Snow, Christmas, Church and Fair Trade: 12 January

Snow time! Living on a main road means that we have few of the disadvantages of snow. Our road is as serviceable as ever, but quieter. Living in the country gives us many advantages. A hill to sledge down just behind the house. Pristine white hills to walk across in the bright sunshine, or to admire from before a bright coal fire. And we have the gift of time to enjoy this wonderful thick blanket protecting the ground from biting frost. (Sorry if your experience is more negative!)

Why was Christmas Day warmer? This cold spell began around December 17th and continues today – expect for around the 25th. For those few days there was a mini thaw. My daughter and I went for a two hour walk on Boxing Day in sunshine and chilly, but not biting air. This little spring in the middle of winter is not uncommon. Last year was the same, Christmas Day the warmest day in a few weeks. Previous years have seen a similar pattern. Is this a freak? Is it some interesting effect of the days becoming longer, somehow drawing in Southerly winds for a day or two? Or is it because so many people remember and honour Jesus that creation responds with gentleness?

This last explanation will exasperate most 21st Century Brits. ‘What medieval tosh! Loony religious fringer! How could there possibly be a scientific connection between Christian worship and the weather?’ The proper scientific approach would be to look carefully at the data, make and test hypotheses until one is verified, without ruling out any before testing. I think the data is there: Christmas Day has been warmer than surrounding days often enough to be statistically significant. (Good news for bookies.) If this observation is verified, an expert could look for the causes. Comparisons with other countries, Christian or otherwise, could easily disprove the ‘Christian worship’ theory. Something new could be learnt. Any meteorologists want to have a go?

‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ was the theme of the sermon my daughters and I heard at a Christmas Midnight Communion. The speaker didn’t mention the weather, nor, surprisingly, the Passover from which this question originally came. ‘This night is different, but not different. Everything is the same, yet everything has changed.’ That was her message, nowhere near the tremendous mystery of the Incarnation. Much about the night; little about Jesus. My older daughter, who teaches RE and connects with her Jewish heritage, was annoyed at a sermon which said nothing. It was all elegantly stated, but, indeed, vacuous. Poor Church of England.

Last Sunday I walked to Ashbourne for church. Every congregation begins at 10.30. Young families were walking up to the Methodist Church and the new Baptist Church meeting in a Ballroom. No one accompanied me as I walked up to the Anglican Church. Inside the central pews were half full, more than I had expected. The priest commented on how many people had stayed away because of the snow. The choir was numerous, but, even when processing through, did not lift the singing as the five older ladies at the Good Shepherd West Bromwich do regularly. This was partly because the Ashbourne choir sit far in front. The medieval building enshrines the medieval monastic sense that the really important worship is beyond the screen, with the normal folk more spectators. From my Roman Catholic childhood I don’t mind this much, but it would be comparatively easy to ‘pipe’ the choir voices to lift the congregation.

The church was so cold, I was glad to walk out at the end. Most of the service was worthy but uninspiring. (I wonder how many services like that I have led!) But, it confirmed that the direst service can be a vehicle for blessing, if we look. A phrase from the gospel reading connected happily with my plans for writing a book proposal this week, setting off productive musing. And I met again Carry Somers, sitting two pews behind me, the owner of the Pachacuti fashion shop.

Carry and I first met through the Greenbelt festival when she heard about my thinking on Christian Equitable Companies. I hadn’t seen her for about three years. Her business is now the world’s first company to be Fully Certified Fair Trade in all its operations! Brilliant. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/dec/14/pachacuti-fair-trade-fashion  Their clothes and hats look and feel good as well as, by golly, doing other folk good. See www.panamas.co.uk

Roger Harper

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