A message from John Garrett, Lay Minister

Posted by Admin on 22 April 2011, 12:00 am

Spring came early this year; about two weeks early, judging by the profusion of dandelions in flower in early April, as country winemakers say they should be at their best on St George's Day, April 23rd. And we had some beautiful weather to go with the early Spring. We have a little peach tree, and on one warm afternoon I took a paint-brush and made sure that it was properly pollinated, because you can’t rely upon insects to do it that early. I also did the same with our two young apple trees, as I had seen very few bumble bees about; we shall see in due course whether my efforts were successful.

Spring was early, but Easter was late; the latest it will be for the next thirty-odd years. It is what is called ‘a moveable feast’, its date dependent on the phases of the moon and how they change. Because of the extreme regularity of the motion of the moon we can work out the date of Easter for any year we choose, as far ahead as we like. The best we can do with our seasons is a stab at the weather for the next five days!

The earth’s motion around the Sun is equally constant, so we can visit Stonehenge on the summer or winter solstices (Midsummer or Midwinter) and see the Sun in the first case rising, and in the second case setting in exactly the same place as its builders did thousands of years ago!

But those thousands of years are a short time compared with the length of time since the ‘Big Bang’, and the distance between us and the Sun tiny in comparison with the depths of the Universe, as Professor Brian Cox so beautifully demonstrated in his recent TV series. We were shown the nearest stars, the Alpha Centauri system, about 40 + 12 noughts km. or 4.35 light-years away. Then he showed us that we are sitting near the edge of a great disc of millions of stars – a galaxy; and finally blew our minds by showing us that there are millions of galaxies in the universe, the most distant so far back in time that we see them soon after the Big Bang itself!

These numbers and distances are so huge that they become totally meaningless to me, as are the lengths of time involved. This is quite a problem for some; our little lives seem so incredibly brief and insignificant in comparison with them, so out of proportion that they feel their faith threatened. Our knowledge of the universe is so different from that which our ancestors had only a few hundred years ago that they feel it difficult to believe God went to all that trouble just so that we can have our brief time here.

Astronomers say that it’s probable that our world is not as unique as we might believe, and therefore neither are we. But can we really understand what the Universe is about; astronomy involves huge times and distances, and the strangeness of matter when examined at sub-atomic sizes with its ‘quarks’ and ‘bosons’ is equally baffling; and then there is ‘string-theory’! I cannot cope with all this! From quarks to peach blossom, from the beauty of spring to the multitudinous glories of deep space, all is mystery, and I am prepared to take God on trust, as the Mysterious Ground of our Being.

John Garrett

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