Return to the middle: a pilgrimage with Brendan McBear

Photo provided by author

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.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

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