Magazine leader - October 2013

From the Vicar

I always dreamt of being a scientist. At one point I had ambitions to go into medicine, but then I got excited over the possibilities of doing forensic science. What I ended up doing was working in the London wine trade, until a sense of calling made me offer myself for ordination. The selectors said ‘yes’ and I embarked on a ministry that has brought me to be your vicar here in Broadstone. My degrees are in theology and, week by week, I wrestle with the scriptures as I prepare sermons. We need to steep ourselves in scripture, to so enter the world of Jesus that we can hear him speaking to us in our own time. They say that faith is caught and not taught, which is to say that learning the scriptures is never enough. Rather it is the case that scripture is a tool by which we encounter the living Christ and, through him, enter into a relationship with God which changes and transforms our lives. It is not so much about knowledge as about an affair of the heart. It is about so immersing ourselves in God’s revelation of Life that the penny drops. Then we see for ourselves what had always been true. God reaches out to each of us and evokes a response which leads us to discover what it really means to live a fully human life. The dynamics of this encounter must be in the present moment of our lives. It is about the depth of living we engage in now, rather than hopes of what the future might bring. Yet to live in a relationship with the living God is to know that, for all eternity, we are held in the hands of the God who transcends all time.

I still love science. I read New Scientist every week and I love science programmes on the TV. Yet some of the deepest things in life can only be expressed in terms of poetry. For example, it is possible to describe in scientific terms just what happens to us when we fall in love, but only poetry can do justice to what is means to love. I am sad when people pick up something like the story of creation, in Genesis, and either reject it as non-scientific, or try to promote it instead of science. The creation story from the first chapter of Genesis dates from sometime in the Stone Age. It is a primitive story and has all the hallmarks of being poetry. It is profoundly beautiful and it ought to help us to reflect on the creative power of God and the interdependence of all creation. There ought not to be any conflict between entering the world of such scriptures and having a proper understanding of science. We are part of a world which is always in the process of creative change and as human beings we have evolved over millions of years. I was fortunate to have had a teacher for A-level biology who was an acknowledged expert in the field of genetics. I am fascinated by the way in which genetics can now be used to unravel the evolutionary tree. I also find myself in awe at the new ideas that are being opened up in science, particularly in the field of particle physics. There are whole new worlds of perspective to be discovered, particularly as scientists try to combine both relativity and quantum theory. I hope to live long enough to see such a breakthrough and indeed to hear of the discovery of life on other planets.

It is a special joy to be living in a place where we have our own scientific genius. Alfred Russel Wallace is buried in our local cemetery. Alongside Charles Darwin, he independently worked out that evolution is driven by natural selection and the survival of the fittest. He died on 7th November 1913, which means that the centenary of his death is upon us. I am glad to say that this will be marked by some local events, including one at St John’s. Look out for the advertisements from the Arts Development department of our Local Authority. If you have never done so, visiting Wallace’s grave is well worth doing. An idea which changed human thinking was born here and we ought to be inspired by men like Wallace and Darwin, who were prepared to challenge received wisdom and open wider the door of human understanding.

Nigel LLoyd

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