Thursday, 20 August 2009

will a once-fashionable source of renewable energy come back in vogue?

derelict waterwheel at disused watermillinterior detail of derelict waterwheel at disused watermill 

detail of derelict waterwheel at disused watermill  second derelict waterwheel at disused watermil 2l

inside of derelict waterwheel at disused watermill

This sorry sight is a long derelict water-powered grinding mill on the bank of the river Wye in Derbyshire, just outside the pretty village of Ashford in the Water. It appears that is was originally used for crushing bone, although in later years it may have become a bobbin mill. ‘Progress’ meant that this carbon neutral watermill, powered by renewable energy, was superceded by industrial-scale processes based on carbon intensive sources of energy. With what we now know about climate change it’s enough to make you weep that such small-scale and local uses of ‘renewables’ such as water and wind were so easily cast aside.

So, we have learned the error of our ways and realise that we can no longer afford to ignore energy which is renewable and carbon-free. The consequences of our technological arrogance seems to be driving us full circle to rediscover solutions from the past.

Naturally enough as I looked at all of this dereliction I could not help reflecting upon the parallel decline of Christianity in Europe. Churches, like watermills, were superceded by other more modern ways of empowering our quest to be human. So for me the great sadness is that so many people ignore a freely available and entirely renewable and completely renewing source of power. The reality of God could empower so much in our time in a way that our secular addictions to money, success, sex and celebrity never will. In many ways these are as toxic as our addiction to carbon.


disused and derelict watermill

I think that the challenge to the churches is to once more prove the worth of small-scale, local reliance on the renewable and reliable power of God’s love. We need to demonstrate that faith works. If we don’t or we won’t, the future looks bleak. We simply can’t afford to leave God’s power untapped and unchannelled when the needs around us are so great. Solutions from the past are staring us in the face every time we read the gospels. The old discarded spiritual technologies of faith, prayer and discipleship may yet be rediscovered by generations who long ago abandoned them, and be found for the first time by those for whom they will be a revelation. ‘Living water’ is all around us, we just have to take it, use it and share it as God intends.

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