Are We Contributing To Our Own Extinction?

During September many viewers were left stunned having watched Sir David Attenborough’s latest television documentary Extinction: The Facts with the broadcast on the BBC deliberately timed to give publicity to the urgent report published by the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity a few days later. This report concluded that “humanity is at a crossroads and we have to take action now to make space for nature to recover and slow it’s ‘accelerating decline’.” Indeed, Sir David Attenborough warned that “we are facing a crisis – and one that has consequences for us all.” Not only did one expert state that of the eight million species on Earth, a million are now threatened with extinction, but the links between nature and the environment and our own future physical wellbeing were made abundantly clear. Alongside the familiar concerns of climate change, intensive farming and industrial scale encroachment upon the natural order by humans ravaging and plundering it’s natural resources, seas, forests, land etc, and polluting the environment – a stunning (and some would say somewhat controversial) link was made between the ever increasing ‘close contact’ of humans to animals resulting in the transmission of viruses from one species to another, leading to an increased likelihood of pandemics across the world, such as SARs, MERs, Ebola and the coronavirus Covid-19.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the convention’s executive secretary stated that “Things have to change. It is land. It is forest. It is agriculture. It is the ocean. It is pollution. So we need to change our production patterns, our consumption patterns. The choices of the food we eat, human encroachment in the wildlife, into the forest. So these need to change”.

The problem is that for so long we have viewed the earth as our domain, a simple resource to reap and plunder as we see fit. We have forgotten that first and foremost the Earth is not a resource but a gift! And it is not ours alone, but a gift for all generations. For so long we believed that there was enough food in the world to feed all it’s people, if only we could share it more equitably – but we underestimated the profit motive, the rapid advance of technology and the expansion of populations. Now we are struggling to feed the world and live sustainably. We are damaging the world and in a whole manner of different ways we are risking our collective futures. The time has come for change!

In his book Renewing the face of the Earth, David Atkinson reminds the Christian that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it’ (Psalm 24.1) and that we have a royal calling to serve and protect it for the good of all, whether it be by our political involvement or personal living. We can hold governments and large organisations to account by the choices we make at the ballot box, the cash till and through the charities we support. Together as individuals and as communities we can make a difference! But this will require us to think and act generously in the best interests of others, and often sacrificially for ourselves, which mirrors the love of God for us in the person of Christ. Atkinson thinks it is not by accident that the Church’s Holy Communion service reminds the recipient that they are called to be ‘living sacrifices’ as they go out into the world, living generous and unselfish lives – which is in fact, is a sentiment that many of us could adopt if we wish to continue to live in a just, caring and sustainable world which does all that it can to preserve the environment, protect our biological diversity and promote our mutual wellbeing.

How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104.24



“Are We Nearly There Yet?”

I’m sure we are all familiar with the concept of the plaintive cry of a small child on a long car journey who cries out – “are we nearly there yet?”, usually when going on holiday or travelling a great distance across the country. Well, this week we heard plenty of other distressed ‘holiday cries’ as people discovered that the government was imposing a 14 day quarantine period upon all travellers and holiday makers returning from Spain who it feared might be harbouring the coronavirus. Not only did the suddenness of the announcement take holiday makers by surprise, but holiday companies, travel firms and airlines were all equally caught out and swiftly started to complain that the government was being too heavy handed and extreme in its response which they thought unreasonable. Naturally, the Spanish authorities were indignant that they had been singled out in this way, and upset about the effect that this restriction would have upon their tourist industry and economy, arguing that many of their choice tourist locations were better protected and managed than their equivalents in the UK. But within a few days and with the number of Covid-19 infections rising in Germany, France and Belgium, it became clear that the government’s concern was far wider, fearing that a ‘second wave’ of the pandemic might be looming and swiftly sweep across Europe towards the UK.      

Apart from the obvious imperative of the government to protect its citizens, this episode demonstrated the sombre truth that despite the relaxing of lockdown restrictions and greater public freedoms, the virus had not gone away, and these latest measures politically symbolised the government’s resolve and willingness to act. Indeed, despite huge progress being made in terms of testing and the development of a vaccine, it was abundantly clear that as far as this particular journey was concerned, we weren’t ‘nearly there yet’; in fact we would still have to keep travelling and working together for some considerable time if we were ever going to reach our final goal and long held desire and ambition of a virus free future. This was a point made by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation who despite telling the World’s media that the pandemic was accelerating (16 million cases of coronavirus had been reported to the WHO), still insisted that “We are not prisoners of the pandemic. Every single one of us can make a difference. The future is in our hands.”  If we are going to achieve our goal then we need to work together.

St Paul reminded the early church at Philippi that if they wanted to successfully overcome the trials and tribulations that came their way, then they needed to become more like Christ in both their attitude and outlook, for Christ had not avoided suffering but pushed his way through it in order to win the greater prize of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins for all those who put their faith and trust in him. It was Paul’s ambition to become more like him, thinking about and loving and caring for the world in the same way that Christ did. Now of course, nobody wants to suffer or likes it, but it is the manner in which we face it and lovingly support one another through it that makes all the difference and will ultimately help us overcome the trial before us and reach our destination.       

Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.13-14


Patience Is A Virtue – Even In ‘Lockdown’

200501-coronavirus-research

Every Thursday evening my family and I, like many others, have stood outside our house clapping our hands, applauding the sterling work of the NHS whose doctors and nurses have been battling on the ‘front line’, looking after and caring for sick coronavirus patients. But over the weeks our appreciation has grown as we have become more aware (and thoughtful) of all those who are playing such a massive part at this difficult time, not just the doctors and nurses but all employees of the NHS; alongside care workers in care homes (the new and perhaps previously forgotten front line?); ‘key workers’ in so many various and different fields (supermarkets, schools, and utilities) and not forgetting the increasingly significant part played by funeral directors, whose own personal ‘risk’ is not inconsequential.

The panic buying of the first few weeks has been largely forgotten by the many acts of kindness that we have seen by members of the public as they look after and support one another, especially the vulnerable, at this difficult time. We have seen real acts of courage, bravery and sacrifice undertaken by those whose professionalism and dedication to public duty and care has put themselves at risk in the service of others. We remember especially all those doctors, nurses and care workers who have died, largely and inexplicably from the BAME community. All this has been coupled with massive acts of generosity as people have rallied to support one another and the NHS behind such inspirational figure heads as Captain Tom Moore.

Coronavirus stats

But of all the virtues we have witnessed there is one that seems to be in increasingly short supply (particularly in the media) and that is – patience! Despite being told from the outset that this crisis would be more like a marathon than a sprint, we were barely ‘locked down’ for a fortnight before the media started to ask as to when the lockdown might be lifted. This question gained momentum from business and opposition parties as the cost to business and the economy started to bite. In one sense these are natural questions to ask and no one underestimates the very real pain and uncertainty that people are feeling and experiencing. The costs and pain to peoples’ lives and livelihoods at this time is immense, and yet I would suggest that it is nothing compared to the pain of losing a loved one. For many life will go on, even if it is different, but once you have lost someone you can never get that life back! That’s why it is crucial that we all pay attention to the rate of infection (the ‘R’ number) and follow the government guidelines. Until we have ‘flattened the curve’ and this number becomes ‘1’ or ‘less than 1’ it would be irresponsible to lift the restrictions. The cost to the economy and people’s lives would be much, much worse if we allowed this rate to increase again – which it could easily and very rapidly do. At the time of writing 26,771 people have died of the coronavirus in the UK alone, a rise of 674 from the previous day. These are unprecedented numbers which is why we must hold on to our nerve and our courage! We must bravely hold on to our resolve and our dedication. We must continue to have faith, courage and patience! As tempting as it may be to return to work, to enjoy the sunshine and pick up our normal lives once again, we can’t until it is safe to do so. Neither can we allow the sacrifice of others to be wasted, nor destroy our hope for a better future.

BB13uBmy

The Christian will be aware that Jesus also undertook a very long, arduous and painful journey towards the cross. The shadow of his looming death must have been a constant and fearful presence, and yet he bravely continued on, knowing that it would be the only way by which others might be saved. So, at this time of national crisis, let’s continue to embrace the path which is set out before us, doing so with the same love, resolve, determination and kind generosity of spirit – and let us be patient!  


4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

            1 Corinthians 13.4,6-7


Necton Benefice Logo

What Can The Coronavirus Teach Us About Human Kindness?

14-page-14-photo-1_7

Today, we learnt that Sally and David Abel who were among 74 British nationals quarantined on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Yokohama, Japan had tested positive for the Coronavirus. Their frustration with the British Foreign Office for not being able to get them off the cruise ship and home was obvious, particularly in the light of the fact that American passengers had been repatriated only the day before. The sudden appearance of this hitherto unknown virus remains something of a mystery, but its ability to spread quickly from person to person before symptoms became obvious was alarming – hence the need for a recommended 14 day quarantine period. The problem is that while the vast majority of people will only experience a mild illness, a few (currently 3%) can become critically ill, usually those who are already elderly and frail with respiratory problems, or health workers who have been exposed to the virus over a lengthy and sustained period. Despite the draconian measures, the Chinese have been largely praised for their handling of the situation and even here in the UK, Parliament has passed measures allowing the Police to force those at risk of coronavirus into quarantine, with the Health Secretary warning that the spread of the virus is a ‘serious and imminent threat’ to the British public. So should we be alarmed?

Well yes and no! We shouldn’t be alarmed i.e. panic, but we should be concerned – and our response should be kind, careful and considerate. Should it become evident that we have the coronavirus within our community, we shouldn’t be alarmist, but we should take care not to cough, splutter and sneeze over one another. We should be disciplined when it comes to our personal hygiene, washing hands etc and sufferers should be willing to self-isolate themselves and contact their GP by telephone as soon as they feel poorly.

In many ways these simple but profound measures may be viewed as wise and prudent acts of kindness which demonstrate a natural and loving concern for one another as well as for one’s self. Whereas the situation could be so easily exasperated if we mistakenly think that we are somehow immune to the illness or that it’s someone else’s problem. Christians will immediately see the significance of the Biblical command to not only love God but to love one’s neighbour as one’s self (Luke 10.27) in such circumstances, because it’s only by paying due regard to each aspect of this command (neighbour and self) that we can truly look after each other and protect our communities.


Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble. Psalm 41.1


The Nations Morals Are Like Its Teeth …

196648316

THE NATIONS MORALS ARE LIKE ITS TEETH, THE MORE DECAYED THEY ARE THE MORE IT HURTS TO TOUCH THEM” – George Bernard Shaw

At the start of the year many of us made New Year’s resolutions and will do our best to keep them as the year progresses (lose weight; give up smoking; pass a driving test or embark on a new career etc, etc). Sometimes our thoughts are more reflective as we consider our place in the world and the lives of those around us, often culminating is a silent prayer for the world to be more peaceful, kinder and charitable than it was the year before. Sadly it doesn’t seem long before the very next calamity or personal tragedy pops up on our television screens or appears in our newspapers to dampen our New Year optimism. ‘What has the world come to?’ we say; ‘Doesn’t the world have any standards?’; ‘Things weren’t like this when we were young!’

What we are doing is lamenting the passing of standards or a moral code by which people commonly live; a moral backdrop, climate or culture which protects us from the negative excesses of society. And yet to speak about morals makes us feel uneasy. We don’t like it! We don’t like people interfering with the way that we live our lives or questioning our standards, or the way we behave – we just simply don’t like being preached at!

The problem is made all the worse because we don’t know or perhaps can’t agree on what standards are acceptable. This is because we have made relativity a virtue in its own right! There is no such thing as absolute right or wrong, just what is right or wrong for me. We are all like Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” who said “When I use a word …. it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”. The problem with each person choosing their own set of values as if ‘no one else matters’ is, that ultimately they don’t – each person does their own thing and can’t be held responsible for going their ‘own way’ even if the effect is to hurt or grieve another.

You don’t have to be necessarily rigid or religious to appreciate the need for a common set of values, and yet as a Christian minister I can’t think of any better guide to live by than those found in Scripture, based upon the message of a loving creator who nurtured the understanding that each person ‘made in his image’ was therefore special. So special that through the life, death and ministry of Jesus, God demonstrated his love for the world and encouraged his followers to do the same. Perhaps the answer to the world’s moral malaise (at least in our own small corner) lies not just in what we do but in what we believe. It always, always starts with us.


“ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Mark 12.30-31