THE vicar of Ollerton and Boughton is taking an extended break from his day job to learn more about how people find God through suffering and hardship.
The Rev Richard Goodhand, who is currently battling advanced kidney cancer, sets off on a three-month journey of discovery around Europe tomorrow.
His sabbatical will take him to Northern Ireland, France, Belgium and Germany where he wants to learn more about how people preserve or lose their faith in God when they experience struggles in their lives.
He is also looking to link the trip with his own experience of faith, which he says has changed and become more open and relaxed since he was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.
“I want to explore my understanding of my relationship with God through life’s varied experiences,” he said.
“This not only links in with my current situation with my cancer, but also my ongoing interest of suffering and struggle in the world - the two world wars, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland.
“Over the years I have led eight parish pilgrimages to the battlefields of the First World War, and I now want to widen my research.
“When I was discharged from hospital in December 2009, by way of answer to my question as to whether I would be all right, I was told that I hadn’t come through all this without some purpose.
“These words have stayed with me, but as I have prayed, reflected on, and pondered, I feel that I want to take this further and want to use this period of study leave to put together and expand my thinking.”
The Rev Goodhand had his right kidney removed shortly after diagnosis and the cancer also spread to his pelvis - which now requires continual treatment.
“Initially my outlook was not very good, but now things are more hopeful so my project is looking at how we find God through suffering and struggles,” he added.
As a keen photographer, the Rev Goodhand will also be documenting his journey through pictures and is hoping to keep friends and family up to date with his journey on social networking site Twitter.
Follow the Rev Goodhand on twitter @RichardGoodhand or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.