your church, please let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help.
As the project expands, we will work with other insurers to ensure a similar insurance agreement can be made for non-Christian centres taking on the sanctuary project.
Each sanctuary will need to allocate a coordinator, or coordinators, to organise pilgrim sanctuary. They will be responsible for taking and organising bookings, problem solving, and liaising with other sanctuaries where necessary.
If you don’t have basic sanitary facilities, we cannot recommend you to pilgrims for overnight sanctuary: however, many centres in this position are choosing to provide ‘daytime sanctuary’. This gives pilgrims the use of plug sockets, taps, kettles, etc. – in exchange for a donation. ‘Daytime sanctuaries’ will also be listed on this webpage.
You will need to organise a method for taking digital donations ahead of time: the BPT will provide pilgrims with a form through which to give their details and proof of identification, but it will be up to each sanctuary to take and verify these details.
Any restrictions of access to sanctuary (for example, only over the summer months, no alcohol to be consumed on the premises, no under 18’s…) should be clearly outlined to the BPT, so that we can relay this information on our website. Each sanctuary should decide upon such restrictions individually.
Every sanctuary must form its own safeguarding policy, and should make pilgrims aware, ahead of time, of other pilgrims sharing the sanctuary overnight.
You should expect to meet and welcome pilgrims into your community! For those centres already involved in the project, the experience of providing sanctuary has been incredibly rewarding: sanctuary is not only a way of producing donations, but a way to enrich your community by welcoming transient travellers into them.
The BPT has developed a series of FAQ’s for those centres considering uptaking the sanctuary project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive these, or for any other queries.