Vicar sees divine love rather than anger in flood tragedy

By Ecumenical News International
25 Jul 2007

The way tens of thousands of ordinary people have banded together to fight rising floodwaters and help the poor, elderly and ill has revealed God's love, not his wrath, says a Christian leader in England's medieval town of Tewkesbury - writes Trevor Grundy from Cheltenham for ENI.

Much of central and southern England is currently suffering the effects of flooding following intense rain. Tewkesbury's 12th century abbey is surrounded by floodwater, yet the vicar in charge, Canon Paul Williams, speaks only of the amazing love shown by local people to one another. He praises the way ordinary inhabitants have responded to one of the worst natural disasters to hit Britain in recent years.

"What I see is divine intervention among ordinary people, and it is revealed in their community spirit," Williams told journalists visiting parts of devastated Gloucestershire, in central England, with church and civic officials on 23 July.

Williams had been asked if the floods revealed God's anger with Britain for turning its back on the Bible, the Christian religion and embracing only materialism and tolerating gay activities outside marriage.

Earlier in July, the Anglican Bishop of Carlisle, Graham Dow, said that floods around Hull, in Yorkshire, north-west England, were the result of God's wrath. "This," he said in a widely reported statement, "is a strong and definite judgement because the world has been arrogant in going its own way".

Canon Williams said that over the weekend hundreds of homeless people had sought refuge at Tewkesbury Abbey, near Cheltenham, despite the fact some water had entered the main building. "People have come together amazingly," he said. "A lot of love and compassion has been shown."

The executive officer at Tewkesbury Abbey, Phillipa Shaw, told Ecumenical News International on 24 July, "We've had so much help from people who don't normally attend church services, helping build protective walls with sandbags. We're holding services as normal and people who have never been to the abbey are worshipping with us."

Members of the Salvation Army at Tewkesbury, sited where the Rivers Avon and Severn meet, have worked tirelessly to feed people and give them shelter.

"This disaster has brought people in Tewkesbury together as never before," said Shaw. "As the canon says, it reveals divine love, not divine wrath."

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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