Thought for the week 30th May 2021

This week's talk is written by Graham Thomas.


During the last year I have walked as often as I can. Some, just short walks around the village, others a little further afield, when restrictions allowed. When doing some reflection on Psalm 19 for Lent, I came across these verses:

The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.

Psalm 19: 7-9 (The Message)

I was walking on the Marishes, just below Thornton Le Dale and came across part of an old “greenway” These paths have been around for hundreds of years and are often associated with a particular purpose. If you walk from Ellerburn Church up Kirkdale Slack towards Pexton Moor, you are following Monks Trod, used by the brothers of Ellerburn to connect with Whitby and Lastingham. As the news is full of information about “road maps”, it got me thinking about footpaths and how we use them. The verses from the Psalm show us God’s Road map, the bible.

Ann likes a defined path, not too keen on footpaths that are a route march across a ploughed field. She, like many of us “likes to know where she’s going”, if it is a hard, well defined surface, so much the better. There needs to be a clear direction of travel that can be seen. Starting out on a well defined path that leads towards, bogs, brambles and impenetrable conifer plantations, has spoiled many a walk. 

I have all the OS maps on my phone, this allows me to see where I am going, but more important, where I can and can’t go. Most of my walks are following well defined paths that I have walked for years, but the OS app allows me to see “what’s down there”. Having an idea of where you want to go is important. Marking way points along the way, whether for food, drink or places of interest, is a good idea. When walking you are exposed to the elements and environment in both positive and negative ways. Wainwright is thought to have coined the phrase, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes”. You can react to the conditions and take a direction change to miss the muddy hill, see something new, or see the sun set from a loved view point.

Years ago, because most people walked, routes of convenience were used all over the countryside, these historic paths have become our footpaths. The world is faster now and these paths and greenways are no longer fit for purpose. Yet the older routes often link churches, villages, places of work, with the countryside, with creation. Getting from A-B was more important than the time it took. They provided tranquility and peace, that are seldom experienced today.

I notice that during lockdown these paths are well trodden again. People are looking to reconnect with a simpler way, walking and using bikes, getting fresh-air and exercise. I think there is a lesson for us in the church. The bible gives us our direction of travel, it tells us the better routes to follow, it shows us how to get around the difficult bits. It shows some paths that have always been there, but gives us the capacity to follow new directions. It is essential for both the everyday traveller and the adventurer. Don’t use it to say “No entry” or “restricted entry”