Reflections on the River
Posted by Bill Goodman, Director of Ongoing Ministerial Development & Asst. Principal of St Peter's College on 18th September 2018
Cycling home from the office in Rotherham alongside the river, I was digesting some sad news. I prayed for something which I knew would lift my spirits – and suddenly, there it was: a flash of bright turquoise, skimming low over the water.
I love those fleeting glimpses of our local kingfishers. On other days, the river offers different delights: the breath-taking aerobatics of the swifts as they swoop for insects; the statuesque stillness of the heron, patiently waiting in the shallows; chubby looking geese, even the occasional bird of prey. It’s amazing what you find living along that industrial stretch of the River Don between Meadowhall and Sheffield.
Creation offers those ‘wow!’ moments: when our spirits are lifted and our hurts soothed by a glimpse of something awesome. Creation ministers God’s grace to us, healing and inspiring, giving intimations of something other: reminders that there’s more to life than just ‘work, eat, sleep – repeat’. Jesus’ encouragement to “Look at the birds of the air” is aimed to help our mental health, particularly when we battle with anxiety.
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (Matthew 6:26, NRSV)
On days when I cycle to work I also enjoy noticing progress on the fish ladders: ramps being built by the weirs, so that fish can swim up and down. Decimated by pollution just a few decades ago, fish stocks are recovering steadily. Even salmon are returning: good news for our local otters (which I’m still looking out for).
There is an awesome resilience built into creation: places that seemed hopelessly polluted and dead can be nurtured back to life again. That’s a real encouragement at times when we may be tempted to despair, feeling we can never do anything worthwhile to sort out the mess we’ve made of the world. Equally, we mustn’t let creation’s resilience become an excuse for complacency, allowing us to ignore the urgency of the situation.
Which reminds me: I keep meaning to change our power supplier to 100% renewables. Will I get round to exploring Co-op Energy this weekend? Or will it get crowded out again by the urgent but less important stuff? Will changing cost more? Anxious questions creep in. But then again: “Look at the birds of the air…”