If John McLane became a priest, he'd probably end up being cut from the same cloth as Doug Heming, one of the most unusual and adventurous clergymen I've ever met.
Doug is about to undertake the gruelling Bethlehem Marathon and will be running to raise money for Right To Movement, an international organisation that is built on the basic human right of freedom of movement.
My religious motivation and understanding of the Christian mission has shifted over time but never the sense that dynamism and interaction with others is what a Christian life, indeed all life, is about. I have used this principle to fuel travels to some very unfamiliar and uncomfortable places for a Christian. Running the 'Right to Movement Marathon' is another expression of this view of life and faith. I am committed to penetrating walls that are built to prevent interaction between different people and communities because I believe when barriers are punctured something new always comes from it. It's the fundamental principle of growth.
Running a marathon in one of the world's hot spots would seem risky to most people, but Doug has a history of undertaking endeavours that would make other people blench. In his early days, Doug sold bibles in one of the few countries on earth where such trade was a life and death matter:
My first overseas experience was working with the Bible Society selling Bibles in Pakistan. We travelled around in an old transit van full of bibles and lived off what we sold, quite literally. We were chased out of places by mobs, arrested at gunpoint. I remember once being driven off on the back of a motorbike to a house in the suburbs of Lahore and questioned by the Pakistani Taleban. This was over 20 years ago but even then it was a difficult environment to work in. You could not do it now.
Anyone who can sell Bibles in Pakistan under the watchful gaze of the Taleban, and make enough of a living to support themself should probably win the Salesman of the Century award. The fact that Doug managed to do it for two years without getting himself killed is astonishing.
In addition to his work in Pakistan, Doug also travelled to Nepal and Tibet. On one occasion, Doug offered to accompany an American missionary who wanted to visit friends who were working in a remote village.
Talk about inaccessible! We had to fly from Kathmandu to a runway about a week's walk from the village. By the time we arrived we were pretty dishevelled and tired but the experience of meeting people who had never even heard of the Bible or its story was quite remarkable. Not least in terms of seeing how a first hearing of the familiar story affected people's worldview. The journey home was eventful as my American companion did not have enough money to pay for a flight back to Kathmandu. When we arrived at the small airfield we realised we would have to walk another two weeks before we could get a bus that would take us to Kathmandu. We slept in caves and crossed some of the most precarious bridges I have ever seen to make it back to where a bus route could take us to the capital.
After his missionary work overseas, Doug had a career in business.
Although I had Christian faith since my mid teens, life took me down a route not often associated with religious faith. Until I retrained as a Priest about 5 years ago, I was running a nationwide scaffolding company. I remember standing on the highest point of the unfinished roof of the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre in London where our company was working and thinking that even this prestigious contract did not give me the satisfaction I wanted. I needed a change, and as a person of faith I sought a spiritual answer to this need. It came in the form of a sense of call to Priesthood, which I followed and undertook 2 years of residential training through Oxford University after which I was ordained in the Diocese of Lichfield.
In addition to his parish duties, Doug works with young offenders and prisoners.
I have a particular interest in the principles of restorative justice and am a facilitator of a course which takes prisoners on a journey to consider who, other than themselves, has been affected by their crimes. One of the greatest challenges is that the journey must begin with facing up to the crimes they have committed, which requires real strength and honesty. The possibility that we can go on a journey even when we lose the physical capacity for free movement for whatever reason, is fundamental to rehabilitation of criminal behaviour. It's an interesting idea in the same context as the right to movement, which the marathon focuses on.
Doug will be running the Bethlehem Marathon on the 27th March. To sponsor Doug, visit his Just Giving page www.justgiving.com/4000at40.
To find out more about Right to Movement, visit their website www.righttomovement.org