Fifty years ago this month the Severn Bridge opened to traffic for the first time allowing people to cross the River Severn between England and Wales. This was a momentous occasion and brought an end to the car ferries which had crossed the Severn for generations. The first suggestion of a bridge was around 1824 when Thomas Telford looked at the proposition. This never materialised due to the prominence in those days of the railways and the opening of the Severn tunnel and railway bridge. It took nearly a century and a half and the increase in road traffic to see that original proposal come to life. Some one hundred and fifty years later and with a maintenance programme that ensures its safety and upkeep the bridge still remains an impressive sight as we approach from both sides. The original toll of 2/6 (post-decimalisation £0.125) is now £6.60 and by today there’s a second bridge making entry and exit even more convenient, far removed from the days when a lengthy journey via Gloucester was the order of the day.
From that day in September 1966 when Her Majesty the Queen opened and was the first to officially cross the bridge millions of us have travelled and taken advantage of the bridge to shorten and even make our journeys much more enjoyable. Bridges, of course, have this function but they are also the means of joining two plateaus of land or even as in the case of the Severn bridge two countries together.
One of Simon and Garfunkel’s most enduring songs contain the words ‘Like a bridge over troubled waters I will lay me down’ and they contain, perhaps unintendedly, such a challenging Biblical truth. We must never underestimate the difference made when we become bridges in help and support of others because Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God’ These are those who do God’s will as agents of reconciliation and love, helping to heal old divides that have gone on too long with words of gentleness and encouragement. We often hear the saying ‘life’s too short’ and it certainly is! The Bible also speaks of God reaching out in love to the world of his creation. Jesus is the bridge over the troubled waters of sin and evil. Walk in his way and as the Bible says we shall pass from death to life, from despair to hope and one day cross that bridge to the eternal home of heaven.
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