In just over a month’s time on the second Saturday of September our roads will be full of cyclists and walkers. It will be time for the annual ‘Ride and Stride’ event around our churches.
This is a national event and locally it is organised by the Sussex Historic Churches Trust (www.sussexhistoricchurchestrust.org.uk). Bear Grylls, adventurer and Chief Scout is promoting the scheme nationally.
On the day churches all over the country like my churches at Hellingly and Upper Dicker will be open to receive walkers and cyclists who travel from church to church.
Each person gets sponsored on the number of churches visited in order to raise money for the local trust, half going to the trust and half to a church of their choice.
Even the people who man the churches can also get sponsored on the number of riders and striders they sign in. It’s all jolly good fun.
I did it myself a few years ago – on horseback!
There are serious entrants who walk and ride all over the county visiting a colossal numbers of churches, while others do what they can in their own locality with just a handful.
But few or many, the sums raised are significant.
Nationally around £1.5m and £55,000 in Sussex in 2014 was raised with over 600 church buildings open for business on the day.
In these cash strapped times we have to consider every way we can to raise money. Nationally we have many really old buildings which need care and attention.
Our church at Hellingly is over 800 years old and is a Grade 1 Listed building. Repairs don’t come cheap!
Although we are the national church we don’t get anything from the government, unlike in places like Germany where upkeep of church buildings is part of people’s taxes.
I can’t see that going down well here, nor do I think it is necessarily the best way. You can have a beautifully kept building, but if it only has a handful of worshippers then what is the point?
Our churches are part of our national heritage and culture. People do like to visit our churches.
You just have to cast your eye over the comments in our visitors’ books and read the comments.
Trying to maintain practical care and effectiveness in the community which is what we are primarily about is costly enough, while trying to look after ancient buildings can be a phenomenal drain.
So to do what we can to care for them by participating in the Ride and Stride event is important as well as fun. So get your bike clips on and oil that chain!