Everyone needs a break, says Moderator

Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator, Presbyterian Church in IrelandRt Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator, Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator, Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Out of everything that we have had to forego this last while due to the pandemic, I wonder if there are some things that you haven’t missed at all?

When we were getting ready for a bit of a break recently, it struck me that I hadn’t flown in a plane for over a year.

There was a time when most, if not almost all of my flying, was work-related. In one job that I had many years ago now, I regularly took 200-plus flights every year. Can you imagine!

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For me, flying was never a pleasant experience. I don’t miss airports, the crush, the rush, the stress and the mess, so having a break from the odd flight has been real therapy. I’ll fly again, but only if it’s absolutely necessary.

So this year, like most people, Zoë and I will be enjoying a staycation. Our rusty, trusty, old campervan will carry us to pleasant places in Ireland, as we visit friends we haven’t seen for a while and take time to slow down, read, relax, pray, talk and chill (maybe literally!)

For readers who have a VW camper van, you will know what I mean when I say that they are special. In fact, VW van owners are a breed apart. Ours left the factory floor in the dying years of the last century, so it’s around 23 now. But it’s not our first – it was 32 years old when we sold it!

While it can be mechanically challenging, you might be surprised to know that along with a Bible, I also enjoy wielding a spanner, which is all part of the deep joy of ownership. In fact a holiday isn’t a holiday without dirty grease marks on one’s face, the reward for crawling on your back under the van for an hour mending what needs to be mended.

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It is a labour of love, and we love the freedom of being able to just set off with minimal notice, knowing that we will always have a warm, dry, safe place to sleep, no matter where we end up. Exploring narrow roads and lanes, which appear to lead nowhere, can invariably lead to new discoveries and unforgettable adventures.

And there have been many memorable trips down the years. Like the one to County Mayo and Achill Island on the west coast, which saw a Force Eight gale rock us to sleep. Then there was that drive to Shetland, where one morning we watched dolphins entertain us in a local bay, while we enjoyed a breakfast of freshly brewed coffee and bacon butties. We’ll remember this summer, not because of cancelled flights and fearful viruses, but because it was the time when God said “Stay put and slow down”. Maybe that’s just the tonic we need?

The Bible says in Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes.” But 1 Thessalonians 5:18 also says “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” If your holiday in the sun has been cancelled, or you really want to be on a plane to a green traffic-lit country, and now can’t, it might feel hard to give thanks. But as one door closes, another opens, and having a positive attitude in face of such disappointments can make all the difference.

Wherever you holiday this year– bon voyage!

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