The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
In July this year, the House of Commons agreed that the UK should replace its Trident nuclear submarine fleet at a cost of some £31 billion (plus £10 billion contingency). This would be the first phase of updating the UK’s nuclear weapons programme at a much greater cost.
One of the arguments cited in favour of spending such a huge sum of money on a weapons system that churches in the UK have described as “unwarranted” and “unethical”, is that the MOD has stated that maintaining and sustaining the UK’s nuclear deterrent supports over 30,000 UK jobs.
It is undeniable that providing decent, honourable work is highly important for the dignity of the people of this nation, and that the closure of locally important industrial facilities such as the shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness where nuclear boats are built can cause significant hardship. So a course of action putting 30,000 jobs at risk must not be undertaken lightly.
But plant and facilities can be imaginatively repurposed, especially if short-term financial gain is regarded as secondary to social need.
Additionally, we are often told that the country suffers from a critical shortage of the skilled engineers, technicians and craftsmen that make up much of the Barrow workforce. Would it not therefore be so much better if, for example:
the design engineers could turn their transferrable skills to designing low-carbon transport systems;
the power plant engineers could turn their transferrable skills to designing small-scale, clean modular energy plant which could be installed close to the point of need;
the machinists and welders could turn their transferrable skills to fabricating light engineering projects such as bridges or flood defence systems;
the fit-out designers and technicians could turn their transferrable skills to assembling affordable quick-build housing units;
the electrical and electronic designers and technicians could turn their transferrable skills to making medical instrumentation and support systems.
Only a lack of imagination and an unwillingness to provide the necessary resources (probably a small fraction of £41 billion) limit the turning of a contemporary sword-production capability into an ethical harvest possibility.
God, in you all things are possible;
you can transform our ways. Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
God, lead us from the futility of destruction
to the abundant harvest of service. Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
In this Advent time
may we seek to find true peace Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister and member of Upton-by-Chester URC.