No matter whether I’m stamping around the place as Titanic Quarter Chaplain, Dock Walk leader, or Titanic Walking Tour guide, it seems that everything I do these days involves walking. Which has two direct results: 1 – my legs are all trim and toned; and 2 – I’m starting to really, truly believe that walking is the best thing.
I’m not the only one who thinks so – I was reading an article in one of Susan’s ‘wimmin magazines’ recently (all blokes read them, let’s be honest) which was advocating walking as the healthiest, happiest way to spend your leisure time. It’s good for you (much better than jogging – think of your knees!), clears the mind, helps you slow down, benefits your health, promotes mindfulness and a healthy perspective on the day. So it’s good common-sense – and I think it’s good God-sense too.
When I think of some of the highlights of this past month, they all involve tramping along in some way. My first-ever Titanic Walking Tour was something a bit special – a lovely group that bonded and chatted really naturally as we walked along through the TQ (walking is a natural way to meet and chat with people without feeling pressured or awkward). My last-minute reading of Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, the night before the last Dock Book Group, was achieved by listening to the audiobook version on headphones while walking around the still, dark streets near my house (walking is a great way to get some time on your own).
I can think of moments during Titanic Walking Tours when the delight on peoples’ faces was plain to see, as we uncover, far from the beaten track, a track or trace or foundation left from Titanic’s day (walking is a great way to properly explore an area and appreciate your surroundings). And our weekly Dock Walks have become, for me and Susan, a true and very profound expression of church – commissioning Karen while looking out over the TQ, or listening to the Emmeus Road story while trekking a long stretch of straight road beneath the cranes, or celebrating Easter Day in the open air… (walking is a great way to worship a great God in the great outdoors).
In some ways I’m so grateful that The Dock didn’t have a building to begin with. ‘Walking church’ evolved gradually over the last year out of necessity, but has become something very precious in the process. Many people feel closest to God out in the open air, in the midst of creation – but when churches meet to worship, our gatherings almost always happen indoors, behind stone walls, with the beauty of the world shown only as pictures on a screen. It’s great to be back outside! – it worked for the disciples, for the early church, for the first Christian pilgrims and many of the saints – time we rediscovered it.