During this season of ordinations and priestings in the Church of England, I remember back to mine. The clear sense that I had (at the age of twenty-five) was that the task before seemed impossibly large! Yet, the good news was that my response to my ordination charge was: ‘The LORD being my helper, I will.’. With the LORD as my helper, I could serve Christ in the way that I had been called. As you read this, I am undertaking a different, but seemingly impossible task of cycling around forty-two cathedrals of England (carrying all my equipment) and covering nearly two thousand miles. I’ve thought of these words: ‘The LORD, being my helper, I will’ a lot. Why am I doing it? Well, I do enjoy cycling, and even enjoy cycling all day. It is the joy of the outdoors, the rhythm of the pedals turning and the spiritual and emotional space it provides. For an activist like me, it is an effective form of solitude. However, it is still a challenge. So, as an additional motivation, I am raising money to support the work of ‘Together Southwark’ as they mitigate the impact of food and financial insecurity, as well as loneliness. If you would like to support the initiative, you can give (through The Bishop’s Lent Call Page) here.
For many years, I have cycled to cathedrals as a pilgrimage destination for my cycle rides. I have encouraged groups to join me. The English cathedrals joined with The Pilgrimage Trust. SUSTRANS and Cycling UK to try to create a network of routes between the cathedrals that people could make. You can find the routes here. I was involved in the group who devised some of the routes and promoted them to the wider public. So, it only seemed right that I try them out. Physical activity (during the pandemic) has been very important to people; whatever their abilities. It can help with physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing. Cycling helps me. As the pedals turn, so my mind can turn with them. As I climb or descend hills, I can reflect upon the ascents and descents of my week. What went well? What went badly? What do I think about that? What does God think? Most of all, during COVID-19, when we all need to develop a little more ‘patient endurance’, how can I sustain a life of faith during the ‘ups and downs’?
The cathedrals are wanting to encourage people to visit them by bike. (At the moment, only 5% of cathedral visitors are said to come by bike.) What is true for cathedrals can also be true for our parish churches. How can we encourage and green and healthy means of transport to and from church? Yes, we need to encourage our councils to enhance safe cycling infrastructure. However, the church can do more to make cycling a desirable means of transport for people to use. I’ve been so encouraged to see the increased diversity of ages and backgrounds get on their bicycles, from the youngest children to every other sector of society. How can they be encouraged to come into our buildings and join our communities? As we recognise the need to change the way that we move around- in the light of the climate crisis, promoting walking, cycling and other carbon-neutral means of transport will become increasingly important. During these warmer and longer days, how about getting on your bike, visiting a cathedral or local parish church and turn it into both a physical and spiritual exercise?
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