It would be hard to tell the disused hostal of St.James from any other disused church turned into a barn. Beside the causeway that led to Norfolk’s St. Benet’s Abbey it doubled as hostal and hospital, it was one of many such institutions in the medieval landscape.
Some such as the Great Hospital in Norwich continue in a social care role. In continental Europe the Way of St. James boasts many pilgrims’ hostals .
Might it be possible to recover an extended role of dual church and hostal for many of our rural churches? Some may be beside ancient pilgrimage routes, a resting place for those who “are on the way”. Others might be nowhere near an ancient route but simply be a place where small groups of pilgrims could come apart from their 24/7 urban lifestyles and chill.
The Churches Conservation Trust has pioneered Church Glamping . I am not sure the glam bit fits comfortably with the spiritual dimension such a scheme sailing under a Welcome Pilgrim banner would foster, but there are alternative paths.
An increasing number of rural churches have loos and kitchens. All the pilgrim/s would need to bring would be bed roll and food. I have a couple of churches in mind who might be approached to act as test beds (unintended pun!)
Which organisation is best placed to take the idea forward?