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Clergy cyclists take the high road

25 August 2023

Retired priests ride separately from Land’s End to John o’ Groat’s

ALL SAINTS', HARTFORD

Dr Owen and his daughter Isobel are seen off at Huntingdon station at the start of their journey, by the Mayor of Huntingdon, Phil Pearce, and Mayoress Debbie Pearce, on Saturday

Dr Owen and his daughter Isobel are seen off at Huntingdon station at the start of their journey, by the Mayor of Huntingdon, Phil Pearce, and Mayores...

TWO retired clerics have each embarked on a cycle ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groat’s. The Revd Dr Clifford Owen, who is 80, set off last Sunday, and the Revd Peter Langford, who is 90, on Tuesday. Neither knew that the other was undertaking the ride, and they hope to meet in the autumn to compare notes.

Dr Owen has done the distance on three previous occasions — the last in celebration of his 70th birthday and 40th year of ordination — but he acknowledges that his confidence and strength have “naturally edged down over the years”. He will be riding with his daughters, with whom he has already made several long-distance journeys, both cycling and running.

ACCESS COMMUNITY TRUSTThe Revd Peter Langford waves as he leaves from Land’s End, on Tuesday

He was amazed, he said, at the level of interest that the ride had generated on local radio, and in his church, All Saints’, Hartford, for which he hopes to raise some money, along with a goal of £1000 for the Intercontinental Church Society. The church congregation blessed and cheered him on his way, and are praying for him each day. He hopes to reach John o’ Groat’s on 6 September.

The discovery that Mr Langford was also undertaking the ride led him to reflect on the combined years in ministry of “two old vicars”: “We must surely have a lot to say about how the Church of England has shifted — or not — in the last 50 years.”

This is the fourth time that Mr Langford has undertaken the ride, most recently in 2018, when he raised £25,000 for Médecins Sans Frontières. He seeks to double that sum, to be divided between the Access Community Trust, and the Salvation Army’s work with the homeless — a goal that Dr Owen describes as “magnificent”.

He has been concerned about homeless people since he was a student; a concern begun by personal contact with an ex-prisoner, whose experiences of sleeping rough made considerable impact on him. “He told me how much it meant to him if someone was simply nice to him,” he said. “I pray for the homeless almost every day, but, this year, I decided to do something else as well.”

Mr Langford will be paying all his own expenses — approximately £4000 — and hopes that that will encourage people to give generously, through JustGiving. He does not have a fixed finishing date, and hopes to ride at “a leisurely pace”.

ics-uk.org; accessct.org; salvationarmy.org.uk

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