• PatFinlow

Encounters in Salisbury

A few years ago, Alex and I had a few days away in Salisbury.

One notable encounter was in a country pub one evening, when ex-Prime Minister Ted Heath and his security detail arrived and sat on the table next to us, but I digress…

Another encounter was with the extraordinary figure of the ‘Walking Madonna’ by Sculptor Dame Elisabeth Frink in the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral.

What made this encounter so extraordinary, and to be honest, perplexing, was its position and disposition, especially its direction.

As can be seen from this second image, not only is she outside the Cathedral, she is striding purposefully away from it, which is very odd, as we normally see images of the Madonna being settled within places of worship where she has an adoring pose or posture.

What had happened? Had she been offended by something? Was the music too loud or not to her taste? Was the sermon too long? Why was she leaving with such determination and haste?

If the image allowed a 360 degree view, we would see that she is heading towards the exit gate of the Cathedral grounds which takes her directly into an encounter with the wider community.

Finally, the penny dropped. This was a moment – frozen in time - of someone who had spent time in the Cathedral, representing time spent, or perhaps invested in the presence of God. She was now, having been refreshed, encouraged, and having realigned her intentions with the priorities of the Almighty, is heading purposefully into the community to outwork her faith in practical ways.

I realised this beautifully encapsulates and describes the interplay of faith and social action.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, there is a verse that describes this encounter:

Yet those who wait for the Lord, will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired,

they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah chapter 40 v 31.

For those without faith, maybe this can help to explain how faith informs, mobilises, supports, sustains and strengthens the activism of people of faith.

And for the latter, it serves as a reminder to spend time in the presence of God, to recalibrate your thinking and draw strength from Him before advancing into difficult and challenging situations

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