My name is Andy and I'm a Physicist.

By Andy O'Connell

Steam engine with flywheel, and 1950s children's roundabout

My name is Andy and I'm a Physicist. Confession over. Well, I was. In what now seems like a former life, I read Physics at Teddy Hall (Oxford) and then did a DPhil thesis in something that I now struggle to even understand the title of!

One of the prophetic images I've been carrying for the student ministry at OCC, is that of a flywheel. I mentioned this recently, and someone (maybe a humanities student?!) said 'What is a flywheel?', so I thought I needed to explain what I saw and what I think God is saying.

First, why do I believe God is speaking through a flywheel? I believe I'm in good company here. In an agrarian economy around 600BC, God spoke to Jeremiah, showing him an almond branch and asking him what he saw. The Hebrew word for almond sounds like the word for watching. Also the almond tree was known to be the first to blossom each season. From this play on words combined with biological fact, God encouraged the prophet that he, God, was awake and watching over his people. We sometimes refer to this process as 'I saw. God said.' God speaks through our culture - through images and words that we understand.

What is a flywheel? Engines, both ancient and modern, incorporate heavy metal wheels. Without them, engines would not deliver smooth power, due to their pistons firing only intermittently. This is most easily seen in an ancient steam engine, where a single piston can only push briefly in each cycle. Once up to speed, flywheels keep the engine running smoothly, overcoming this limitation. The flywheel helps things to keep moving smoothly. It provides momentum, stability and consistency, through energy storage.

A pedal bicycle does not have a heavy flywheel. Imagine going up a hill. It's only when your legs are pushing that much happens, and if you miss a push or two, there is a risk you will stop abruptly and fall off the bike! That is the fruit of not having a flywheel.

Some flywheels need a helping hand to get them going. A good example would be a playground roundabout. It's heavy and once rotating, it has significant angular momentum and is quite hard to stop. But conversely, it's quite hard to get it going in the first place. Children need to work as a team, pushing at the right time, in order for it to go faster.

So what is God saying? I believe he wants the student ministry at OCC to have momentum, stability and consistency. God wants us to create something which gives momentum to the engine for a 'leadership pipeline', training and sending students into God's world, to see his Kingdom purposes worked out.

In this season, he wants an increase in the flywheel. Like the roundabout, he wants many of us to put our hands to the wheel, giving it a push to increased rotation, energy and momentum.

What does that mean? It's a call to prayer. It's a call to listen to God for what he's saying to us. It's a call to engage as team. It's a call to give ourselves with commitment.

Andy O'Connell