If our faith was like a car, how do we keep it on the road? We need to refuel it most weeks and perhaps that’s attending church, a time to push us to keep working and spreading the love and word of God. Our daily reading or prayers would be like checking the gauges as we drive, we almost do this subconsciously now but our training tells us when things are wrong. We also spend a short time looking round to ensure no tyres are flat and ensuring that we are safe. There comes a time however, when we need a bit more.
Every year our car needs an MOT, something to ensure everything is working, to ensure we are safe. It looks deeper into the structure, the moving parts, things we take for granted. How do we in the church MOT ourselves? Many will say that the liturgical year allows for this renewal but I could contend that. For me I need more, I need to recharge my faith. Many of us take a retreat or a pilgrimage as a time for reflection and I would argue this is our MOT. It’s a time to look and feel if all is working, to ensure we are comfortable and connected in faith. We look deeper into ourselves, not to our moving joints but in the way we move through our faith.
What however do we take for granted? Glenalmond (the Scottish Episcopal Churches youth week) as a delegate not only was my first MOT, but it put me firmly on the road of faith. From then on it rejuvenated and inspired me to drive my faith and help take others down the same road. As time has gone on however the work I put in as a leader means the MOT isn’t quite enough. I need a little more maintenance and a full service plan (pardon the pun) to get me to my next MOT.
Church for me over the past couple of years was not the daily inspection subconsciously done prior to getting into the car, sitting in a comfy seat and hurtling down the motorway at 70mph (and not anything over!). Church had become a winding single track road with pot holes, blind corners and not only oncoming traffic to be careful of but animals with no road sense. I wanted to be on the road, whilst a tough journey, I believed in where I was going. It was however exhausting, frustrating and hard work. Yet the beauty and wilderness on either side was incredible, can you really enjoy it whilst trying to keep you and your passengers alive? Can you enjoy endless glens, mountains, rivers or lochs when trying to keep your car on the road and avoid a collision?
The week I wrote this I drove up such roads, I filled the car with all my stuff and that of my girlfriend and grandparents who joined me on this journey. I purposely put my car on the roads with the best views, exploring parts of Scotland I had rarely been through if at all. These roads are the most difficult, twisting and bumpy but also poorly maintained. Why did I choose this path? Why didn’t I go up the main motorways and cruise to my destination?
I find the roads less travelled give you more time to reflect, less traffic to sit behind and a sense of being away from everything. The views are incredible they make it worthwhile but it’s a hard road, it exhausts even the most competent driver. Even with an automatic now taking some of the decision making away each blind bend or bump or pot hole needs to be judged, the car needs to be adjusted to suit and we must continue on. It is however completely worth it. Exhausted I would arrive at our overnight accommodation and reflect on the day, whilst recharging I knew I loved it, the views over the parts of Scotland I had never seen.
One such day I took a small single track road north from Inverness to a small drovers Inn. The Crask Inn has been there for hundreds of years, a place for travellers to stop, recharge, eat,drink and sleep. It was however gifted to the Scottish Episcopal Church a couple of years ago. Now it serves a deeper purpose, it still has a pub to serve drinks and food to those passing by. It still has brilliant rooms to rest, shower and recharge overnight. Unlike many others, it is also a church.
The couple who run the Inn (whose children attended Glen) left their lives in the city behind to move and run the B&B; they also serve food and drinks all day. There is not a service every day but morning and evening prayer happens together with guests and staff alike. With no TV or WiFi and only the incredible views to enjoy you have time to think and reflect. Very quickly you feel at home, not as a guest but as a friend. We spoke about church, theology, sport, the economy and even politics. When we prayed together however I felt connected with each of them so quickly, them and God.
It recharged me in a way I needed more than I knew. I attended two lovely services that morning, had lunch with a Rector friend, then found that sitting over dinner and a drink, praying with total strangers in an Inn in the middle of nowhere made me feel recharged and connected on a deeper level. It was my service, my deep maintenance I needed.
I will now drive again down the twisting roads to Glen. At the time of print we will be packing up and heading home, hopefully I will have been the MOT for the delegates in the way I got when I was at the Crask Inn. Hopefully, they will continue on the road I have taken, whilst turning off at different places and choosing other routes. Having young adults on the road beside us truly is an amazing thing. Sometimes the easy road is the best and other times the slower meandering roads are worth the extra effort. Hopefully, we will all end up in the same beautiful place embraced by God’s Love.
Where is that journey now for us? As our churches get to the same junction on the road what turn will we take? With someone new behind the wheel where will they be inclined to take us? Will their maintenance on our car be what we need to stay on God’s road, no matter if we chose the easy and quick or long and difficult road will we end up together in God’s Love? I pray, like the Crask Inn, we find our refuge to recharge, to look after the vehicle and be sure we are not too tired to drive ourselves. No matter the journey, with moments to look after ourselves and others we will make it to the destination God intends for us.