9 Mar 2019 – Andy’s Blog – Mind over pain

Malmesbury Abbey to Cirencester Baptist Church

We arrived at Malmesbury Abbey for short morning prayer outside for 06:30. Andy Small & Charly were there with welcoming smiles. It was cathartic, a small group about to set off and then the walking started and with it pain.

Pain hit all of us and gradually the cross was shared. As with our faith, whilst we are unique, we are much more capable together. So we took turns to hold the sharp timber which bit into our flesh until eventually the pain of walking overwhelmed the pain of bearing. For myself I noted on the voyage last year that women were far better with seasickness than men and so it was today. As we neared Cirencester that cross was born by ladies, myself in a quiet hobbling shuffle behind. I reflected on the early church, the Celtic church, which was so much also about gender equality and reaffirmed what I’d already learned. We were made to journey together, men and women, each with differing capabilities. God never intended us to be anything else than two reflections of his inner being, stronger united.

Another thing that hit me today was anger and aggression. With no pavements on narrow roads Adele and I suffered occasional abuse for being on the road walking. This isn’t unique to the Cross I suspect. I’m sure it applies to cyclists, runners and walkers just as much as ourselves. Car drivers that resent a momentary pause in their journey. What was also apparent was that most of those who abused us were young. That commenced another thought process which I move onto below.

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, everyone who has helped us and everyone who has been there for us. Stephen at Cirencester Baptist Church was like a competent fresh breeze when we arrived. He prayed for us as we departed and as he did so, a warm rush flowed over me and my hobble almost went. God is in this walk, this broken cross has been blessed by nearly every church group in North Wiltshire Deanery area. As we walked we had many others slow, mouths open in sheer bewilderment and you could see it generating a question. What does this symbol mean to me?

With regard to the aggression it was quite clear walking today that human life has a much lower value in the United Kingdom than it does in other cultures. I recall cycling in Israel, for all of its problems, and being amazed at the respectful distance every driver gave us. It was clear that the Israeli culture had inculcated a respect for life in this situation and nobody wished to damage another. In the United Kingdom that respect for life doesn’t exist in any tangible manner. Cyclists have traffic pass them within inches at high speed and the loss of a life is deemed an accident. Today I realised that the notion of a traffic accident is mostly a falsehood. The majority of so called ‘accidents’ have a factor of failing to observe, failing to react and speed. Today we had irate drivers deliberately driving very close at high speed. Many didn’t but of course it only takes one and we move on, our passing mourned as a tragic ‘accident’ when in fact it should be manslaughter. I started to reflect on knife crime and the so called ‘wave’ that is being deemed an issue today. We are sold the idea that this is a ‘problem’ and therefore we need to have a ‘solution’. I think I have started to see the problem as not just the holder of the knife but the social context which they evolve their personality within. A similar culture probably exists in the United States where I read today of a doctor telling a dying patient he had days left via robot. There was no thought of the patient, no pastoral care, no respect for the value of that persons life. We have been bombarded with massive social change, both technological and cultural at the same time as so called ‘secularism’ has sought to destroy faith. The problem is that apathy and non belief is in itself corrosive. When we don’t know our neighbour then we struggle to love them yet there is something deep within all of us which will see total strangers still go to someones aid. Despite secular apathetic approaches this blandness still doesn’t completely obscure that breath of life in each of us which makes us human.

Thus if we are to tackle knife crime then it has to be that the answer lies not in legislation nor in restriction of supply on their own. As with terrorism the answer must lie within culture change and that change already has an answer within our society. To be clear this is not uniquely religious nor is it uniquely Christian. Christianity, to a true believer, is essentially pacifist in its outlook. Human life is an amazing gift and something to be cherished and celebrated. This is something that also applies to other faiths when truly adhered to and also it probably applies to humanism. What it doesn’t apply to is secularism and an apathetic approach to life. If we want to know what is causing knife crime in the United Kingdom then it is the holder of the knife and every single person who drives a car or who goes through their life without any belief system. Tackle that and you tackle knife crime. We need to rediscover and value human life before our apathy devalues us all.