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Abstract

In examining an aspect of the eventization of faith (Pfadenhauer, 2010), this article considers an annual women’s conference, ‘Cherish’, a church-led event. Due to the pressures on the space available in its former home in the organising church’s campus, the growth in the event’s popularity has resulted in the church organisers moving the event venue to a commercial arena. The research questions the extent to which this popular conference meets the criteria of the academic characteristics of pilgrimage, and aims to clarify to what extent the thousands of women who attend the Cherish conference experience the event - and their journeys - as a spiritual pilgrimage, to which many return, year after year. Primary research was undertaken using an online questionnaire, with additional rich data sourced from the event’s Twitter feed, going back to 2009, as well as the researcher’s personal experience as an event attendee.

The research concludes that whilst these women make a physical and geographical journey, travelling across the UK and from around the world to this spiritual event, they also make a spiritual journey of inner transformation, and community-building. Many leave behind their everyday lives and their families for a temporary escape, to which they return, reinvigorated. Having moved the event location from a church campus into a commercial arena, the new site appears to be as acceptable as a holy space as the former venue, where the presence of the divine is still recognised, and the attendees grow together, confident in their new home, and bringing their community with them into a new city.

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