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Girton Parish News - September 2000
It's never gone over yet," Bill assured us, patting the wooden flank of Kitt, his fifteen-foot hand-built canoe. But the habit of a lifetime was broken at the practice, when Kitt, Bill and the Rector were dunked into the Cam. It was therefore with wary respect that we gathered around the canoe in Chesterton at nine on Saturday 22nd July, for prayers as our pilgrimage began.
Bill Orton, churchwarden of St. Andrew's and keen canoeist, had inspired our millennium pilgrimage. We travelled, as so many generations before us, on foot and by water to Ely. Our theme was "mission" and we hoped through sponsorship to raise money for the two overseas mission charities St. Andrew's collectively supports: the work of World Vision in Harare and of Colin Sims, a young missionary in Buenos Aires.
The pilgrims consisted of four groups. Canoeists, codename "disciples," paddled in pairs, a different team tackling each stretch. Walkers, codename "saints," were charged with carrying the banner and the lifebuoy. One cycling "angel" shepherded stragglers along the towpath, and three "charioteers" or car drivers met up with the band at each staging point: Bait's Bait's Bite Lock, Clayhithe, Bottisham Lock, and so on.
Few of us had canoed before, but paddling proved fairly straightforward. The front paddler provides motive power and the rear paddler also steers, avoiding swans, fishermen, canal barges, motor boats, and the eights, fours, twos and ones practising for the Bumps near Cambridge. The view of the river from the water was idyllic, willows sweeping the swathes of yellow water-lilies, and the bright blue flash of a kingfisher leading the way.
For the walkers there were glimpses of fields blood-red with poppies or sky-coloured with flax, and soon the tiny tower of the cathedral in the distance. As the day passed and our legs tired, the cathedral grew in size on the horizon, not quickly enough during the last three hard miles.
Modern pilgrims use mobile phones: "Where are you? How long are you going to be?" At the Maltings in Ely a crowd of church members cheered the walkers and together we wheeled the canoe on its little trolley through town to the cathedral door.
Canon John Inge greeted us and welcomed all the pilgrims into the cathedral, including Kitt the canoe, Ben the dog and the angel's bicycle. As we followed our banner down the nave I looked up, saw the wooden painted ceiling above us and felt we were inside another, vast, upturned, canoe. To the bemusement of onlookers the unusual procession turned into the Lady Chapel. There, seated around the canoe, we held a service to celebrate the end of our pilgrimage. It was a peaceful and reflective end to a memorable day.
REMOVING AND RESTORING
Unfortunately though, in its present state, it was too small to display. However with a little help from modern technology it is remarkable what can be done. A photograph can be scanned into a computer, enlarged (or reduced) and the contrast adjusted so that all the details stand out. Any unwanted marks or scratches can be brushed away, certain features can be highlighted and a photograph can even be made to look like a painting. Although we haven't used the technique on any of our copies, I understand it is possible to remove unwanted items, such as telephone poles and lamp posts, and in effect paint in the areas where they have been.
The ability to remove something is a wonderful tool. Think how much more useful the pencil was after the invention of the pencil rubber and where would the average school exercise book be without splashings of Tipp-Ex. This article would look vastly different if my computer lacked a delete key, and my clothes would be unrecognisable if the grime wasn't removed by washing in brand X.
Removing things from our lives though, isn't always as easy as washing
in detergent. We have all done things and said things that on reflection
we know we shouldn't have done. Sometimes it is possible to redress
matters and make amends, but at other times the scars are too deep and
were inflicted too long ago to be able to easily wipe things clean.
However, although we might not be able to clean ourselves up, thankfully
God can. After King David in the Bible had committed adultery and
his sin had been exposed, he wrote psalm 51 as someone needing forgiveness.
He prayed that God would blot out his transgressions and cleanse him from
his sin. David was genuinely sorry, he asked in faith, and found
God's wonderful forgiveness.
Although we can sometimes rub things out in our lives, we can't always put the right thing back in place. God though removes and restores. That is his promise to us, that if we genuinely repent and ask for his forgiveness, he will forgive us and wonderfully restore us. As the psalmist prayed "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me".
So next time you use a pencil rubber and then write in the correction, or press the delete key on your computer and then type in the new word, remember that as a picture of how God works with us. If we ask him, God will completely remove the wrong, remembering it no more, and then restore us to new.
Girton Glebe News