The first walk to kick off 2012 was to link up a walk made last April from Lincoln to Whitby during the royal wedding. For my small part in the stake of Christ’s inheritance in these Islands, Whitby is joined to my home where I have lived for 15 years, this is via Wilfred and is the root as to why these walks have come about. It made sense to hang this whole journey on Whitby not just via Lincoln but Chester as well as both places are the ‘hinges’ to a ‘treasure chest’ that will be completed on the next walk. If there is an unplugging at Whitby to drain away the full extent of an imported identity, then every furrow walked will be a course delivering it southwards to the sea from whence it came. This is land reclamation for an indigenous identity that is connected to the land and, whether desirable or not, is authentic and therefore a true identity. Who we are ‘warts and all’ is the fertile soil for the ‘Life of Christ that fills all things in every way’ to flourish. If the identity of these Islands was exiled at Whitby then it was banished from the land. It can only wait out at sea until the exile is over and the huge ‘shut-out’ is opened to usher back in all that ‘is’ and belongs to ‘here’.
Standing on the cliff edge, Hilda must have looked out to sea all those centuries ago wondering what on earth was happening to her world. A woman that stood for all that naturally evolved in the land as Jesus-truth spread like wild fire sewn by the feet of the Gospel of Peace. It was with her feet that we arrived on that cliff top last year and it was with her feet we stood again ready to drag this truth in land, with grateful hearts for her stand against principalities and powers that day in 664 when all looked lost: A power had crept into our entrance hall that we did not comprehend…. there was no clever defense as a motley, unorganized faithful community met a hierarchical political movement that transposed empire to the key of ‘holy’.
We headed south west over the Yorkshire moors towards Helmsley taking a ‘roman road’ across the top where the view was stunning. Roman in name would have us believe that ancient ways could not have pre-existed and that perhaps we walked around in circles until the enlightenment of the conquest and its literary propaganda! With each walk particularly since 2011 the hard unyielding surface of the ‘roman road/way’ has given way and no longer do I dread the loathsome life-sucking force that dominates the surface. Instead the ancient ways that were already in place often beneath or alongside these highways are making their way felt that is energizing and welcomes our feet. It was on the roof of the moors that God’s word came, encouraging us on this ancient way, that the ancient people themselves had received word that we would eventually come and reverse what had gone on…. that our coming had been foretold. As Sarah repeated to us what she had heard the hairs on my neck stood on end. I make this reference in the knowledge that there are many feet (not just ours) in all walks of life that are calling for such authenticity…..and to say that we were encouraged, especially as the natural thought trundling through my head for the millionth tim, as I wended my way along the river Esk out of Whitby, was whether we had lost our marbles or not!!
North Yorkshire was soft under foot becoming increasingly hard as we progressed on to West Yorkshire through Knaresborough and Harrogate. I was conscious that my route bisected Ripon on my right and York on my left, two seats of power that were very much part of Wilfred’s domain while exiled with the south Saxons where he commenced another bishopric where I live. Near Boroughbridge, I walked a quiet lane directly in between these two ‘seats’, it was like walking through two hands that were held together and separating them. I gratefully felt an unseen escort about me which signaled that we were beginning to plough into the very reason why we were walking, particularly where places have made alliances that can bar the way until a way is made through.
We skimmed the northern tip of Leeds and Bradford and ploughed on to towards Halifax, then Rochdale and of course Manchester. These large industrial cities we continually by passed to our left became defined as within the area walked between Lincoln, Whitby and Chester to be part of the land reclamation, the ‘drain and regain’ program. The land became noticeably harder as we crossed from Yorkshire in to Lancashire and then became positively steel-like. The difference and underlying enmity between Lancaster and York was more evident than we realised which rang bells with all I have walked for since 2008. (See http://www.pinkypirate.com/pink/)
Day 3 was hard going and we finally arrived at Whitefield, north Manchester and stayed in Bolton. All the regrets and cynicism in the land can begin to grab your ankles, calling for the same old circles of looking back and complaint that are sticky as the tar on the road. The only way to ride such gunk is to remain focused on the One who is all consuming with love for us, a light and easy yoke that takes our eyes off ourselves and away from the temptation to oppose control with our own controls which is a most futile distraction. I do believe that Jesus has many on a path that we have not trodden before and so our old responses are changing because they belonged to repetitive cycle that is to be left behind.
Sometimes we encounter atmospheres of ‘control’ that press our buttons and ignite our control to defend ourselves which produces the same rejection, separation and judgment. If Jesus went to the utter place of control and allowed it to take His very body…. from which then flowed utter Life for All mankind, then therein lays the secret. I am one with Christ and control is to be drunk, devoured, absorbed and digested because the One who lives in me has already done that until it was finished.
We skimmed north Manchester and ploughed on to Warrington with a sense that the hard graft was to our backs and ended up in Frodsham, south of Runcorn, with the Mersey in sight and just 11 miles to Chester.
This would be my forth and last walk in Chester. Chester is one of the four ‘chesters’ Jesus has highlighted to me as four corners to a ‘treasure chest’. Lincoln, Caerleon and St Albans are the three others that have all become strong links for me, each with a different approach. Chester was the last of the four to link with as up until now I have only seen fit to be very silent towards it and refuse its demand for attention and self promotion. Since my last visit I had begun to see a very old man standing in full armor with nothing left to give and completely worn out. It was Chester. This ‘man of war’ established by the romans as a resource fortress and a probable capital for roman Britain was still standing, old and tired out. This last time into Chester was at last not with a firm silence but a compassion, what was done was done but now this old man had nothing left and needed to be dismissed. So the message was ‘retirement’, time to sit down and rest….we relieved him from his post and told him to go home, sit in an armchair with pipe and slippers and watch his favorite programmes. In turn we encouraged Chester to find its original self, free to be a small place of healing and not having to ‘big’ itself up or fight for its identity.
Entering the city, the cathedral was directly in our path so feeling to go through it like a needle with thread we found it closed to the public for a service. With no invisibility cloak we slipped though a open door and traversed corridors and rooms until reaching the main hall. We were politely asked to leave…. gleefully right through the center of the building, where upon our then guide deserted us and we threaded our way peacefully until out on to the street to head for the city centre.
As is usual with these cities, there is a ‘cross’ point where North, South, East and West streets meet. I clocked two unusual things as we delivered our message of retirement. There were kids performing skilled tricks on their bikes but right in the middle of a pedestrian street where people were busy walking through. A typical busker added music and if you happened to stop and watch, it was a bit like an ad hock circus. Then a middle aged couple stopped by us and continually embraced each other quite unabashed with a constant fit of the giggles. A bit later as we started to leave, the precinct was emptying, shops were closing and it was dusk. Suddenly a man dressed as a jester appeared from nowhere and accosted us, engaging us with his presentation of balloon making and insisting we make requests. It was cold and we were tired but there was no option but to comply and moments later we proceeded to our car dressed in various balloon adornments as I received a text declaring ‘I see a virtual street party as Chester welcomes you, in 3 words banners, bunting and balloons!!
If Lincoln was a connection of like-inheritance and understanding, Caerleon was a sleeping beauty to be fought for and awakened, St Albans was a stubborn mule to be lassoed 7 times until it submitted and at last Chester was met with an act of mercy where judgment has been its natural recourse.
With all four in the bag now it is time to complete the ‘cross-over’ from Lincoln to Caerleon having ended 2011 walking from Chester to St Albans. Creating a ‘cross’ over this ‘treasure chest’ will intersect at tiny place called ‘Church End’.
My utter thanks to….
All who helped us along the way, encouraged us, spoke truth over us and sent their hearts to accompany us. To Steve and Kathy Lowton who let us trudge through their home in Leeds and set feasts before us reminiscent of walks gone by in the Middle East. To Mike and Carin Johnson for welcoming us to their wonderful table and looking after us in Bolton. To Phil and Mags Tyler for letting us invade their home in the Wirral and meeting our every need.
Those who walked with me and responded to Jesus nudging you as necessary ingredients for this walk;
Sarah Holloway of Wheathampstead, St Albans, my stalwart friend of many miles
Val Bruce of Leeds, advance party and frontiers woman
Jo Hawkes of Tottenham, eagle rider with height for deep connections
Dave Porter of Brighton, deep left fielder monastic journey man
Mags Tyler of the Wirral, keeper of the snail trail and balance
Lincoln to Caerleon, 2nd to 6th May 2012…..NEXT!
Thank you for reading and alotta glory on tha feet,