Are we living at the start of a new ‘age of electricity’? Electrically powered vehicles are becoming increasingly common on our roads, solar panels on house roofs are everywhere and we don’t have to drive too far into the countryside before we see some wind turbines. The renewables revolution is beginning to catch on and technological advances in electricity storage will, I suspect, continue to add impetus to the move away from fossil fuels.
So, who invented electricity? Before you waste time trying to answer that question, the answer of course is, ‘no one’. Electricity is a naturally occurring phenomenon and over several hundred years we have learnt how to generate it, harness it and make use of it to power our lives. Without electricity any semblance of normal modern living is compromised. We use electricity to keep warm and to cool ourselves down, we use it to prepare food and to keep clean, we use it for entertainment andfor communication.
Benjamin Franklin is one of the pioneers credited with identifying the power and promise of electricity. In 1752 it is claimed that he flew a kite with a metal key attached to it into a thunder cloud. What he did with it afterwards is unclear, but perhaps he was able to discharge electricity from it! Another electrical pioneer more familiar in these parts is Joseph Swan, whose house, Underhill, on Kell’s Lane became, in 1880, the first house anywhere to be lit by electricity. And I am sure there would be those at the time, who said, ‘It will never catch on.’!
We are in the days following Pentecost which we celebrated a couple of weeks ago. We live in the age of the Spirit. At Pentecost the effect of the coming of the Holy Spirit was something akin to electricity. Suddenly powerless individuals were given not only power but also purpose. From that moment on they were able to fulfil their calling and potential. They were sent out into a dark world to shine brightly, reflecting the light they had received from Jesus, the Light of the World. It wasn’t the case that, up until that point there had been no Holy Spirit, but that this was a new beginning, a new breakthrough and nothing would be the same again.
So watch out for the latest electrical revolution. I predict we are going to see big changes in the ways we generate our power, run our homes and work places and travel from A to B. But whatever this revolution brings it won’t change the world in the way that the release of the Holy Spirit did at Pentecost, the birth of the Church.