To the strains of Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper playing through my Sony Walkman cassette player I struggled to place one foot in front of the other. The ground beneath my feet felt like it was spiked with nails as a cold drizzle trickled down the back of my neck. Street lights threw foreboding crosses across the path and the darkness, which at first had seemed like a call to adventure, was now a unwelcome walking companion, like a slow sullen weight slowing me down. After 6 days my feet looked like a butchers shop window. After 8 days the first mile I walked like a man of 90, bent double with stiffness and fatigue.
The year was 1988 and I and three others were walking 1000 miles in a 10 day relay to raise money for a little girl called Hayley White who needed a life-saving operation on her liver. At that time it was an operation that was only available in the USA. A friend, Mick Shone, had organised it and had somehow roped me in. We raised the money. We even set a world record (241 hours 31 minutes and 34 seconds). My feet have never really been the same. I lost two toe nails that grew back weird looking. A permanent reminder of that once in a lifetime, never to be repeated, experience.
Except… I am going to do it again. Mick, a friend, an inspiration, a horse’s… sadly died last year. To commemorate him and his influence on the lives of a great many young people (I would not be a priest, but for Mick) we are recreating that walk right here in Aldingbourne. 4th-14th July raising money for the Sussex Snowdrop Trust (Mick’s charity when he was Major of Chichester – twice) and Aldingbourne School PTA (where the event is being held). You can read more about it, and see some horrendous photos of your rector aged 17 here: Mick’s March Website Like this one…
The reason for me telling you this is that I need your support. Not only in terms of giving to the charities, but also in coming and walking with me. I am doing the 12-3 slot – that’s am and pm by the way. That graveyard slot is going to be pretty lonely…
I came to faith on a walk. A pilgrimage, walking to Canterbury from Chichester with a group of teenagers from St Wilfrid’s Church in Parklands. Mick had asked me to come and map read, I agreed, not realising that it was a religious thing. The Vicar was a cool guy, I made some friends. God had plans for me that were beyond my dim witted teenage comprehension. Faith came on that walk, a walk with friends – laughing , talking, picking each other up, helping each other along the way.
Perhaps you can help me along the way on this pilgrimage, perhaps we can help each other. Walking together brings us closer. A common endeavour, a shared task.
Jesus knew this. He walked on the Road to Emmaus with friends. ‘Were not our hearts burning within us, while we talked on the road’ they said. (Lk 24.32).
Pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place. This pilgrimage, round and round and round Aldingbourne School playing field is also to a holy place. Not a great site of religious significance, or a place of healing and wholeness but a holy place within. It is a journey of the heart. Can you be my companion in the dead of night. Can you walk with me? Perhaps our hearts will burn as we walk and talk and share in this common endeavour.
You will hear more from me about this in the coming months. I hope it is something that everyone, old and young can get involved with.