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Archbishop Desmond Tutu in St Albans
The annual Albantide Pilgrimage has taken place, in the presence of special guest, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Albantide Pilgrimage 2007 - Saturday June 23rd
After months of planning here he was. Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined this year's Albantide procession through the park and up the hill to the Cathedral, recreating Alban's journey to his execution and martyrdom.
The tableau on the lake
Over the last three years the procession has grown and this year a massive crowd joined clergy, giant puppets, colourful costumes and pilgrims from all over the the world, drawn by the presence of the iconic presence of Tutu.
He walked the whole length of the route and only used the golf buggy provided as a seat when the procession stopped for the tableaux.
The puppets were back but there were far more props this year. Marking Albantide's Mediaeval origins, there were monks, a replica ossiary in which Alban's bones were carried and a 35 foot long model of the Cathedral.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu offers up thanks
This year Alban and Amphibalus walked out onto the lake and a spout of water broke out courtesy of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. This represented the miraculous spring of water which appeared when Alban asked for water.
To start with the procession made its way through a carefully placed crowd who welcomed Tutu with warm applause. Once the procession split either side of the lake things became slightly chaotic. The event retained the wonderful informality of recent years but, stuck in the crowd, you couldn't get a feel of what was happening. This year Alban had been beheaded before I reached the top of the hill.
At the Eucharist at lunchtime and at Evensong, where the Archbishop preached, the Cathedral was overflowing with many people watching the service outside. I attended the lunchtime service where Tutu was the Celebrant. The singing of the two Alban Hymns,one written by the Bishop of St Albans himself, was incredible. There's nothing more suited to a great Cathedral than over 2,000 people blowing the roof off with song.
The Dean holds up the head of St Alban
Archbishop Tutu's health is not very good, yet he must have shaken hands with thousands of people and it was heartwarming to see him making a fuss of the children who will remember the day for ever.
I suspect many involved with Albantide will be breathing a sigh of relief that it's over. However, everybody who saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu in St Albans will realise we were part of a very special occasion. We were truly blessed.
Albantide has been the passion of Father Stuart Craddock who is the Minor Canon for Youth at the Cathedral. He had a three year vision and this year marks his last Albantide as he moves to a new ministry.
last updated: 25/06/07
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