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Exploring the Sacred Space of Books and Landscapes FULLY BOOKED

Join Professor Stephanie Paulsell of Harvard Divinity School, and Vanessa Zoltan, co-host of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,  on one of the most ancient of traditions: a walking pilgrimage. We will spend one week walking in South Downs National Park and along the coast in Sussex, England. Allowing the space to inspire us, we will read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse as if it was a sacred text.

Each day will include some opening words from Stephanie Paulsell about Virginia Woolf and her masterwork.  It will also include a substantial walk through the South Downs or along the coast and a lot of sacred reading and reflection practices.

We will share our meals together, and most days will include either a museum visit (for example, Virginia Woolf's house, Monk's House) or a visit from an outside expert. We will have time and space for writing, reflection, reading, silence, ancient reading practices like lectio divina and PaRDes and of course, for walking.

Literature is no one’s private ground; literature is common ground….Let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves.” -Virginia Woolf


Reading and walking, intention and ritual will shape each day of this trip.  We will try to live attentively, open to what Woolf calls “moments of being”. We will have reflection questions and rituals both new and ancient to accompany us on the hard work of trying to live meaningful lives.

The goals of the trip will be set for each person with chaplaincy and individual guidance from Stephanie Paulsell and Vanessa Zoltan for all 12 participants. The size of this small group will give us the opportunity to create a community of readers and walkers that meets on common ground.


By treating To the Lighthouse as sacred, we mean three things:

Trusting the textTrusting the text doesn’t mean we understand the text to be perfect - either in construction or moral teaching - but that it is worthy of our attention and contemplation. A guiding principle is that the more time we give to the text the more blessings it has to give us.

Rigor and ritual: Sacred texts are often read slowly and with concentrated attention.  Through our rigorous engagement of meditative reading, ancient reading practices and discussion, we believe we can deepen our understanding of the text itself and of the ways in which it speaks to our lives.


Reading it in communitySacred texts are read and reread, questioned and pondered by communities. On this pilgrimage, we will aspire to build a community around the text that will enrich To the Lighthouse for each of us. 


Here are some of the resources that have inspired our work:

• Guigo II, The Ladder of Monks

• Simone Weil, “On the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God” 

 Jules Evans interviewing Guy Hayward who recently founded the British Pilgrimage Trust.

• John O'Donohue trailer on pilgrimage


Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to find out when registration goes live on November 18th!


Is this for you?

If you meet any of the following criteria, then the answer is, YES!

  • Are you a huge Virginia Woolf fan and would love to spend a week thinking about her masterpiece with an expert nearby?

  • Are you someone who has never read Virginia Woolf, but thinks she sounds interesting? 

  • Are you someone with a busy life who never gets the time to simply reflect and contemplate art and beauty?

  • Are you someone who loves to walk in beautiful places?

  • Are you someone who feels ready for a transition and just needs the time and space to really think things through?

  • Are you someone who wants to celebrate a milestone or a life-change?

  • Are you someone who wants a ritual in your life to make space for wisdom and meaning?

  • Are you someone who feels a need to spiritually connect, but feels like you lack the know-how to jump into a spiritual practice?

We will meet on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England on Sunday, June 3rd, 2018. We will then head straight to Bloomsbury for some Virginia Woolf orientation and then head South together for our first night at Tilton House.

Each day we will be working our way through Virginia Woolf’s masterwork, To The Lighthouse.

  1. We will visit several integral pilgrimage sites, including Monk’s House, Berwick Church and Charleston House.

  2. For the first four nights, we will be staying at historic Tilton House, and we will spend our days engaged in structured spiritual reflection, walking to various sites, following the footsteps of Virginia Woolf, reading and writing.

  3. For our last two nights, we will head toward the sea. We’ll keep walking, reading and reflecting near Beachy Head Lighthouse in Sussex.

Tilton House: June 3-7th

All guests will stay together at Tilton House, in South Downs National Park for the first 4 nights of the trip. We have rented the entire house for our time there, and it will act as our home base for those days. 

Seven Sisters & Beachy Head June 7-9

We will  stay at two different locations when we head to the sea. We will stay at the Belle Tout Lighthouse and Tiger Inn, an amazing lighthouse and traditional English pub.


"Often one has to make do with seeds; the germs of what might have been, had one's life been different.” -Woolf


Stephanie Paulsell is the Susan Shallcross Swartz Professor of the Practice of Christian Studies at Harvard Divinity School and an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).   She is the author of Honoring the Body:  Meditations on a Christian Practice; Lamentations and the Song of Songs; and editor of The Scope of Our Art:  The Vocation of the Theological Teacher.  She is writing a book on Virginia Woolf and religion and been reading Virginia Woolf religiously for more than thirty years.


Vanessa zoltan

Vanessa has her BA in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, her MS in Nonprofit Management from the University of Pennsylvania and her MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. She worked as a University and congregational chaplain before transitioning to her current life as a research assistant at Harvard Divinity School, a proctor at Harvard University and the co-host of the podcast, Harry Potter & The Sacred TextShe is working on a book about sacred texts, but don’t ask her about it. It’s stressful. Ask her about the romance novel she’s working on. She won’t shut up.

Liz Slade

Liz grew up between the chalk hills and the sea in the south of England, where she usually had a book in her hands. After a career in healthcare technology and publishing she now works to bring the value of sacred practice and community to those who aren’t religious. She has been COO of Sunday Assembly, and a trustee at New Unity, church-shaped organisations led by atheists, that welcome all irrespective of beliefs.

Julia Argy

Julia is a Research Associate at Harvard Business School working on a project on gender and ethnic diversity. She graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Statistics. She reads slightly over a book a week, and has a secret Goodreads account where she gives stern ratings (no reviews).  She likes eating bread while wearing clogs and wearing two backpacks when she is traveling. 


Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to find out when registration goes live on November 18th!

What's Included:

  • Six nights in a private or shared room in wonderful countryside B&Bs
  • Vegetarian food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Transportation within England from Sunday, June 3rd in London until Saturday, June 10th in Sussex
  • One-on-one chaplaincy sessions with Vanessa and Stephanie
  • Museum visits, private tours, picnics, and talks with local experts


  • On November 18th, we'll send out a link to the official registration. Registration is first-come, first-served. Either sign up for our newsletter, where we will send out a link with the registration form, or check back here on the 18th. 

  • Shortly thereafter, you'll have a week to accept your spot by making a deposit for the trip. The initial deposit for the trip is $1,000

  • Pay in full by February 15, 2018. The final total comes to $3,900, so your final payment will be for $2,900
  • On Sunday June 3rd, meet on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, England. 


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