Letter from Lizzie – March 2020

Dear all,

Storm Ciara has blown out, but storm Dennis is still blustering around causing mayhem and misery. I sit in my warm, dry kitchen and I wonder who is it that chooses the names of storms? Dennis? Ciara? Maybe someone at the Met Office has a grudge against their daughter or husband that week – and in revenge they name the incoming storm! That’ll teach ‘em!

Names and naming things is an interesting business. And it’s not easy! Deciding the names for my daughters was reasonably straightforward, but it took a bit of negotiation to keep everyone who was invested in this happy. It could be far more complicated, though. I have only had two children and (recently) a dog to name – think about the difficulties of poor old Adam in the creation story:

The Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and He brought them to the man to see what he would name each one. And whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

Some of us from St Mary’s told this story from Genesis the other week, at an “Open the Book” assembly in Burley & Woodhead School. The children’s version of the story we presented, showed how difficult this was for Adam – particularly when he had to decide what to name the skunk. Thankfully, in the end he thought it best not to settle for ‘stripy-stinky-bottom’….

Adam’s story also made me ponder the nature of names and naming. It’s clearly an important business, something that God intends us to take seriously. So perhaps I shouldn’t be wondering about the name of these storms, but why we choose to name them in the first place? What do we gain by giving weather a name?

I suppose when we name a storm, we give that storm an identity – a character even – which makes it easier to talk about, easier to describe, easier to blame. When Adam names the animals, it is in part an act of his power over them. Earlier in Genesis we learn that “humanity is to rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

I feel with these recent storms, though, that we are kidding ourselves if we believe that we have any power over them at all – regardless of whether we name them or not. However amusing the name, storms are dangerous, sweeping in with a destructive force beyond our control. The Met Office states:- “a storm will be named when it has the potential to cause an amber or red warning.”

In other words, we name what is dangerous, as though somehow it makes it easier to understand and harder to fear. A bit like why Harry Potter insists on calling Voldemort by his name!

Whatever we believe or don’t believe about how the world was created or the Genesis story, it is undoubtedly true that human beings are responsible for what happens to our planet and all the creatures and eco systems that it sustains. We can’t control storm Dennis, but we can look at how we contribute to preventing climate change. We can’t control storm Ciara, but we can look at how we respond to those suffering from the floods and storm damage in her wake. I wonder what steps you might take to live up to those responsibilities?

Love from Lizzie