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Priest, 94, completes  47-mile walk for Church Mission Society

10 July 2020


Canon John Harwood and his wife, Brenda, cross the finishing line on Saturday

Canon John Harwood and his wife, Brenda, cross the finishing line on Saturday

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

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