Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Winds of change: thoughts on windmill spirituality (Celtic Imagination 21)

kirton windmill solarised 2

A windmill will work in the bleakest of times. As long as the isobars are close enough together and there is grain to be milled or water to be pumped, even the barren vista of a harsh winter landscape is no deterrent. All that is required is the will to set the sails and engage the machinery with the free power of the wind.

Ruined and decrepit windmills are a feature of the countryside here in Lincolnshire. They litter the landscape like  unloved memorials to the rural economy of pre-industrialised  Britain. They evoke a time, place and pace of village life familiar to John Clare but long-lost to us. They are icons of memory and, therefore, of fresh possibility for those prepared to find the resonance of present hope in the long-dead past. The on and off-shore wind farms dotted along the coast of Lincolnshire today make the point well.

So why should the Bible, another seemingly redundant and discarded memorial to a lost age - in this case to a pre-secularised Britain - be any different? Why shouldn't we expect to find resonances of hope for our currently bleak times there too?

To enter into the world of the biblical texts set for Advent is to rediscover the power of memory and promise to turn imagination into action as surely as the wind pumps water or turns grain into flour in the mill. The key is our willingness to set the sails and engage our inner faith machinery in the first place.

If we choose to believe the atheistic meteorology, there is no wind. There is no God; no Ruach or Spirit blowing restlessly through human experience. Our churches are redundant memorials to a world of ignorance in which wind was but a fantastical delusion. The sails never turned. Lives were not changed.

Except that they did and they were.

kirton windmill copy2Drive south from the M180 motorway into Epworth, the birthplace of world Methodism, and on your right you see two windmills, both long disused. One is a ruin, the other incorporated into a modern dwelling.  Neither are fit for the purpose for which they were built.  Yet Methodism in Epworth is resurgent. The sails of faith are set confidently into the Spirit-winds of change and there is hope and action in abundance. The old promises of Advent are coming alive. Right across Lincolnshire the faith-machinery of Methodist people is turning spirit-power into action.

The winds of change are blowing

 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together (Isaiah 40:3-5)

PS Don't miss Sally's poem inspired by this post

1 comment:

  1. To be fit for purpose... those few words have challenged me today. I wonder how often we ignore our potential, and fail to allow the spirit to drive our sails?