The Whitekirk and Haddington Pilgrimage is held annually on the second Saturday in May. It has become an event of great ecumenical importance and now attracts pilgrims from all over the British Isles - and sometimes from further afield.
The Pilgrimage focuses on three sites in East Lothian identified as holy places or shrines over the years - Whitekirk, Lennoxlove Chapel and St Mary's, Haddington.
Whitekirk has been a hallowed spot from around AD 750 when St. Baldred preached there. Lennoxlove Chapel has been the scene of ecumenical activity for over 30 years; Church of Scotland ministers and Episcopalian and Roman Catholic clergy have celebrated the Communion and Eucharist there. St. Mary's has a very special place in Haddington history - firstly before the east end was ruined in the Siege of Haddington; secondly while the west end served as the Parish Kirk and finally in its beautifully restored form.
The Pilgrimage was the brainchild of the Earl of Lauderdale, whose family owns the Lauderdale Aisle, dedicated to the Three Kings, which adjoins St. Mary's Church. The first Pilgrimage took place in 1971 when some 30 people attended; 30 years later some 2,000 come to the various services.
The programme for the day starts at Whitekirk where, at 10 am there is a Communion. Concurrently, there is an informal service of praise in the Lennoxlove Chapel, where pilgrims are free to come and go as they like. This service lasts from 10.30 am to 12 noon.
At noon in St. Mary's, Haddington, pilgrims gather for a Mass celebrated by one of the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.
Thereafter, if the weather is fine - and it often is - pilgrims take a picnic lunch either on the beautiful grass beside the River Tyne or in the Pleasance of Haddington House. At 2.15 pm pilgrims return to the Church for the Pilgrims' Progress which culminates in what is probably the high spot of the day - the Ecumenical Blessing of the Sick and Disabled. Many of those attending have testified to the benefits they have received from this. After the Blessing all join in for a Eucharist according to the Episcopalian tradition, or in alternative years a Church of Scotland service of Communion, with the Consecration being performed by an Anglican bishop.
The programme for the day ends with Compline at Whitekirk at about 4.15 pm.
The energetic can hike, bike or jog between the various sites; the majority rely on motor transport; a mini-bus is provided between Haddington and Whitekirk.
Whatever one's faith, the Haddington Pilgrimage is a memorable experience, unique and uplifting to all pilgrims.
For further details of the pilgrimage, contact Mrs. I. Macrae, Rathan, 45 Eskbank Road, Dalkeith, Midlothian EH22 3BH, +44 (0)131 663 3291.