Thursday, 12 January 2012
Spiritual experience on the Wrekin
I returned today from a two-day break in the Shropshire Hills with four priest friends. Yesterday we ascended the Wrekin, the highest summit in the area. It was a very clear afternoon and we were able to see long distances, from the Malvern Hills in the south to the Peak District in the east, and all below us the wide and colourful Shropshire plain, bordered immediately beneath us by the meandering River Severn. At the request of one of our group we remained silent for a while, absorbing the scene. Such moments are always religious moments. Unbidden, the thought emerges: Who made it all? One of my friends, our guide for the day, explained how the Wrekin is more than 600 million years old and is composed in part by volcanic rock. "All of this was created through Christ. How exactly did that happen?" one of us asked playfully. We smiled, unable to explain the mystery of it, but convinced that it is so. I read later that the hill used to be called Gilbert's Hill after a hermit who lived on it in the Middle Ages. I also read that in 2010 a wicker man was burnt on the summit to celebrate the equinox. The hill is where our Christian heritage - no, it's stronger than that - our national Christian identity, and modern unbelief, with its concomitant New Age searching, coincide - no, it's stronger than that - conflict.