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Global Warming and the new Puritanism

‘Live more simply, that others may simply live,’ was a challenge that sounded authentic on the lips of Gandhi, less so coming from some of those on the Global Warming/Climate Change band-wagon. It is hard – if not electorally impossible – for government to call us to self-restraint, though it can seek to educate us and give us incentives to use less energy and water. A government cannot become too unpopular with the voters: there’s always another political party to promise the voters what they want. So whose is the prophetic voice calling us back to a sensible consumption?
The danger is that the microphone is being taken by the puritan tendency which seems to surface in this country every few centuries. The puritan cultivates a disapproving look, a judgmental attitude, based on a confidence of his own purity of belief. Originally a religious persuasion, and taking strength from literal readings of the scriptures, the puritans became, as we might now say, politically radicalised and, for various reasons, anti-monarchy. This led to the English Civil War, that awful rupture in our national life, which arguably we have not yet quite fully recovered from. There are still villages (not so far away) which can trace their contemporary rivalry back to being on different sides during the 1640s. (There were running battles around our area during these years: the battle of Andover, 1644; the battles of Newbury, 1643 and 1644.) Some of the founding fathers of the USA of course were puritans, so it has left a strong mark on the contemporary global scene.
But puritanism is a complex phenomenon, which can attach itself to any great cause, not just religions, not least that of saving the planet. There is not quite complete agreement among scientists about what is going on and how much time we have left. But it does seem obvious that we cannot expect the global economy to continue growing and depleting the raw materials which our world provides. While there might be legal definitions as to who owns what energy resource, there are deeper questions about who really ‘owns’ them. Our generation needs to leave a world with enough to sustain our children and their children. Future generations have a claim on the energy resources we could use up now. There is much more to the solution than the small scale good things we can do – recycling, installing energy efficient light-bulbs, turning the thermostat down, conserving water. The notion of offsetting the carbon-dioxide produced by your flight to America by planting trees is the religious idea of redemption in another guise. The real difficulty is the fundamental fact that human greed will need to be recognised and restrained at every level, individual, local, national international. This, against a background where greed is so richly rewarded, and under its clever disguises, tries to persuade us that it is the only way.
Puritanism was the sincere expression of a deeply held and informed religious faith. But it is by no means the only expression of faith. What can possibly be strong enough to give us the internal power of self-restraint? Not governments, not technologists, not moralists, not climate scientists, not the consumer economy. Self-restraint is taught in homes in small ways as well as in big. It is there in the teachings of Christ. Faced with problems of global proportions, perhaps it is time to admit, “God help us!”
Every Blessing! Martin Coppen

After the Annual Meetings of the churches, there are now two New Churchwardens in the benefice, in Longparish and Hurstbourne Priors. Dr Desmond Croft decided to stand down from being warden of Hurstbourne Priors, and Oliver Colman was elected in his place, with Philip Chalk continuing. Desmond will act as deputy warden when needed. After five years as churchwarden in Longparish with John Young, Jonathan Evans has retired and Robert Charlton was elected to succeed him. Wardens in St Mary Bourne (Eve Lind-Smith and Rod Sutcliffe) and Woodcott (Christopher Pease and Dickie Nicholson) continue. Our churchwardens bear important responsibilities and trusts in our parishes and they need our support and encouragement. We are particularly grateful to Jonathan and Desmond for their service over so many years.

Thanks to all those who prepared and decorated the churches for the Easter Celebrations. The flower arrangements were outstanding and very beautiful, and we are grateful for all those who both contributed and offered their artistry to make them so.


The Benefice Reading Group meets on Tuesday 22nd May, to discuss Irène Némirovsky, Suite Française (Vintage, £7.99, 416 pages), at Rebecca MacFarlane’s, Silver Birches, 4a Egbury Road, St Mary Bourne (01264 738149). You will be made very welcome!



Confirmation coming on 10th June, 6.30pm at St Peter’s
Bishop Michael, the Bishop of Winchester, is coming to conduct the Confirmation Service – his first visit for quite a few years. On his last visit in 2002, he blessed the new Church website and washed our feet (it was a Maundy Thursday)! This is the last call for adult candidates to give time for preparation for the service. Please contact one of the clergy as soon as possible if you are interested in discussing this step of Christian commitment.


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