Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago
A new BBC series features well-known faces taking on the Camino de Santiago. How will it impact their beliefs?
What happens when you take celebrities away from home, have them live with strangers, and challenge them physically?
The answer depends on those involved. And in the case of a new BBC series, Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago
, it’s not quite what you’d expect. I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here
The three-part travelogue sees seven well-known faces stripped of their everyday comforts and invited to live as modern pilgrims on the famous medieval pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago. Naturally there are spiritual differences, with a range of beliefs represented. On the one hand, we have Catholic-turned atheist Neil Morrissey of Men Behaving Badly
fame and comedian Ed Byrne, a patron of Humanists UK. Sharing their journey is a vicar, the Revd Kate Bottley, with everything in between. We learn that Debbie McGhee was a Christian before she met Paul Daniels, who opposed it on rational grounds. Since his death she’s beginning to explore faith again, but is not sure what she now believes.
There are physical differences, too. Some are seasoned hikers who get a buzz from the exercise. Others are not quite as prepared. The aforementioned Kate, who recently began presenting the new Good Morning Show on BBC Radio 2
, gets speedy confirmation that walking is emphatically not for her.
Heather Small, Raphael Rowe, Ed Byrne Image | BBC | CTV | Brigid McFall
In the first episode, the pilgrims face one of the most gruelling parts of the Camino de Santiago route – a 26km hike from France into Spain. As they move along the route through vast mountain ranges and landscapes in France and Spain and the series progresses, they explore their differing religious beliefs. Why doesn’t an atheist believe in God? Why does a Christian go to church? Why would someone become a priest?
It’s in these interactions that the programme is at its most compelling, with the participants willing to engage and listen; arguing the point and not the person. There's an honesty to the conversations and the sharing of their pasts. Pilgrimage
is not a Christian apologetics programme - it does not claim to be - but it does give space to what shapes our core beliefs, and whether such unusual circumstances will change them.
What’s more, you get to travel the Camino on your sofa.
Neil Morrissey, Ed Byrne, Debbie McGee, Raphael Rowe, JJ Chalmers, Rev. Kate Bottley and Heather Small at the start of their journey.
Image | BBC | CTV | Brigid McFall
Baptist minister Richard Littledale has written a book called Journey, The Way of the Disciple (Authentic), which would accompany the series nicely. Journey is an accessible and thought-provoking devotional look at the nature of discipleship through the lens of pilgrimage. What do we learn about God whilst on the move which could not be learnt whilst stationary?