War Memorial Gary Trouton

Church of England Newsletter

October 2004

Keith examines the tragedy of Beslan

The Parishes of St. Andrew, Northwold; All Saints, Wretton with Stoke Ferry;

and Christ Church, Whittington.

For more details contact me, Keith MacLeod at West Barn, Ryston Road, West Dereham

(01366 500960) (07766 766 137) (email: keith.macleod@virgin.net)

Diary for October 2004

26th September (16th after Trinity

9.30am Benefice Holy Communion

At St Andrews

3rd October (17th after Trinity)

9.30am Service of The Word at All Saints

11.00am Holy Communion at St Andrews

10th October (18th after Trinity)

9.30am Service of The Word at Christ Church

11.00am Matins at St Andrews

17th October (19th after Trinity)

8.00am Holy Communion at St Andrews

9.30am Holy Communion at Christ Church

24th October (20th after Trinity)

9.30am Benefice Holy Communion

At Christ Church

31st October (All Saints - 4th before Advent)

11.00am All Age Worship at All Saints

7th November (3rd before Advent)

9.30am Service of The Word at Christ Church

10.30am Holy Communion at St Andrews

Rotas for Church cleaning & flowers

October Christ Church Mrs D Eves & Mrs Jenny Elsie All Saints Mrs P Willis and Mrs H Durrance

November Christ Church Mrs D Eves & Penny All Saints Mrs P Willis and Mrs H Durrance

Sunday School - All Welcome

There is a Sunday School during the main Sunday services at St. Andrew's Church, Northwold (except for Sunday's with All Age Worship). This is open to any school age child living in the villages of Northwold, Wretton, Stoke Ferry, Whittington and Brookville. If you are not able to stay with your child please drop them off by 10.50 and collect them by 12.15.

The Tragedy of Beslan - Are we all Hypocrites

As I write the Beslan Tragedy has disappeared off our newspapers and the TV news broadcasts, because we are now involved with the disaster of Hurricane Ivan wreaking havoc in the Caribbean. As ever, we are asking where God is at these times. He seems to have his back turned an awful lot. There have always been those who do not believe in any God and the West is particularly home to such at present.

I read an article in The Spectator over 3 years ago (before9/11 incidentally) by Paul Johnson, to whom I apologise if I misrepresent him to you. The headline was 'The notion that God permits atrocities is more bearable than the grim alternative'. Mr Johnson recognises that "The licence God apparently gives to the commission of unpunished evil, and the infliction of pain on the innocent, is undoubtedly the commonest reason why intelligent men and women cease to believe in a deity". He goes on to discuss how in modern times we have become aware of the sheer power and complexities of intelligence. Our minds are powerful enough to perceive the possibility of God's existence and of the nature of an intelligence inconceivably greater than our own. BUT, knowing as yet only a fragment of the facets of existence, in the widest sense, we would indeed be foolish to pronounce judgement on a being whose workings we do not as yet - and may never - understand; or to dismiss him, in rage and despair, as non-existent.

The alternative to suspending judgement is far more terrible. It is to conclude that the amount of pain in the world serves no purpose at all; that the existence of the human race, with all its delights and dramas as well as suffering, is a meaningless accident,; that life is totally without aim or principle, plan or design or explanation, beginning in pain, ending in pain and followed by senseless annihilation; that no one is in charge, ever has been or ever will be, and that life will continue its motiveless course until another meaningless accident extinguishes the whole. I find this explanation totally unbearable and far more merciless than the vision of a God who permits dreadful things to occur which we cannot understand but which one day we may come to comprehend as the wisdom which passeth all understanding."

This negative 'proof' that God exists is very distressing, but nonetheless powerful. Members of recognised religions, such as Christians look for more positive evidence that God is there as well. I sometimes look at the Footsteps story, which has become very popular is recent years and which I assume most readers will know. What I find interesting in it is not so much the obvious message - that God carries you when you are in trouble, but the other side of the coin. There are many times when there TWO sets of footsteps - those are the times when God is not expecting to carry you but hopes that you are carrying yourself! We have to take responsibility for what goes on.

I have recently seen an impassioned cry against the passion with which we in this country and elsewhere rail against the perpetrators of the Beslan massacre, reminding us that it is we who supply the weapons, it is we who were responsible for thousands of infant deaths in Iraq and so on. I don't argue with that as a statement of fact, but I do feel that we have a duty to feel for tragedy when we can. If sometimes we fail, that is no excuse for failing for ever. It is also no good hiding behind the belief that where we act out of good intentions (eg Iraq) the 'collateral' damage is unfortunate but not our fault and then denying the 'terrorists' the same logic.

As I read what I have written, I wonder if words are ever any good. But that is the stuff of the beginnings of despair. At this precise moment all I have are words and I must go into battle with them - unfortunately perhaps using the language of war - but so did Jesus and so did Mohammed and so did Moses. There are those in our local villages who go to war-torn or recently war-torn parts and take with them some of our Western wealth and goods and try to make change for the better in a practical way. There are others who contribute money to the charities and organisations who try to relieve the starvation and disease of the Darfour victims or to dig up the landmines in the Congo. There is actually no limit to the ways in which we can try to alleviate the terrifying distress we see around us.

I believe, as do many others, that this is the hand of God at work though the agency of humankind to relieve the effects of the disasters brought about by humankind and no effort is too little. This is, of course, the butterfly's wing theory. A butterfly flapping its wings in Norfolk may cause a tornado in the Caribbean. Your little effort could be mind-blowingly effective.

Perhaps it is also necessary to remember that structure and organisation is something that humankind is good at - not the inevitable organisation of an ants' nest, but the creative, dynamic organisation that can lead to an international phone system that no one has yet been able to map. 1 million people trying to help in Darfour individually will not work. But 1 million people combining their efforts through a small number of knowledgeable and efficient agencies can perform miracles. Mother Theresa's achievements were specially hers in quality, but in quantity were only possible through organisation.

So, if your gift is words, use them, not something else; if you are rich, put your wealth to use; if you are practical or a relevant specialist, lend your skills. If, however, you are committed to Paul Johnson's dreadful alternative, it is difficult to see why you should try at all. If you are atheist or agnostic, but nonetheless you are impelled to love your neighbour anyway, then be of good cheer - hold on to what you perceive to be your beliefs/non-beliefs, but many like myself will think that God has found a way into your heart, even if he is keeping his face covered.

Keith Macleod

Keith MacLeod

Copyright remains with independent content providers where specified, including but not limited to Village Pump contributors. All rights reserved.