Going for a walk is one of the few activities we have been able to enjoy during lockdown and as soon as the restrictions changed then to walk outside with family and friends has been a real delight. I know when I would go walking with Sarah in the many hills around Manchester, walking is a great way to cover distance, both physically and in the subject mater in our conversations. Whilst walking we are changed by the experience, by what we see or by what we’ve experienced. I have heard it said that theology travels at three miles an hour, the speed in which Jesus walked around the region of Palestine, having time to talk with people and share their space rather than in the modern steel barriers which cars provide.
One of the most profound moments in the gospels is when two disciples are walking the eight miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus and Jesus walks with them. They don’t know it’s Jesus but during the walk Jesus explains all the things that has happened and when they arrive at Emmaus they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. How the lives and understanding of the disciples changed during that walk.
And so ministry is a little like walking with people. We spend a period of time in close proximity and then we move on. Ministers come and go, leaving a foot print behind, sometimes deep and persistent and other times just a faint odour of someone passing by. But the terrain of the people and communities we work with, also change us, transform us. We are not the same as the person we were when we first started out.
Twelve years we have walked with this circuit, and as a family we have had life changing experiences and as an individual I have seen and learnt a great deal. A great deal about what is the nature of church and discipleship and a great deal about grace and the love we have felt here. Grace because there have been times the needs of our family have meant that even when I couldn’t give any more, the circuit gave to us. You shared our joys and you shared our pains. This was a time when I gained a daughter and I lost my wife, and you not only shared in that, you supported us in that.
When I look back over the miles we have walked, I am less concerned about the foot print I leave behind but more aware of the imprint of Manchester on our family. The people of the circuit and the families. The love within the churches. Manchester, a city full of vibrance and new life, which witnessed the Arena Bombing and along with other great cities has fought the Covid battle together.
So I pray that you will continue to find a sense of God working in your community, but that you continue to walk with God, in all the challenges that God provides, that you might see the Kingdom come and churches grow so that you all might find the love of God, through Jesus Christ and share it with others.
Rev. Al Lowe