It has been known among my friends and family, the odd one or two. No make that more than that; to question that a big hairy arse like me, should have such a strong Christian faith.
My reply is usually along the lines of either it’s a personal thing, or more often “There aren’t many heathens in a lifeboat”, ain’t that the truth? Three days in a tsunami riding out a tidal wave in a cargo boat, off Japan, having smashed both our lifeboats. My goodness, did I pray? The 1979 Fastnet Race which turned into the worst disaster in 100 years of ocean racing, when a freak storm hit us, leaving 15 crew members dead. Force 10 gales whipped up 50-foot waves with 300 yachts fighting for our lives. Our 42-foot yacht lost its rudder, which was last seen heading towards Finistere leaving a bit of a leak in the stern – rudderless, leaking like a sieve and slowly sinking as we limped towards Milford Haven, as busy as we all were, we were praying like mad and then thanked God for our survival as we walked away from the harbour, leaving the yacht to sink. I’ve have lost count of the times I have clawed a yacht away from certain death among unforgiving rocks and have prayed and thanked God every time.
Another of my adrenaline seeking occupations over the years has been rock climbing even chalking up a few firsts on some classified as Very Severe. In my early day I was privileged to climb with the likes of Joe Brown, Don Whillans and Chris Bonington! And yes, many times I thought I was about to peel off and fall when I didn’t just talk to my God I pleaded with him!
At one time I was an instructor at an Outward Bound School at Burghead on the Moray Firth in Scotland and on one day we had a dozen pupils on release from a Borstal in Liverpool having the Outward-Bound experience. One of the lads was a very likeable, very quick witted Scouse lad named Alex. We were on some sheer sea cliffs and Alex was well roped up and I was taking the strain when I saw that he was ‘gripped up’ and his legs were shaking with fright. I shouted up at him “Alex, deep breaths, slow your breathing and lean away from the cliff. Get off your knees and lean back. Your knees are for praying”. The little Scouse shouted back “That’s what I’m doing sir! So, it’s not just me – Alex completed his climb and walked away looking several inches taller.
I’ve sounded off frequently about how the two previous Archbishops of Canterbury have damaged my church, but they haven’t damaged my faith in my God. I have discovered a small Saxon church a few miles from where I live, it’s a walk across a field to get to it but it’s always open, peaceful and very welcoming. When I want to have a quiet word with the boss in calm surroundings, that’s where I go. You see I don’t only pray when I fear for my life, I pray because my God has always been there for me, and I’m still here. Thank God.