Ministers Letter – August 2007

Rev. Ray Coates
My Dear Friends

One of the things I wanted to do these last few months was some walking – God seems to find it easier to get through to me when I’m away from it all and out in the countryside! As our son, Paul, was planning to do the Coast to Coast walk with three friends to raise money for two charities I arranged to join them for a couple of days in the middle of it all. Before they even started Malcolm had to cry off on Doctor’s orders, though it was invaluable when he came up for the second week with his car and transported the bulk of our packs each day and met and encouraged us at various points. It was with only three walkers, therefore, that Joy and I set off on Sunday afternoon to drive up to Whitehaven, where we had booked overnight accommodation for them.

The three started the walk from St Bees in Cumbria on a beautiful Monday morning and I would join them on Friday morning for two days – that was the plan. On Tuesday evening, however, Paul phoned to say his two friends were struggling and neither felt they could carry on. There were reasons why it was such a struggle for them and neither had done any long distance walking like this before, whereas our Paul had – he did the 192 miles of the Coast to Coast in 8 days 18 years ago! He also had inherited from his dad and granddad a refusal to be beaten, stubbornness some would call it! So plans changed and on Wednesday we responded to the SOS and Thursday I went up to join him for the rest of the walk, though I didn’t walk every day. You do what you can, though, to help them realise their dreams.

One of our anxieties was about Paul walking on his own, so for the next 9 days he had me in tow and it was a good time and a time when I learnt something. We set off from Shap on the Friday morning and it wasn’t very long before we caught up with George, whom Paul had walked with for some of the time on the previous two days. The weather that day was appalling and lunchtime saw us sheltering in a café in Orton, where Jeanette and Andy came in – Paul had seen them the day before as well. In Reeth we met up with Dave from Huntington and we also kept seeing this dad with his 13 year old son who were doing it the hard way, for they were carrying tent and cooking equipment in huge backpacks. The last but one day we walked from Clay Bank Top to Grosmont, some 23 miles, and the early part of the day saw us striding out along the bed of the old railway that goes across the moors. We were making good time and looking forward to meeting Malcolm at the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge when we saw writing scratched in the pathway – “HI THERE, PAUL AND HIS DAD!” It was a real boost and when we reached the Lion Inn, there was Dave from Huntington asking if we’d got his message. We walked for a bit after that with Dave and later on we caught up with Jeanette and Andy, and before we parted I had taken a photo of these four who had been strangers when they began the walk but had become friends on it. I couldn’t help but think of that verse from the song

“Brother, sister, let me serve you”:

“We are pilgrims on a journey, fellow travellers on the road, We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.”

I thank God for all the companions I’ve met in my life’s journey, for all who’ve walked with me for a while. We get help on the journey and we have the chance perhaps to help others along in their journeys.

With much love from a fellow traveller,

Your Minister and friend