ELIZABETH phones to say the church coffee morning tomorrow (10.00am, Saturday) won’t after all be for, or even in, the church. They’ve decided the money will go instead to Christian Aid for the people of Haiti whose homes and lives have been devastated by the earthquake. The change of venue to the village hall – next door to the chapel – is because the heating isn’t working in the church.
This leads me to bemoan our own loss of heating. Not to the downstairs, where we live, but the upstairs, where we don’t. It’s bitterly cold up there and we can’t get a plumber for love nor money. Should we buy a new fan heater? Or maybe one of those Dimplex things would be better, I suggest to Ian.
I’m pondering all this while still under the duvet with the radio on and hearing – though not always actually listening to – reports of people who’ve lost everything but their life, sleeping alongside the bodies of those who’ve lost even that, in the car park of a hospital which has next to nothing: no doctors, no nurses, few beds, hardly any medical supplies.
John Humphrys interviews the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, to ask a question he seems to ask a lot: Where was God in all this? The archbishop has an answer which, though I could hear every word of it, made no sense whatever to me, to Ian or to John Humphrys. It seemed to boil down, as it usually does with theologians and bishops (not always the same thing), to “God is in the midst of it.” The best explanation that anyone’s come up with for faith in the face of natural – or even man-made – disasters. I’m not convinced.
I get up and realise I need to get on with baking the cakes I’ve promised for the coffee morning. It’s a pathetically small gesture, as even a donation equivalent to the cost of a Dimplex would be, but in the face of monumental catastrophe the only alternative would be to get back under the duvet.
There are those who would argue that this is precisely the point: God is in the small gestures, from countless millions of people – regardless of religious affiliation or belief – who are, for the most part, hard-wired for altruism. I’m still not convinced: but at least I know the duvet isn’t an option.