Babbacombe – Starcross (14.3 miles)
Distance from Minehead – 506.7 miles / Distance to Poole–116.4 miles
Today started out as normal, with a number of walkers joining me from a range of churches. We set out into the rainy Devon coastal countryside and after a long and hard morning’s walking, we found ourselves in Teignmouth. Here, following a long delay as we waited for the ferryman to come back for us (he decided at the last minute that we wouldn’t all fit on the boat and so set off leaving us stranded for what felt like hours on the shore at Shaldon) we were greeted by some supporters who plied us with cheesy chips and hot chocolates – perfect for the cold and rainy weather conditions!
Unbeknown to me I had arrived in Teignmouth on the same day as hundreds of Morris Dancers. It seemed it was the Folk Festival and everywhere we turned there were folk festivaling. I am not sure I have seen so many accordions in one place at one time, and I was astounded that there was such a variety of Morris Dancers. When I was at primary school we learnt to dance around the maypole, but other than that brief foray into folk dancing, I am totally ignorant. I don’t understand the significance of the sticks or the bells or the fact that some of them today had face-painted themselves like cats! It is not my kind of thing and I am not sure I want to know more about it all, but I am glad it is still around and is drawing in the crowds.
Yes you read right, despite my dislike of Morris Dancing I am glad it is a part of the English tradition. I think that this odd form of expression, which has been going on for hundreds of years, is important and should not be lost in the mists of time and fashion. When we lose things which make up part of our culture and heritage, I think we miss out and it is a sad day for our children and our children’s children. However we do need to be careful about what traditions we keep and new ones we make. An X-Factor winner of the Christmas number 1 is not something that I think will still be impacting the lives of many in years to come, despite it becoming a tradition in recent years.
When I think of the church, in whatever form it may take, I see a whole host of rites and traditions. Some of them, such as Holy Communion, have very clear links as to why they have continued to be carried out and practiced. Others, such as standing to receive the collection or the presence of an introit, may have less clear significance. It is very easy in sweeping statements, to exclaim that all tradition in the church is bad and should be got rid of, or all tradition in the church is good and should be kept. Perhaps it is more helpful for churches to examine why they do what they do and whether or not it is something which is still of benefit to the worshipping community. This can be really helped by the never ending questions of a new Christian who simply cannot grasp the logical link between tapestry kneelers, standing for one bible reading and not another, shaking everyone’s hand during the sharing of the peace, and their recent conversion!
In the same way I think that my own life could do with a ‘tradition check-up’ in order to make note of the traditions, both positive and negative, that I have unwittingly built into my life. This might help me to continue with the things I must do, motivate me in the things I should do and help me to quit the things I shouldn’t do. The only problem is that I, like most folk, am not too fond of change and I am not overly sure I will like the answers I find! It seems like my attitude towards self regulation is a bit like my attitude towards Morris Dancers – best left for someone else to get on with in my absence!