Science, faith and the universe

I am sorry to tell you that my Tardis is delayed. I was expecting it to materialise at the Cathedral a full 8 days ago and it is nowhere to be seen, writes Sarah Brown, Canon Missioner at Peterborough Cathedral.

Saturday, 4th August 2018, 1:00 pm
Updated Friday, 31st August 2018, 5:13 pm
Russian support personnel work around the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft after it landed with Expedition 47 crew members Tim Kopra of NASA, Tim Peake of the European Space Agency, and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Saturday, June 18, 2016. Kopra, Peake, and Malenchenko are returning after six months in space where they served as members of the Expedition 46 and 47 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) NHQ201606180027

I am not sure of the reason for such tardiness (I’m sure there is a pun there somewhere!). Perhaps it went to St Petersburg by mistake and is now busy confusing the Russian intelligence services. Or maybe it is in a TNT depot somewhere. (I believe that they mislaid a 23ft model of the moon a few weeks ago, so a Tardis is probably small beer in the lost property stakes.) Anyway, I’m not worried. E-bay will sort it out.

You may gather that my missing Tardis is a pale imitation of the real thing and, assuming it ever arrives, will take its position in the Cathedral over the next few weeks as part of a display designed to complement the Tim Peake space capsule exhibition on loan from the Science Museum. At the moment the Cathedral is torn between business as usual as a place of worship and wonder and ‘Space, the Final Frontier!’ In the midst of trying to help prepare for the biggest tourist attraction to arrive here in 900 years , deceased Tudor royalty and Oswald’s Marvellous, Miraculous, (Missing) Arm apart, (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about come to the Cathedral and find out!) I find myself wondering what an alien arriving from another dimension would make of us. What strange and contradictory things happen in this place! Spaceships and plainchant, incense and virtual reality, what can it mean? Houston, do we have a problem? Has the church lost the plot?

A Cathedral is many things, but it is first and foremost a centre of Christian worship.

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It is also a heritage site and an icon for this city. It is a place of sanctuary and peace, story and prayer, of education and exploration and a place for the whole community to know themselves welcome in Christ’s name whether they come with faith or none.

And here we are branching out with a range of public events, some more helpful than others (we are learning as we go along!) and some which bring great and unexpected joy.

We anticipate that the Soyuz Space capsule will fall into the latter category, and look forward to sharing it and our great building with all who come.

But events of this kind must never overshadow the Cathedral’s purpose, which is to stand symbolically between Earth and Heaven, to signpost the God of time and space and make sense of what it means to be human in the light of his love shown in Jesus Christ.

Faith is all about asking the big questions about human existence. So is science actually. The questions are framed differently and the data is different but we are all after the same thing really.

And one worldview alone is likely to be only part of the whole story of humanity and our place in the universe. It isn’t a competition. I think that God is the ultimate scientist!

So, when you walk in through the great West Front in search of a space craft we hope that you will engage with us in a bigger conversation.

About Science and Faith; about creation and the universe; about what it means to be human; About people of faith who are also physicists, cosmologists and astronomers and about scientists who are also committed Christians, even priests.

Let us boldly go….