Well I did it. The other Saturday I went to Cockerham to the Black Knights Parachute Centre and willingly jumped out of an aeroplane at 15,000ft.
It was a fine morning and my brothers, wife and children came to support, along with a fellow clergyman. There was an impressive number of other people there. Many were doing similar jumps for Christie Hospital, others were learning how to do parachute jumps.
We watched then descend, the proficient making it look so simple, turning the parachute on a sixpence and gently landing on the grass next to the short runway. Then there were the tandem jumps. The plane went above the clouds, becoming a small dot in the sky occasionally catching the sun. It was then that I realised that 15,000ft is two and three quarter miles and therefore quite a long way up. Again, down they came, smoothly landing and two things happened. My supporters became more relaxed, they realised how well run the whole operation was. I became more pensive, realising there was no choice but to go through with it all!
After due training and being kitted out, we boarded the plane. No luxury seats, but a school bench and thankfully I was at the front. The speed and smoothness of ascent was very welcome and Fleetwood and Over Wyre became a patchwork quilt beneath us and then the shutter door went up. People ask me if jumping was scary. To be honest, once your legs are dangling outside of an aeroplane up in the sky, there is no option and away you go. “Falling with Style” was amazing, the view, the speed and exhilaration breath-taking. Then the parachute is opened and with sharp turns to the left and the right the x comes into sight.
I think I had naively thought of the parachute gently floating down, not being more akin to the now defunct mouser on the pleasure beach. The skills of the tandem instructor were incredible, and the landing gentle and smooth.
It truly was a leap of faith, and a faith in many things. There was the faith in the equipment and the training. There was my faith in the stranger I was strapped onto, faith in his expertise and experience. There was also faith in God, to look on Lancashire from a different perspective and to contemplate its beauty and the ability of humans to enable such an experience. This for me is no accident or brute fact, but the jumping off point for belief in God.