Seven Churches in South Oxfordshire

From the Rector: Tuesday 27th February 2024

The Path in the Sea

Dear friends

If you go to Southend on Sea, in Essex, and keep going until the railway runs out, you will reach Shoeburyness on the east coast. Although the railway goes a little further as a single track, but only for MOD use, heading north east towards their depot outside the village of Wakering. You can cycle or walk on from here along the Stairs Road, which will take you out into the countryside, skirting the MOD firing ranges, until you reach the causeway of Wakering Stairs. This marks the start of the three miles of the “deadliest footpath in Britain” – a public right of way that runs offshore, over tidal sands (and under the nose of the MOD firing ranges) to the MOD owned island of Foulness. This path, the “Broomway” as it is called, is thought to have killed over a hundred people through the centuries, who have wandered from the safe route, been disorientated, caught by the tide, or the sand, or the clay, or the mud. The path was once the only way to reach Foulness, and was formerly marked with “broomsticks” every few hundred yards, but today walkers are strongly urged to take with them a hand held compass, and know how to use it. You can only use the path during the hours when twice a day it is uncovered by the tide. So, an ability to find and read the tide tables is also a life saving requirement. A sign at the Wavering Stair causeway leaves little room for doubt as to the risks: “Warning: The Broomway is unmarked and very hazardous to pedestrians.” And, an additional notice from the MOD, as if that wasn’t enough: “Warning: Do not approach or touch any object as it may explode and cause serious injury.”

If all this sounds a little far fetched, do have a look at an online map, and you will find the Broomway marked, a public right of way in the water, a seeming impossibility. The path is washed clean by the tides, removing all tracks, meaning there are never footmarks in the sand to follow. But there is a destination, a way through the sea. Take a look at the image below, which is of the start of the path at Wakering Stairs, and ask yourself “under what circumstances might I walk this way?”

On this path, the very question of life is posed sharply and clearly: In every direction but one there is fatal danger, so which is the right way? Who will be my guide? To whom will I entrust my life? Or do I think I am good enough on my own?

Worship Services for Sunday 3rd March

9.30am Informal Service at St John’s, Stoke Row with Revd Romey Poston

11am Morning Prayer at St Peter and Paul, Checkendon with Canon Kevin Davies. The Lenten Triptych: III

Midweek zoom service: Wednesday Evensong at 5.00pm  410 935 129

Coming Up

Mothering Sunday this year is on Sunday March 10th, and there will be special services all across the Team area at the usual times. Maundy Thursday is on March 28th, and there will be a Team Service at St John’s Whitchurch Hill at 7.30pm, led by the Revd Dr James Leach. On Good Friday (March 29th) we meet in Checkendon School Hall from 10.30am for a creative and informal exploration of Easter themes suitable for all ages. Do make a note of all these dates!

This coming weekend marks the turning from winter to spring, although the recent hard frosts act as salutary reminders to gardeners not to get ahead of themselves. It is time to be planning, and thinking about planting, and “digging in” – the manure, last year’s compost, and all those tea leaves one has thrown where the beans are going to  go. Don’t forget to keep feeding your garden birds – there isn’t much about yet for them, and they too are starting to think about nests and “family planning.”

with every blessing, your Rector, Revd Kevin

PS. Psalm 40, v1-2 David’s experience of God’s salvation is as the “place of good standing” – the firm footing, the solid ground, resulting in praise, and renewed trust.


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