This year I was pleased to get to the Salisbury Hiroshima Candle Float, organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The large crowd was quite sombre as we remembered an event that changed the world forever, and 70 candles were launched for each year passed since the bomb was dropped.
Every generation seems to face its own Armageddon - in George Herbert’s day it was the lawlessness of the English Civil War and the dissolution of parliament, and currently it’s climate and population growth. I grew up in a time when it was the nuclear threat - the cold war was still going and people talked about the possibility of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Every day I passed a listening station on my way to school. We once went down the 60 feet concrete tunnels on an open day (this must have been towards the end of hostilities). In my ignorance I assumed that those days were over, those threats gone, and I was surprised that even as we commemorated, we are still debating about our nuclear arsenal.
As Michael Portillo and others have said, our Trident missiles are neither independent, nor a deterrent to any threat we face today. It behoves us to learn that conflicts are rarely resolved by violent methods. When people are beaten, it creates new enemies and new resentments. We have the capacity and strength and wisdom to have discussions and dialogues, to use education. As a Christian I have to believe that there is a better answer than sending our children to die, and killing our enemies - not an easy laying down of weapons, but serious work for understanding and resolution. History shows us that it is only where people talk that lasting solutions are found and civilisation grows. I pray we may be wise and courageous.
To Herbert it would have been obvious that we need to care for the earth, so it may look after us - his poem 'Providence' is all about this mutual dependence. Sometime in the Industrial Revolution we decided that when God gave us the earth to “subdue”, as it says in Genesis, this meant to exploit and raid like a sweet shop, rather than to husband and nurture like a good farmer. Still at least we are learning what we have done wrong and some of us are trying to put it right.
Last time I wrote we were on the verge of raising the money needed to convert St. John's (George Herbert's memorial church) into a shared space for the community, the school and the parsh. I am delighted to tell you that not only have we raised over £500,000, but work has begun. We’ve been slightly delayed by discovering some bats! The Common Pipistrelles in the roof were just temporary but the rare Lesser Horseshoe in the basement looks to be a resident. Because they are endangered and protected it may mean relocating the boiler, but these are the things we have to do to be good stewards of all the earth. Our own Bishop Nicholas is the Church of England lead person on the Environment and is going to the Paris Climate Summit from Nov 30th to Dec 11th. Please pray for it.
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