A 94-YEAR-OLD former missionary priest completed his long-distance fund-raising challenge in aid of the Church Mission Society (CMS) last Saturday, after being inspired by the achievement of Captain Sir Tom Moore.
Since mid-May, Canon John Harwood has walked the half-mile round trip from his home in Emsworth, Hampshire, to his parish church, St James’s, 94 times — once for each year of his life. He has walked a total distance of 47 miles: nearly double the length of a marathon. He decided on the task after seeing the now centenarian Sir Tom raise more than £30 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden (News, 1 May) — an achievement that has earned him a knighthood.
Canon Harwood, who worked for the CMS in Nigeria and Sierra Leone for ten years, set out to raise £1000 for the society, but reached a total of almost £14,000.
He said that, although he retired many years ago, the work of CMS continued to inspire him. “I am thrilled by CMS’s ground-breaking mission pioneers, like Rachel Karanja, who is utilising renewable-energy technology to benefit local communities in Kenya through the Greenspan Biotechnologies project (Features, 23 November 2018). I am convinced of the continuing need to support the Christian mission in the UK and worldwide, but there is much else. CMS works in 50 countries worldwide. I hope the money raised by this walk will help raise up many more entrepreneurs.”
He has never previously completed a marathon or long-distance event, but has managed two walks a day. He formally recorded each trip by putting a numbered slip through the letterbox of St James’s Rectory. The effort has taken its toll, including sore feet and backache. He said: “I’ve not had any blisters, but I do have to sit down to take a rest, midwalk.”
He went on: “It’s all been worth it, but no more challenges. . . I’m quite looking forward to a rest.”
He has become a local hero in Emsworth, where he has been dubbed the “Racing Rev”, but he commented: “I don’t expect a knighthood.”
The chief executive officer of the CMS, Alastair Bateman, said: “John’s willingness to put himself on the line echoes the selfless sacrifice of countless men and women who have served CMS throughout its history, putting the needs and well-being of others above their own comfort and prosperity.”
In April, a retired priest, Canon Douglas Davies, marked his 100th birthday by completing 100 laps of his home in Swansea, raising more than £4300 — double his target — for the Anglican mission agency USPG (News, 15 May).
Donations to the CMS can still be made at: justgiving.com/fundraising/John-HarwoodCMS