We have enough grumpy old men

By Ann Pettifor
July 2, 2009

The week started for me on Saturday in the glorious setting of Cathedral Green, Exeter.

Together with at least 5,000 others, I celebrated the 1100th birthday of the cathedral, and took Holy Communion in the open air. It was a deeply moving occasion. The choir singing was heavenly. There was an excellent, sassy saxophonist. The Archbishop preached of glory. Children played happily, while the bees buzzed sleepily in the heat. Alongside me an elderly man supported his wife, who appeared to be suffering from Alzheimer’s. The gentle but firm way in which he helped her hold the communion cup, and guided her tenderly back to her spot on the grass, brought tears to my eyes. The dignity of his selflessness, and the depth of it, filled me with awe for the human spirit.

There was one jarring element. Three huge puppets had been beautifully crafted, painted and dressed as a vicar, an early preacher and an archbishop – and were then paraded during the Eucharist. They represented, I believe, key figures in the Cathedral’s history. I did not mind so much that they were all men. It was the grim severity of their visages that bothered me.

They did not give any sign of rejoicing in the glory that is God’s community; or of the creativity of that community in designing and building such a fine cathedral. Above all they did not seem to be rejoicing in the hard graft, careful planning, the skill and imagination invested by so many of Exeter’s finest Christians in making Saturday’s event so wonderful for a stranger like me. They were just grumpy old men. We have too many of those.....

But the week had only started....On Monday the Operation Noah office was buzzing with activity as the leader of our London Ark campaign team – Andrew Howard – put the final touches on arrangements for our big event on the Thames, today (Thursday).

Because Mark Dowd has been busy mobilising support for our forthcoming event in Doncaster (on 11th July) Andrew has fixed all the logistics here in London. He has the Bishop of London, dozens of children in animal masks, and a fair representation of the British media floating off on an Ark – up the Thames to the House of Commons. Quite a logistical feat. Once there they will be greeted by an African drummer, a brass band, 3 Alpacas and a range of animals from Vauxhall City Farm, and dozens more children from about 12 London schools. (We wanted only two Alpacas, but the third would not be separated from his friends, and so we have had to accept three!).

Today Andrew was looking a little more relaxed (Westminster Council had finally granted permission for the Embankment Gardens to be used!) – but I know he will be fretting until it is all over, and has run smoothly. We have BBC London TV coming, Radio 4’s the Sunday Programme, and a host of other media representatives – all hungry for images of children, animals and a Bishop in all his glory.

So watch this space! And pray that our purpose in staging this event – to alert Britons, and especially Christians, to the fact that our leaders will visit the Last Chance Saloon in Copenhagen in December. And we, as people of faith – whether Christian or otherwise – can, like brave and dogged Noah, help lead the transformation of our society, so that we can help save creation. By living simply and sustainably - as Jesus once did.

The UN’s Copenhagen Conference represents a Last Chance to secure a global deal to urgently begin de-carbonising the global economy. Operation Noah has suggested how this could be done: by cutting power station emissions by one third by 2020, and then down to zero emissions by 2030. If world leaders were to agree to that – and we know the Chinese and Americans are not opposed – then the knock-on effects would be transformative.

The fact is that we at Operation Noah know that the people have to lead. And sure as night follows day, the leaders will follow!

© Ann Pettifor, a political economist, is campaigns director for Operation Noah, www.operationnoah.org. This is one of a series of reflections Ann is writing for Ekklesia in the run-up to the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009. The first, looking at the recent UK budget and its impact, is here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/blog/budget_climate_faith

The second, on the heated climate debate in Iceland, is here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/9405

To learn more about the ARK Campaign and send Gordon Brown an origami ARK go to www.operationnoah.org.
Church Action Starter Pack for climate change: http://tinyurl.com/d6zwwu
Follow Operation Noah on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahandhisark

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