My dear Friends

The weather is of course the nation’s favourite topic of conversation. It’s safe – value-free and non-confrontational – and because everyone experiences it, everyone will have something to say about it.

It’s the perfect opening gambit when you find yourself needing to talk to a stranger, and a great gap-filler when neither of you is quite sure what to say next. Actually we’re fortunate that the UK weather is quite interesting because it’s so unpredictable; how on earth could you use this particular small talk if you lived in an arid desert or a tropical rainforest?

I remember John Humphrys on Radio 4’s Today asking what new things anyone could say about the wet and stormy weather which had then been occurring daily for several weeks in some parts of the country, and then answered his own question: it’s exactly that.  Never in living memory had such weather lasted so long. And these last few weeks have been similar; 1st June was a beautiful sunny day, but since then… well, we’re all wondering if and when summer will really get going.

Over the last few years (or so it seems to me) weather presenters have taken to using the phrase ‘organised rain’, which I find strange and faintly comic. I imagine a conference of clouds and winds, discussing who’s going to go first, which parts of the UK they will visit, how much rain they will drop, and “shall we all make a really big effort and see if together we can overtop the Thames Barrier?”

In our relatively unscathed Waltham St Lawrence (yes, I know some of us got a bit damp at the Fête!) we should be feeling very sorry for those in the worst-affected areas, especially the good people of Wainfleet All Saints in Lincolnshire. Mind you, there is a certain enjoyment in watching dramatic destruction: look for flood and storm videos on YouTube and see how many hits they’ve had!

Does the Christian have anything distinctive to say about all this?

Firstly, we acknowledge that God is sovereign Lord of the weather as of everything else. The scientists warn us ever more frequently and forcefully of how the world’s climate is changing, and how dire the consequences may be, but the fact remains that we cannot control what the weather will be tomorrow or next week.

Secondly, there is nothing unspiritual about being guided by the weather forecast. I mention this because years ago at a children’s Christian holiday camp the leaders were praying for a fine day, and at the end of the prayer meeting the man in charge said that having heard the forecast he thought we had better start preparing for indoor games. What did that say, some of us were wondering, about our prayers for sunshine? Yet Jesus himself endorses forecasting:

[Jesus] said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens.  And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens.” (Luke 12.54-55)

Weather forecasters, after all, are people who have discovered the mechanisms behind the weather systems which are part of God’s created order. The Met Office is staffed by scientists, including a Chief Scientist, not bookmakers.

Thirdly, I return to the matter of praying about the weather. The Book of Common Prayer (1662) contains a prayer For Rain and immediately after it a prayer For fair Weather (check them out on page 77 of our church edition). I notice that both prayers are essentially asking God to give us the weather we need, according to his promises to provide for us and that the harvest shall not fail.

God glorifies himself in many different ways, and sometimes it may be through the grace and patience he gives us when we don’t get the weather we wanted.  So while we may pray for, say, fine weather, we should also pray for God’s grace to find blessing in whatever weather he in his sovereign wisdom sends us. “Floods: a nation unites” was a front-page headline in The Times. Now there’s a thought: a good soaking probably isn’t the answer to our deep divisions over Brexit, but it might at least be a welcome distraction!

Your sincere friend and Vicar

Charles Mason