“Are scientists always atheists?”, somebody mused.
“No, of course not, although there is a notion that if you can’t reduce God to an equation, He doesn’t exist”.
Listening to this, I smiled, thinking of an 19th century physicist whose faith had convinced him God was not an equation, and that humans were not alone at the top of the tree.
A man of genius
James Clerk Maxwell produced mathematical equations showing that electricity, magnetism and light were linked together. He developed a theory of electromagnetic waves, which was a seismic shift in scientific discovery in 1864. His theories became the foundation for Einstein’s work.
Maxwell has connections with us at a local level, as the family home is at Glenlair, situated a few miles from our villages of Crossmichael and Parton. Maxwell was an Elder of the Church of Scotland, and he is buried in Parton Kirkyard.
Connecting with the natural world
As a child and adult, Maxwell wandered around the fields and woods of the family estate near Parton. He asked many questions, because he was always curious about how things worked. His relationship with the natural world was one of respect and wonder, rather than one of control and submission. His equations arose from a genuine curiosity to reveal the mysteries of natural laws. His faith was a determining force in his life, but it was of an intense personal nature. He was as bold in his thinking about Christianity as he was with regard to science. Those aspects of him have a real meaning and connection to us today.
Last September, an evening to celebrate Maxwell the man, rather than the scientist, was held in Parton Kirk. Part of the entertainment was a performance of a Scottish Country Dance called “Maxwell’s Waves”.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to see what’s right in front of you. After a week or two of rehearsals for the dance, I looked around and realised all the ingredients for our Go For It project were here. A light came on! The dance required sixteen people, plus a team of musicians who had been drawn from the churches of Crossmichael, Parton, Corsock and Kirkpatrick Durham, as well from outside the church. That was one box ticked.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to see what’s right in front of you. Morag Chisholm, New Ways to the Future
We were working together in a collaborative way to produce an outcome which was both unusual and enjoyable. The dancing master, our Session Clerk and Organist, said this was about fun, fitness and friendship, and that proved to be true. We had shown we could have a joint event. Dancing “Maxwell’s Waves” in a church Maxwell had attended was ensuring not only “his soul will live and grow for long to come” but our project could grow too.
“What’s the go o’ it?”, he would ask.
It seems serendipity that Maxwell and his “go” of things should end up being part of our Go For It project.
New Ways to the Future Project
Crossmichael and Parton Churches, Castle Douglas
(With thanks to John Simpson for the Maxwell details)
About New Ways to the Future
New Ways to the Future is an initiative of Crossmichael and Parton Churches. The project is receiving Go For It funding to research alternative ways of worship, plus the potential for developing closer relationships in a rural community, in order to respond to identified needs.