IT was Easter when I started writing the Wednesday Column for the Sunderland Echo and it’s fitting that this, my last, should be also at Easter.
The Easter that has just passed was for me one of the best. It started at St Nicholas’ church on Palm Sunday with a foretaste of Holy Week in the movingly read gospel spoken well by a number of members of their congregation.
Each night that followed at the Minster there was a simple service with a short address each picking up the challenge of the Christian faith.
On Maundy Thursday the Archbishop of Canterbury gave the thought for the day on Radio Four reflecting on the tradition of Maundy Money.
He wondered whether on this day as a part of the cycle of British events other leaders shouldn’t have Maundy Thursday as a day for doing a menial service.
Not as a publicity stunt or in any way electioneering, but as a way of understanding the lives of ordinary people.
It could be cleaning in a care home, serving tea at a homeless project or spending time with a carer looking after a dependant relative.
The exact task is secondary, what is important would be an annual reminder of the invisible army of ordinary people in this country who often without thanks or appreciation just get on with doing what they do, sometimes despite those in authority. Our Archbishop, I think, is a very wise man.
The planning for the cycle ride has now ended and the real thing dawns tomorrow.
The notes on the map lay out anticipated daily progress but say nothing of the pain that will be at the end of each day.
Equal care and planning is now beginning for the electric car journey to Maidstone in August.
Plan A anticipates the route being via Yarm, Shipley, Sheffield, Leicester, Nottingham, Milton Keynes, London and Maidstone.
Each of those places has a charging point and I think it will take three days.
I imagine that this it what people had to do when they took their horses on long journeys and had to plan for watering holes ahead. Plan B involves calling the helpline.
These happy distractions of making lists, planning events and decluttering are, in a way, me coping with bereavement.
It’s the loss of a place I have loved and to which I have belonged. Sunderland has many wonderful places that make up its physical presence; museums, parks, churches, beaches and river being a few, and I will miss them all.
It has remarkable events like Kite Festivals, Air Shows, Houghton Feasts, Remembrance Day Parades and Good Friday Processions. I have enjoyed everyone of these each year and many others.
But above all these things it has an amazing collection of people who over the years I have journeyed with through being their ‘vicar’ or chaplain or simply being a friend or colleague; through some dark days of loss and some high points of celebration.
I will remember with affection this place called Sunderland, yes because of its place, but mainly because of its people.
Durham, Chester le Street, Newbottle and Hartlepool have all kept me in the North East over these last 31 years.
But in these last 11 in the heart of Sunderland, I have discovered a place called home.