Rectory notes June 2020 – ‘Are we in control?’

I was 19 when I managed to turn a car on its side. I was doing voluntary work in rural South Africa at the time. I was following my boss’s van down a straight road, when the pick-up truck I was driving started swerving uncontrollably from side to side due to the ruts on the dry mud road. One moment I was careering

out of control at speed towards the dense trees bordering the road, the next the car was stationary on the grass verge facing the opposite direction, as if perfectly parked only on its side. I clambered out of the passenger door – now the vehicle’s ‘top’ – shocked but unscratched, despite not having a seatbelt.

Being out of control of a vehicle is truly frightening, as anyone who’s been in such a situation will testify.

Being out of control in life is frightening too. We know that life is a balance of what we can control and what we can’t. If that balance tips too far, we are understandably afraid.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has a lot to do with control, it seems to me – particularly the loss of it. This is obvious in our everyday lives. The loss of personal freedoms reduces our control in many ways. For anyone contracting the virus, it does so potentially more drastically.

The loss of control is notable on the national scale too. ‘Take back control’ was a winning message in the Brexit debate, and ‘Control the virus’ is now a government slogan. I mention this without meaning to be political. The phrases reflect an inherent desire in all of us for sufficient control. But this disease has revealed our vulnerability. Economic models so revered until recently, now prove useless. Former government strategies and financial plans are now in the bin.

The modern world has, in normal times, shielded us from much of our sense of vulnerability. Our vulnerability as humans was more evident in past ages. Which is one reason for the historic existence of religion. It gives somewhere to take our sense of being small in the face of disasters, whether natural or man-made, of hoping there is someone bigger who knows what’s going on and is maybe guiding us to a good destination.

Religion has too often made the mistake of putting itself in a position of control. Fundamentalist religion, and religion allied with state power, have each done this.

Into this arena steps Jesus. He is realistic about life and our vulnerabilities. He doesn’t offer control. Instead he brings a deeper security. He brings comfort more than certainty, peace more than an easy path, visionary hope more than solutions. To his list of ‘beatitudes’, we could perhaps add the following:

‘Blessed are those who are out of control,

for they shall find God’s hand in theirs.’

Maybe it is the One in the passenger seat beside us who will guide our way through these times.

Rev David Carrington

Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury

The Rectory, Station Road, Feniton 01404 850905