Brendan McBear is a bear. He would describe himself as a New Monastic Celt when he’s not too busy taking the mickey out of The Big Eejit or BE – his companion and sometime mentor. His association with Chris Humble began when the Northumbria Community asked Chris to take him on pilgrimage. This is their third and most recent outing, and you will hopefully see why Chris counts on Brendan’s Celtic charm and ready wit to make friends and open doors!
You may recall that Jim Bailey and I tracked down the mid-point of England when I passed through Derbyshire on my way north. It’s on private land just outside the village of Wirksworth. The day we visited, the owner was away on holiday. However, I managed to make contact with Martin later, and he kindly agreed that I could visit his property and identify the exact spot.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to do so, and was offered a warm welcome by Martin and his family, including his father John, who was visiting specially, such was his interest. Little did any of us realise how significant John’s presence was going to be.
The very middle of England
Martin kindly agreed that I could bury a small capsule containing a prayer for Middle England which Jim Bailey had made and written.
From my reading of the digital map showing the central point, it appeared as if it was some way into a field, behind and to the right of the main house. The three of us walked in that direction but as we did so we realised that the correct location was actually closer to the house, at the very edge of its rear garden.
We reached the middle of England and stopped on the spot, right beside a young and attractive tree. There was a stunned silence from Martin and John. ‘My mum gave me that tree as a recent birthday present’, said Martin. ‘My wife’, said John, ‘she died last year’.
I couldn’t believe it. The centre of the country, on Martin’s land, was marked by a deeply significant and personal gift from his mother, John’s wife.
A prayer for Middle England
We were silent for a moment. Martin dug a hole and buried the capsule next to the tree. Then I suggested that I read out the prayer from the capsule. I read:
Our god in the middle of our lives
Our god in midday prayer
Our god of the Middle Ages
Our god in the middle of pilgrimage
Holy god of middle earth
Jesus who meets us in the middle ground
Holy Spirit in the Mid life crisis
God in the middle of our words
God in the middle of the night
Spirit in the middle of our dreams
Jesus in the Middle of our muddles
Protection in the Middle of mystery
Direction in a still small voice
Flowing from the middle to the edges
Retreating from the edges to the middle
Our god in the middle of our solitude
Our god in the middle of our conversation
Our god in the middle of our conscience
God in the middle of our hearth and habitation
God in the middle of our kin and clan
In the middle of our nonsense
In the middle of normality
In the middle of a cross ,
In the middle of sacred ground
In the middle of love
Our god in the middle of our land
Our god in the midpoint of middle England
Our god in the middle of our lives
The significance of ‘God in the middle of our hearth and habitation, God in the middle of our kin and clan’ was extraordinary. Here I was, at the middle of England, with Martin and John, in the middle of their hearth and habitation, in the middle of their kin and clan. There were tears. John and I hugged each other. We went back to the house for a cup of tea.
I’d already had an extraordinarily significant moment on reaching the Scottish border at the end of the pilgrimage (Chapter 15 – Border Anniversaries). Now I’d had another amazing and moving moment at the centre point.
A suitable ending. A suitable centring. A middling.