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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

To go where no signpost points the way

Late start this morning. Recovering. My good friend Alan recruited me to road test a section of his next walk, from Harlech to Rhydycroesau, which as the name suggests is a village in Shropshire, just. It seems no one has worked out a walk across Wales, from the west coast to the English border, taking in the Berwyns. I now know why. As a GP Alan has plenty of time on his hands and to fill in his days he studies OS maps discovering footpaths and rights of way which no one has exercised for centuries. And so to cross the Berwyns it meant a 22 mile hike from Bala to a little known but beautiful village with (to me) the unpronounceable name, Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog. It wasn’t easy, not least with footpaths clearly visible on the map but totally non-existent on the ground. At times we had to use compass settings. For Alan is a pioneer, he relishes the challenge of finding new ways, discovering new paths. Myself, I like little yellow men on posts, clearly visible from 100m, showing me which way to go at every turn: I am an Anglican. The apostle Paul too was a pioneer. He tells the church in Rome: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:20). He then goes on to give a whole list of places, like faraway Spain, where he intends to travel with the good news of Jesus. And pioneers take risks. At one stage, soon after leaving Bala, we lost three miles by taking the wrong stream. But it is so easy to place safe and stay with the well-worn paths, even if it means missing the incredible view – which no English person has ever seen - looking down the Ceiriog (I think) valley from the Berwyn ridge. The good news is that the Church of England, formally since 2007, is now committed to pioneer ministry, discovering new paths and vistas for the sake of the Gospel. And like my friend, Alan prepared to travel through unknown territory. This is part of the Fresh Expressions movement, which realises that Jesus often will send us on journeys where there are no little yellow men on posters at key points to point the right path. For pioneering is very much a way of thinking, to set out into the unknown – something most of us find unsettling. It is so easy to yearn for the familiar and much-travelled paths, even though we are now living in a new, very different world than the one I grew up with over half-a-century ago. And risk taking will always mean making mistakes and sometimes having to back track. That’s what happens. This is why at Christ Church we aim to develop an entrepreneurial culture for the sake of the Gospel, so that the default answer is always “Yes – go for it!”. So when Alan emailed me some weeks back suggesting we try out this walk, I knew what it meant – trudging through territory wondering if I would ever see any sign of civilisation, going up the wrong valley, wondering “What’s that mountain doing there where it shouldn’t be?”

And yes, we arrived at Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, just as darkness was falling, three hours late. But there is a sense of adventure, something which our hearts long for. Many years ago I read Paul Tournier’s remarkable book, “The Adventure of Living” - I can see it now, up there on the top shelf. Tournier argues that God has made each of us with the need for adventure. So he observes: “To live a life directed by God is to live a life of adventure.” This need it is inherent in each human being because we are made in the image of the God of adventure, who risks all in coming to us as one of us. So what adventure is God calling you to take? Nothing could be more exhilarating, more risky, more unsettling than those two words spoken to each of us by Jesus: “Follow me.”

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