This year I have had the privilege of having a Sabbatical. It was made up of 3 parts-1 a period of Study, in India 2- A pilgrimage that started on the Camino and due to injury finished in Suffolk, 3 a holiday to relax.My trip to India took me back to where I was born Hazaribagh and where I lived with my parents at St Michaels school and orphanage for the blind in Ranch North East India. This was an amazing experience staying with the current Principal Miriam and her wonderful family. We were treated like honoured guests wherever we went. Some of the remotest and poorest parts of the region. We saw minority Christian community providing education and support to others, as well as receiving support back from the Hindhu, Sikh and other communities. We witnessed the amazing work done in schools, hospitals, churches with little or no money, but with the gift of friendship, love and hospitality. The church communities would often take two offerings one for the upkeep of the church and the 2nd for the work of a group/charity or for some other practical reason. This money was given often by those who had little but gave as the widow would have done in the parable of the widows mite.
I was so pleased and touched by the Hindhu community who would weekly come to the blind school and give food and other gifts to the children and adults who live and go to school there. It made me think of the wonderful things we do locally.
The 2nd part the pilgrimage I managed 350km on the Camino before damaging ligament. But again I saw what hospitality and help could mean without monetary gain. It was when I tweaked my knee a road worker noticed stopped and told me to put my bike on his van and took me the 3km up the last hill, and said get back on your bike and freewheel down the hill. He could have got into trouble for that. I did have to after one nights stay cycle the last 50km to the hospital. Once repatriated I chose to continue my pilgrimage locally. A combination of 200km by vespa and a further 700/800km by bike saw me visit churches in Suffolk, Norfolk and Yorkshire. At each church I was able to pray and left a holding cross, or in a couple of circumstances give a holding cross to someone. I wish to thank all those who supported the charities and churches I raised money for.
Now on holiday relaxing I have begun to reflect on how I feel. It has been disconcerting as you realise that whilst you felt you were following Gods word in what you were doing before the sabbatical, you may well also have been caught up in the regular demands that can drain you and make you lose sight of the gospel.
I often get told off by one of my treasurers because I don’t worry about what things cost, he is right to do so. To achieve our Gospel mission we need those monies for church, training and resources. But after what I have seen I ask myself have we as a Church become too caught up in how much things cost.
Perhaps now is the time to stop focusing in on money and maybe just to ask for people’s time or give them our time so we can sit and share our stories.
As it’s said if you cast your bread upon the water sometimes it comes back buttered!