Sunday has been a whirl of activity. At 08:00 the cross was present at a service in the Holy Ghost Church, Sherston where it was blessed by Gauzebrook benefice Rector, Christopher Bryan. It then left to travel to Brokenborough, where it was blessed by Rev Peter Yacomeni before Bob Hyatt picked it up to walk it to Malmesbury for the 10:30 service. Nothing untoward in that, other than Bob is a sprightly 84 year old. It just goes to show that anybody, no matter their age or gender, can engage in this pilgrim’s walk to York during Lent 2019. Above is the prayer Bob wrote specifically for this occasion. As can be seen, this was also about mission in the broader context of North Wilts and its mission area. As we walked, Bob and I talked, and we discussed the biblical narrative of mission.
In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 ahead of him and they go in pairs to prepare for his arrival. What became clear during last years voyage and is already becoming clear with this walk, is setting out with an objective is a crucial part of missional activity. To any business owner that might sound like repeating the obvious, any soldier or sailor can affirm that having an objective is crucial to knowing you’ve arrived. Yet so often I have seen church activity which bubbles up and down without any such thing and it is here that I suspect some missions fail. The general populace of our country are open minded and a few weeks ago I experienced a good example of this.
I was leaving the Abbey carrying a 12ft cross to walk back past the local pub, the excellent ‘Whole Hog’ run by Mike and Bruce. I’m not averse to a decent ale and of course some of the folk within recognised me through the windows. My old neighbour, Chris, came to the window and made some suitably mocking and unrepeatable signs which caused great hilarity inside. Outside a man I didn’t know smiled and said ‘we all have a cross to bear’! I responded ‘indeed, however this one is going 200 miles on foot to York!’ He looked bemused for a moment and then started asking questions. The obvious ones being why and when. When I responded with ‘during Lent’ his reply surprised me as he had never heard of it nor what it represented. What followed was a short conversation, factually resident in the public square outside the pub, discussing the build up to the crucifixion and the celebration of Easter Sunday. I received a distinct impression that having that conversation with a late middle aged man carrying a 12ft cross had a degree of impact. We finished with friendly goodwill and I proceeded to continue on my way.
Thus Bob and I review many smiles, the odd bit of good humoured banter and the visual impression of the cross featuring in many people’s thoughts as they passed us. It was a powerful moment seeing the Abbey draw near and slowly meeting other Christians on their way to the Sunday service. Richard McRobie was struggling to get there using walking sticks and we slowed as he joined us, a small procession of faith following the symbol of it. I held back a tear as Bob walked towards the altar at the start of the service being conducted by Brian and Mandy. You could feel the goodwill and the prayer from the congregation, it was humbling. We had to make a sharp exit, leaving the service then to make a quick turn around and we left to go to Brinkworth.