Former atheist to hit the road for Christian Aid
A former atheist and cycling enthusiast is gearing up for the ride of his life in support of Christian Aid.
Brett Hall, from Somerset, has been an enthusiastic follower of the Tour de France since he was a child. His wife was a regular churchgoer but he had never shown any interest in the Christian faith himself until a prescription for athlete's foot had some unusual side effects.
"I always thought of myself as an agnostic atheist. I went to the doctors with athlete’s foot but within two days of taking the medication I was having suicidal thoughts, bouts of depression, anxiety and panic attacks," he explains.
Brett came off the medication but the mental anguish continued and in desperation, he started saying the Lord's prayer.
"During that time the only thing that took the edge of it was saying the Lord’s Prayer. It became a bit of a mantra. I was saying it up to 150 times a day," says Brett.
"After a while I realised I needed more of this and my wife, Becky, suggested I come with her to church. It was brilliant. I found strength, courage, love and friendship and church has become a big thing for me.
"I met some great people and I put my recovery down to the love I received from God, my church and my community."
Brett's new-found faith not only brought him back from the mental brink, it also brought his family closer together.
"We now go to church as a family. My eldest Joseph, who’s three, is in Sunday school and we also have Sofia, who’s 15 months.
"My depression kicked off as my wife was pregnant with Joseph. She has been amazing and had to put up with being pregnant for the first time as well as my illness."
As a recent Christian, Brett is constantly struck by new discoveries on his walk of faith.
"I have a childlike awe of it. Often I find my breath taken away. Becky’s been a Christian since she was a child and she keeps telling me this is all part of it.
"I am still careful about getting too emotionally up and down and I can tell if I’m close to another episode, but it doesn’t affect me like it did.
"In the past I had preconception of church as a cold, grey building with a guy pointing at me telling me how bad I was. But it hasn’t been anything like that. People were so welcoming and now I want to give something back."
Now the 30-year-old is looking to raise funds for Christian Aid after signing up for the development agency's 150-mile cycling challenge.
The Cathedrals to Coast ride takes place from September 22 to 23 and will see cyclists travel from London through the New Forest to Weymouth, en route passing cathedrals in Guildford, Winchester and Salisbury as well as Mottisfont Abbey, Corfe Castle and Lulworth Castle.
Brett was inspired to take up the challenge and do something positive for the church after seeing fellow Christians at Castle Cary Methodist Church raise money for Christian Aid.
Bradley Wiggins' recent triumph in the Tour de France will no doubt provide some additional inspiration to see him complete the challenge.
"I’ve been mad for the Tour de France since the 80s, much to the annoyance of my wife," he says.
"I got into cycling through my dad who turned to riding a bike after a collapsed vertebra in his back stopped him from running.
"I want to give something back and doing this bike ride to raise money for an important cause is a great way to do that."
To join Brett and sign up for the two day ride visit www.christian-aid.org/cycling or call 0207 523 2248.
To sponsor him visit www.justgiving.com/BHall