Local Vicar Launches Digital 'Pilgrimage'

The Rev Martine Oborne wants people to take an online spiritual journey

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The Rev Martine Oborne vicar of St Michael's Church, Elmwood Road, is asking people to come on a spiritual journey with her, by taking an online pilgrimage.

Martine has set up what she describes as a kind of online church - for people who go to church and those who don't and don't want to. People can sign up to receive free weekly motivation and support to help them live abundant lives, and they are invited to join a closed Facebook community, where they can encourage and receive support from one another along the way. In this way they do not have to physically enter a church to participate in a spiritual community.

She says; "It's a pilgrimage that sets no entry conditions - you don't need to believe in God to get on board. But I hope the journey will be transformational and will lead people from sickness to health, from overwhelm to calm, from low self-esteem to high, from negativity to joy."

Martine says that the idea came after she tried an online community to help her deal with the skin condition psoriasis, which she has suffered from for over thirty years. She had tried various diets, and even once consulted an Irish faith healer in Enniskillen during the Troubles.

"Last September - with the psoriasis getting worse than ever - I joined an online community (based out of the US) promoting a plant-based non-dairy diet which provided regular online motivation through emails and posts and access to a closed Facebook community where others, like myself, who were also trying to change their diets, could provide each other with support and encouragement.

"Somehow the regular online advice and community support made all the difference. I stayed non dairy for three months and my psoriasis completely cleared up. And now, six months later, I'm still in touch with the online community and managing to stay non dairy and the psoriasis still completely clear.

"As I reflected on all this, I thought about how Church works in a similar way. We get together regularly (usually on Sundays) to receive input and advice on our spiritual journeys and also lots of encouragement by being with others - who also share our struggles. This is why, I believe, the local church brings such healing and support to those who come.

"I started to wonder whether I could replicate the structure online - with weekly motivational input through emails and a private Facebook community where we could share how we are getting along and encourage each other. Hence this experiment.

"From my own spiritual journey over the years, I know that faith (which is essentially trusting that we are loved) has the power to bring healing, to bring calm when we feel overwhelmed, to raise our self esteem and to lift us up at times when we might despair. We live in a world where much illness is the result of poor self-care, where people are stressed and unkind to themselves - all of which leads to a climate of negativity.

"But faith is not something we simply 'get' and then don't have to worry about ever again. It's something, like exercise or meditation, that we need to make a habit of attending to every day. Hopefully this online pilgrimage will help people to do this.

"You could say - well, why not just encourage people to go to their local church? And, of course, I do! But the great thing about an online church or pilgrimage is that it provides a community unbounded by geography. Just as I could engage with a woman in New Jersey trying to go non dairy to help her live with cancer, I already have subscribers from North London to the North West province of Pakistan - as well as many local friends too. Which makes for a very rich and diverse congregation indeed. "

She says that furthermore, doing the online pilgrimage means you can give church a try without either getting out of bed or darkening an intimidating church door. If people feel they benefit, they might eventually decide to enter a local church.

The project is still in its infancy but she is hoping it will prove to be a benefit for people and will grow.

April 1, 2017

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