The Way Under our Feet – Bishop’s book reviewed
Following the publication last month of “The Way Under Our Feet - a spirituality of walking” by the Rt Revd Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, we now publish a review by Robert Ashton.
We never need to walk alone
Social distancing has become the catchphrase of the moment. We’re being told to stay indoors, and only venture out to buy food, pick up medicines or take exercise. We are denied the opportunity to greet a friend with a handshake, hug a relative or share a cup of coffee with a neighbour. Yes, we can go out for a walk, but social distancing makes chance conversations unlikely; so many of us find ourselves walking alone.
But as Bishop Graham Usher explains in his new book ‘The Way Under our Feet’, that need not be the case, because God can be there right beside us, if we care to look up from our feet and see Him. And as if being a Bishop was not qualification in itself to tell us this, Graham has walked countless miles himself, sometimes as an observant ecologist, often as a pilgrim and always as a man clearly in touch with humanity.
Unlike some books I’ve read, this one is not jam-packed with biblical references - it contains just enough to support the points being made. Wasn’t that how Jesus set out to change lives too, by illustration rather than battering us with chapter and verse? Although not a history of walking, I did learn that the word saunter literally means to be seeking the Holy Land, or Sainte Terre. The word probably dates from the 14th century.
Not surprisingly, Graham talks about walking the pilgrim path at low tide across to Holy Island. After all, he lived many years in Northumberland and of all pilgrim walks, it is one many of us will have experienced. But as I read the book, I was touched by mention of other familiar, although in this context surprising, discoveries. I’ve long been a fan of the ‘walking artist’ Richard Long, for example, so was delighted to find that his unique form of art, blending experience, photography and words, featured in a chapter titled ‘living.’ Long’s walks I realise on reflection are also a form of pilgrimage.
To set out on a pilgrimage of any kind is to take a risk, or at least, that was the case in ancient times. In a chapter aptly titled ‘going’, Graham writes about a very modern risk he encountered when walking the pilgrim’s path from Becket’s birthplace in London to Canterbury where he was martyred. While Graham had the foresight to pack in his rucksack a bottle of Prosecco, to celebrate with his companions their arrival at Canterbury Cathedral, he had overlooked the fact that drinking within the Cathedral Close is forbidden, and was jokingly threatened with arrest by of a precinct police officer.
But let me end where you can begin. Graham describes how, when he is leaving a place to move on the pastures new, he takes a ‘slow walk of remembrance’, alone among the graves of those whose funerals he has conducted. Why don’t you visit your local churchyard when next you go out to take some exercise? Walk among the dead who lay there and allow God to join you as you stroll through the long grass in the Spring sunshine.
Then buy the book and keep on walking - who knows where that might lead?
“The Way Under Our Feet - a spirituality of walking” by the Rt Revd Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich is available from SPCK and from Eden as well as other bookshops and on-line.
Read our previous story about this book release here.