Watching Brian Cox’s BBC2 show on the Planets earlier this year, I was struck afresh with the improbable miracle that is Earth – our blue, liveable, diverse, beautiful common home amongst a solar system of deeply inhospitable environments. That life developed in such glorious abundance and we get the privilege of experiencing is a gift I still haven’t got my head around.
I was recently walking the lanes around Tymawr, an Anglican convent in Gwent, in the early morning, and the sunlight glinting off a wet nettle leaf below a hedge took my breath away with its plain beauty. A very simple thing, but within it a whole world of wonder at its evolution and development, playing its integral part in the hedgerow ecosystem, evidencing the interconnectedness of every living thing.
Patriarch Bartholomew puts it well: ‘It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.’ For me, being in nature, reminds me of the wonder of being alive and thus brings me home to myself in a most profound way, a creature of the Creator enjoying his good creation. Poets, farmers, gardeners, walkers and wanderers have known this truth for a long time, as farmer poet and prophet Wendell Berry writes:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty
on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
(from New Collected Poems (Counterpoint, 2012)
That we are failing our common home is a stark reality that we are waking up to, finally starting to hear the voices warning of our unsustainable ways that have been sounding an alarm for decades. It’s been a privilege to learn and join with many in our Benefice in eco-activism for one pretty newly eco converted. Across the Benefice many of us were able to join in with Christian Climate Action and Extinction Rebellion actions in London recently. St Paul’s recently hosted XR Student training and Cotham hosted a powerful evening with the visiting Ugandan Bishops about their experience of the climate crisis, offering opportunities for both lament and hope.
Lament and hope are some of the particular resources we as a faith community can bring to call to care for our common home, of which more another time. Eco Church is also a powerful resource on offer for our community for helping us centralise creation care at the heart of all our life together across the Benefice.
As Pope Francis writes: ‘Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not and optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience…The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion.’2
- Catholic Church, Pope (2013- : Francis), and Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis: On Care for Our Common Home, 2015, 10.
- Ibid, 103-104.
Eco Church is an accreditation from the Christian conservation charity A Rocha, partnering with TearFund, The Church of England and the Methodist Church. Eco Church helps churches record what they are already doing to care for God’s earth and to reflect on what further steps we can take to that that end and then act accordingly – it can be a very helpful tool towards our ongoing community eco-conversion. They provide a wealth of resources to help centralise creation care into all aspects of our life together. Across the Diocese many churches are signing up to Eco Church and we hope that in the Benefice we will be quick to attain Bronze and work our way towards Silver and Gold.
Eco Church will enable us to assess all areas of our church life:
our worship and teaching the management of church buildings the management of church land our community and global engagement and our personal and communal lifestyles
This is done through a survey and through the resources they offer online to help develop deeper engagement and reflection in all these areas. From the songs we sing, the prayers we pray to the food we serve and the wildlife in our church yard, even the water that flushes the loos, all is up for consideration as we undertake to centralise creation care, as a response to our biblical mandate to care for the earth and as a demonstration of the Christian hope for God’s world.
Across the Benefice we are looking for people to become Eco Church Champions, taking on a specific area of our life, one perhaps that you feel most passionate about, and engaging with the survey and bringing your ideas alongside the Eco Church resources to see how we can do more and share well what we are doing and want to develop. Ideally there will be a few people in each church who will want to champion a particular area. The commitment is not onerous, the survey itself is simple, but is provides an important invitation to reflection and resourcing and helping us change as a Benefice to love God’s creation well in all we say, pray, do and are.
To find out more about Eco Church you can visit www. https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk or talk to Pippa. If you would like to be an Eco Church Champion, do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All are also very welcome to the monthly Benefice Eco meetings and WhatsApp group – we share our eco learning together – things we’re trying, actions and activism, our learning from other groups we’re involved in, theological reflection and much more. Time of the next meeting will be advertised in the newsletter.