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United Reform Baptist Church . Lichfield
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I've just been reading Jenny Uglow's fine book The Lunar Men, which someone gave me for my birthday. It's basically a joint biography of the various men who made up the 18th century "Lunar Society". Led by Erasmus Darwin, the Society was a group of ambitious tradesmen and amateur experimenters who met - usually at Darwin's home in Beacon Street - on the night of the full moon. In the days before street lamps, the light of the moon would guide them safely home afterwards.

Apart from Darwin himself - a poet, physician, philosopher, educationalist, botanist and engineer - the group consisted of Josiah Wedgewood, the chemist and potter; Matthew Boulton, the engineer and physicist; James Watt, of steam-engine fame; Joseph Priestley, a non-conformist minister and discoverer of oxygen; and various other lesser-known but equally gifted men. From time to time other people, such as Benjamin Franklin, the American who managed to tame electricity, and Joseph Wright, the innovative artist, joined them.

Ms Uglow's book brings home again and again what a truly amazing group of men these were (and they were all men, although some of their wives and other female friends, such as Anna Seward and Sarah Siddons, supported and assisted them in their work). Their inquisitive nature as regards science, industry and invention really laid the foundations for much of what we take for granted today in terms of everything from automotive transport to glazed crockery. Some of Darwin's inventions are still used by the motor industry and the classification of plants and animals owes much to their joint efforts. The subtitle of the book refers to them as "The Friends Who Made The Future".

What struck me was the astonishing impact this small group of men had on the world. They were very committed to each other, and they had a shared vision of what might be achieved and a common purpose - to improve life for their fellow-citizens using the latest ideas and techniques. It was that shared vision and purpose which really drove them and meant that their influence is still felt three centuries later, even if few people today have ever heard of the individuals involved.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a shared purpose - the advance of the Kingdom of God - and as a church we have a shared vision of how that might be done - through outreach and prayer. The element of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit should mean that we are even better equipped than The Lunar Men to achieve those ends. As we meet together to worship, work and witness, may we commit ourselves to one another and to God, so that even greater things can come out of Lichfield in the 21st century than in the 18th century. And may the glory go to God alone, rather than to a group of people, however clever and successful.

Rev Ian Hayter

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