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what a Bishop does.

Sometimes primary school children ask, “What does a Bishop do?”. Answering, well I go to church a lot and sit through hundreds of meetings doesn’t exactly sell religion or church.

This weekend has been better:

On Saturday morning I took the road bike (aluminium frame, Bontrager  and Shimano bits, Fulcrum wheels) into Salisbury for the 64 mile Wiltshire sportive. “This is not a race” the man said. So we set off gently until we were out of sight of the start and then raced off. 4000 odd feet of climbing and a strong headwind which turned round all day giving relentless wind in your face the whole way.   So I was reasonably please with 4 hours (not racing of course).

Back home to soak in the bath and then into gold cope and mitre to confirm 50 people in Salisbury Cathedral.

This morning (Sunday) off to Upper Studley for their patronal festival, after an interview on BBC Wiltshire.  A packed church and the choir from the Primary School. Lunch afterwards in the church hall. Lots of creamy puddings.

Back home to release the dogs and get changed out of posh Bishop”s clothes and then off to Devizes to abseil down the 100ft tower of St Mary’s for Christian AI’d.  Another radio interview, a drive across to Bath for a meal with old friends before finally returning home where the dogs were pleased to see us once more.

Application”s for Bishops’ jobs should be sent to Church House Westminster.

End of term report

A successful day on the river for Oxford has much improved life. Youngest son also won his race in the Oxbridge Waterman’s Challenge which is one of the warm up races along the Boat Race course earlier in the afternoon. The Waterman is a replica of an 18th century river taxi. Some years ago we rowed one across the Channel.

So now where did Lent get to?

Spiritual Report. I am not one of those who lives in a perpetual religious high. I am one of those who catches glimpses of the divine.  I had many thoughts about prayer, pilgrimage and penitence on the bike. Beyond thoughts there are moments of awareness of somehow being in the presence. The pilgrimage walks were wonderful. Well, I had more glimpses per day that I usually do, so the report here is “satisfactory progress”

Fitness. Fitness was not my aim, but long slow rides have once again added to fitness. I normally go eyeballs out for 30 minutes in the gym as that’s all the time I have. Long and slow is more effective. Of course, all this has been shot to pieces by being ill for most of the last three weeks. Ugh. I do find it odd, however, that so many seem to believe that I must be ill because I cycle.

Fun.  Fun is a neglected concept in the Christian life. I have had a great deal of fun. Thanks to readers’ replies to this blog I also have a very much renewed Brompton, a tandem with a new front crank, and I have realised that the only solution to the wonky 5 speed gears on the Pashley is a new internal hub. Cycling is not cheap. I have also realised, sadly, that it would be impossible to do my job all year round relying on a bicycle.

Environmental impact I would not pretend for one minute that I have saved the planet,  but I have gained some good publicity for the cause. and we are now investigating  video conferencing to cut down on our diocesan mileage.

Next Year? Not sure. Ask me after Candlemas.

Coming up for air

Apologies to everyone for silence. I have spent most of the last two weeks in bed with some mystery bug. Now coming up for air, alive if not yet kicking. Missed the whole of Holy Week and Easter which was a strange absence. Thanks for many good wishes.  I will reflect on Lent later.

Votes for bikes

The Cyclists’ Touring Club Magazine arrives, snappily entitled “Cycle”. It’s a marvellous mix of campaigning journalism, practical advice, reviews of bikes and equipment and reports of crazy trips. My favourite article was of the couple who traverses the Orkneys on their Brompton, simply folding it up and carrying it in their inflatable canoe between islands.

This edition compares the cycling policies of the parties. We’ve seen a lot of politicians posing (usually helmetless) on shiny bikes in London parks. David Cameron famously, cycled to the Commons, with his security details following him in a car. Boris cycled a 100  mile sportive which is impressive.

All the parties say they will take cycling seriously. This is at least a change from 2010 when cycling was scarcely mentioned, and UKIP declared that they would make cyclists pay parking fees, and would pass a law saying that cyclists should dismount and push at junctions.

I hate to say it but the SNP have done a great deal to promote cycling in Scotland. Somehow English nationalism might not be so kind.

All the parties appear to say much the same thing in their promises. The only difference is in their commitment to the £10 per head investment in cycling which would make the Infrastructure Act’s promise of a walking and cycling strategy come true.

Even I would not advocate voting for a party just because of their cycling advocacy, but if you are going to hustings why not ask about transport policy, the environment and cycling.  I’m chairing the one in Warminster on April 8th at Christ Church so I can’t ask a question myself but some else might be  coming along?

Back on the Bike

The pedals turning, shifting through the gears; single track roads with just an occasional cyclist coming the other way. Such a good day to be out. Back on the bike after some days off with lurgy and grot.  Twenty miles or so up to Bradford on Avon to meet the clergy of the deanery and to take them out to lunch at the excellent Dog and Fox (five star recommendation, with landlords Clive and Ros such hospitable people. Doom Bar is a good pint).

Clergy can feel isolated and get ground down by the demands of the job so this was an opportunity for Archdeacon Ruth and me to say thank you.

Back on the bike and down the hill to the station to catch the train home. The hill in Bradford is famous. At the top the gradient on the bike computer hit 16%.

Songs of Praise on Sunday has attracted some comment. I get more smiles (of pity?) when cycling through the streets, and some cheery hellos as well. All welcome. The cameras were with me for five hours in order to produce a three minute slot as always.

One of the clips they did show, whilst directing the bar-mounted camera up my nose, was when I said that on the bike every journey becomes a pilgrimage. An impromptu remark but I meant it. A car journey is utilitarian: I want to get to B from A, and preferably without any interruption from roadworks or too many other cars.

On the bike you appreciate the journey. Even the hills. Especially the hills.

Sitting on the railway station

All was going well. Coffee and toast with marrow and ginger jam, the sun shining,  off on the Dawes.  And now everything has stopped because of a broken down train.

I have a choice: sit here and do some work whilst waiting for First Great Western to get its act together or jump on the bike and cycle all the way to Salisbury.

I would probably get there about the same time. A cycle ride in the sun would indeed be wonderful.

But I have another sermon to write, so by the railway of Warminster I sat down and wrote. This time it is for another rural Dean.  There’s only 10 of them altogether but that will be two new ones in 24 hours.

The readings tonight are more sensible but no less serious: the people of Israel complaining about the leadership of Moses in the desert from Numbers, and Jesus predicting his own death in John 8, and the service held in a church dedicated to Thomas Becket, on the day the worldwide church remembers the assassination of Oscar Romero in 1980.

In Numbers the people complain, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? ” Better slavery than the so called freedom of wandering the thirsty desert for forty years, with only “detestable food.” You promised us a land flowing with milk and honey. Give us back our chains!

Poor rural Dean. What a prospect. The danger of all this is that church leaders seem immediately to identify themselves with Moses, or with even more presumption, Jesus.

Dreaded Lurgy

Apologies for radio silence. Have been in bed with dreaded lurgy, which has prevented these spiritual and cyclical meanderings for a while. In a spirit of collaborative teamwork the Archdeacon has had it too – at least this means that cycling can’t be blamed.

I did discover that “dreaded lurgy” probably comes from the Goons, in which a music shop spread a rumour that a vile and fatal disease was sweeping the country (the dreaded lurgy) and that only those who played brass instruments would survive.

This all meant that my ambitious plans for cycling over the weekend disappeared in dreams, which was a shame. Apologies to the congregations of Alton Barnes and Sedgehill for not showing up. I will rearrange another occasion.

So, back on the train this morning. I lifted my eyes from saying morning prayer on the smartphone and there sailing smoothly down Route 24 which runs parallel to the track was a cyclist, hair streaming in the wind and a happy smile on her face.

The Songs of Praise clip went out yesterday afternoon. Not too embarrassing. You always wonder which bits they will put in after five hours of filming are distilled into three minutes of a story. They didn’t include the bit where we nearly fell off the tandem. They did slip in “All people that on earth do dwell” for me, even though they said they do not do requests.

Now to write a sermon for the licensing of a rural dean this evening. The readings that have been chosen are those set for the day which is fine, except that they are Rahab the Prostitute from Joshua, and the woman taken in adultery from John. If anyone has any way of connecting these to rural deanship plea contact me urgently. (And I had to fight spell check not to insist on spelling that as Rehab the prostitute).