vestryview

A view backstage at Beverley Minster

The start of the rest of your life

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford prepares to take up cudgels
I didn’t bother writing this blog until Sunday because, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure there was going to be another Sunday and, frankly, I do hate wasting my energy.
You see, I was one of the many, many millions who recently learned that the world was going to end last weekend and so I decided to wait and see. Now, as I mentioned in a previous column, I have clear thoughts on the (un)likelihood of the world ending next year to fulfil an entirely imaginary Mayan prediction but I hadn’t realised when I wrote it that some Californian loony fundamentalist preacher called Harold Camping was saying we were all going to die last Saturday. Actually, to be more precise, the tiny minority of goody-goody two-shoes (as defined by Harold) were going to experience ‘The Rapture’ and all the rest were going to die as a result of earthquakes etcetera, etcetera.
Being such a good person as I am I thought I might be experiencing a bit of a ‘Camping’ holiday this week (hahahahaha), but no such luck. On Sunday morning I checked around the Minster at the 8am and 10.30 services to see if anyone was missing. Pretty much everyone I expected was there so either The Rapture has passed us by, or it never happened.
I wondered about asking people if the earth had moved for them yesterday but then thought it might be taken the wrong way, so I didn’t. Then I thought I’d better get on and write a column or various angry people would start yelling at me.
So what can you write about on the day after the world hasn’t ended? I bet that’s a problem Harold Camping wishes he doesn’t have at the moment although, at the age of 90 it’s not likely he’ll worry about it much longer. I wonder how he’s going to explain to God just what he was trying to achieve by producing his (second) inaccurate prophecy of Armageddon. If it was as simple as getting himself famous and lots of money then he’s going to be in a lot of trouble.
 I used to wonder what it was that drove people to keep predicting the end of the world – an end that always seems destined to happen within their own lifetimes. I’ve already lived through a few of these myself. My first was the certainty that, through Mutually Assured Destruction, the USA and USSR would blow us all into radioactive dust after a four minute warning, during which we would hide under a tablecloth. This fear started in the 1950s (I’m told), and lasted through the 60s and 70s. Simultaneous with this was the certainty of widespread starvation among large chunks of the human race, plus the end of all petroleum supplies, and therefore modern civilisation, by about 1974.
Since then we’ve also had AIDS, Kohoutek’s Comet, Ebola, the Millennium Bug, the Millennium itself and Tony Blair/Alastair Campbell.
I may have forgotten a few others – oh yes, of course there was also Bird Flu, Swine Flu and that other one that was going to leave huge piles of bodies in the streets just two summers ago. In the 1980s we were about to be crushed in a new Ice Age: soon we will be crisped by Global Warning. 
All these scares have been formulated by apparently respectable scientists and backed up with large diagrams in The Times and Daily Telegraph; smaller, brighter charts in the Mirror and Sun, and articles in the Daily Mail assessing how the scare will affect house prices.
So far we, as a species and as a civilisation, have survived them all – often leaving nothing more serious than soon-forgotten ripples in our lives. Then, almost immediately, the next end-of-the-world story surfaces and is eagerly lapped up.
It’s as if people feel a need to experience something vastly bigger than themselves – in their eyes their lives aren’t enough and need the extra-specialness of a cataclysmic event to make them feel as important as they consider they should be.
I admit to being one of those so afflicted but, as it happens, I received confirmation of my own extra-special status only this Sunday in the Minster. I was going about my duties when suddenly I felt a shower of divine liquid landing upon me. I looked up and, verily, I was being sprayed by Holy Water* pouring from an image of Christ. Closer inspection revealed this water was emerging from Christ’s chest, near where the centurion’s spear might possibly have pierced His body on the cross – a miracle!
I knew immediately that I was destined for great things and I should lead a massive campaign to improve the lot of human beings all around the world – I might become a veritable modern-day Wilberforce. So I thought about it and quickly decided what my campaign will be – and I shall tell you about it next week.
I’m on a mission.
*This ‘Holy Water’ was, actually, caused by a hole-y stained glass window that let in rain water, but that’s not important. It was still A SIGN!
First published May 2011

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