The feast of All Saints was last Sunday. The example of the saints can sometimes seem intimidating, such perfection appears unattainable and the problems of the world too all encompassing make any meaningful change. But this is not necessarily the case, as I was reminded by a book I read recently.

The Good Sharps by Hester Grant is a biography of a remarkable family of four brothers and three sisters, who lived in eighteenth century England. Whilst they certainly weren’t saints and suffered their own share of trials and tribulations, each of the brothers became leaders in their own fields (the eldest a social reformer, another a society doctor much concerned with the (then) new science of vaccination, a third a pioneer of canal infrastructure and, perhaps the most famous, a leading abolitionist.) In short, they became key figures in addressing the most significant issues faced by eighteenth century society. It was time in which the social problems faced by the nation were no less significant than those of today and the book’s subtitle ‘the brothers and sisters who remade their world’ is not mere hyperbole.

I wonder what it would take for us to ‘remake our worlds’. The need is certainly there: the COP26 summit this week has vividly described the urgent need to change our ways to save the planet. And what of other areas? What would it would take to remake our society? For the Sharps at least, their religious faith underpinned much of their work and inspired them to transform their society for the better. The message of the book for me was one of optimism: positive change is certainly possible if we only have the faith, imagination and commitment to achieve it.

Frances Stratton