Safeguarding can sometime feel like a bit of trek. I enjoy a long walk but sometimes it’s a tedious tramp, at other times it’s an exhilarating ridge walk. The only trouble with a ridge walk though is the climb to get up there. The coming down can also be a bit tricky. Short, sharp strolls can also help re-charge physical and emotional batteries. The analogy can go on and on and on…
One of the many cultural casualties of the pandemic has been the early closure of an art exhibition entitled ‘We Will Walk’. Staged at the Turner gallery in Margate it opened in late February and so was on our bucket and spade list for the Easter holiday period. It was an exhibition featuring the art and culture of the American South and featured rural crafts from upstate Alabama. The exhibition aimed to link the art, much of which featured recycled materials, with the 1960’s Civil Rights movement with its focus on protest marches and bus boycotts. If you don’t take the bus, you will have to walk. The exhibition curators could not have predicted Covid-19, nor the strength of the current Black Lives Matter campaigns, but the echoes of history, art and music would have provided stunning contemporary relevance. You can get a glimpse of what this exhibition was about here: https://turnercontemporary.org/whats-on/we-will-walk/
Another walking piece caught my eye at the weekend. A ‘guerrilla geographer’ – I quite like that concept – has developed a project to map old footpath routes between towns and settlements. Working with Ordnance Survey he has begun to establish a network of ‘Slow Ways’ that are not tourist honeypot walks, but a revival of the generations-old paths and trackways that were our ancestors’ means of social and trading contact. With the sudden shift from public transport and if we don’t want to contribute more car exhaust fumes, the idea of going about our normal business by walking to our destinations has some appeal. Ideally these should be ‘green corridor’ walks as opposed to suburban street bashing. The downside is that as a circuit steward it would take me two hours to reach the church at the other end of the circuit! But it would mean that we could slow down the pace of our unbelievably busy lives.
So safeguarding as a walk? Good preparation, the right shoes, a map and compass, like-minded travelling companions, a clear destination, contingency plans to avoid the bull in the field or an over-eager dog, supplies to keep you going. Equally as important, walking in someone else’s shoes, alongside and keeping in step with them should be features of our plans to help churches who may be struggling to get safeguarding right. There is also a very clear message here about the way in which we should support survivors of abuse.
So long may we continue to walk. Our scriptures are full of stories and imagery about walking. It’s part of who we are. Good for the body and good for the soul.