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Barefoot rector discovers new spiritual meaning in life

by Ed Beavan

A SHROPSHIRE priest, the Revd Stephen Lowe, is following in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi by eschewing shoes.

Mr Lowe, Team Rector of Much Wenlock, stopped wearing shoes last September, and believes that going barefoot helps him to maintain his spiritual focus.

He first had the idea when he was washing his parishioners’ feet on Maundy Thursday last year, and thought it was appropriate for him to be barefoot, too. “When I was barefoot, I found real spiritual meaning in it, and I wanted to take it out into the community.

“I got some jokey comments from some people, but it really inspired some good spiritual conversations, and I feel it’s a worthwhile thing: it helps my spiritual focus and holds me in the present moment.

“It affects my attitude as I approach life, as each step is different as the foot meets warm or cold, hard or soft, and it reorientates my heart and mind to be ready to meet people with their variety of needs.”

Mr Lowe, who is a former chaplain of the Martyrs’ School in Papua New Guinea, also believes that shoes illustrate society’s insulation from reality, and urges people to go barefoot metaphorically and think about how they can “tread more lightly” on the earth in terms of environmental issues.

The barefoot priest still wears shoes for funerals, at restaurants, and to climb the Long Mynd hills near by, but plans to continue without shoes for the foreseeable future.

He has even walked barefoot on frosty days, which, he says, is not as uncomfortable as one would imagine.

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