What happened at the Living Hope Conference?

The Living Hope Conference in Great Missenden in early March saw 130 people turn out to explore environment and climate change issues around the themes of churches and schools. There were a host of speakers and organisations represented. The opening panel included Paula Clifford (Christian Aid), Chris Sunderland (Earth Abbey) and Dave Bookless (A Rocha) exploring ‘Reasons for Hope’, and was followed by workshops from greening school buildings to liturgy, the practicalities of ground and air-source heating, to the latest climate science. The day finished with a session with David Lidington, the local MP.

The opening panel discussion is now available online. You can listen to the opening panel discussion using the player below – or you can download the mp3 file directly:

Joanna Laynesmith has written a summary of the panel discussion on her blog which we quote below – and Bishop Alan Wilson has also written his thoughts on the day here:

Paula Clifford argued that Living Hope begins with being thoroughly informed in the face of increasing climate change denial, living a low carbon lifestyle is not enough because we must also be prophetic. ‘Climate change kills’ – committing ourselves to act is to give hope to people in the global south. In the run up to the general election she reminded us ‘politicians are a renewable resource’. She suggested three ways to live hope:

1. Re-establishing the importance of community. Church, as the body of Christ described by Paul, is the community par excellence but it is also an elusive ideal. Locally, nationally and internationally we need to re-establish community.

2. Recognising interdependence, which enables us to relate to those outside our community.

3. Seeking new ways of doing mission: what does mission look like in a carbon neutral world?

Chris Sunderland argued that climate change is a symptom of a wider malaise that cannot be cured with technical fixes. With half of the easily available oil having been used in his lifetime and the world population having grown from 2.5 billion to 6.7 billion in that time, we need to re-imagine human culture in a radical way, a way that is inevitably spiritual. He pointed out that the Biblical narratives come out of an agrarian community and that only 200 years ago most of our ancestors were agricultural labourers, whereas now 80% of the UK population live in towns and cities, as do 50% of the world’s population. Without romanticizing the harshness of rural life in past centuries, we need to recognize that something about humanity resonates with the land. Professor Edward Wilson has used the term biophilia to describe the human propensity to love the natural world. Chris pointed out that there exists a radical lifestyle movement today in which people are opting to work fewer days in order to be active in their community but that much of this is outside church community. Earth Abbey sees itself as part of this radical lifestyle movement. Working together is hugely important because it rejects the enlightenment idealization of the individual.

Dave Bookless began by saying that the context of hope has never looked worse, in the light of the failure at Copenhagen, concern about climate change slipping down the political agenda and the huge missed opportunity of the financial crisis when the world community could have radically rethought the system. He too sees climate change as a symptom of the real crisis: a crisis of consumption and population ‘we are the virus species on planet earth . . . the environment has a human problem’. He referred to Lord May’s suggestion that we need to call on the fear of a divine punisher to make people act on climate change – a suggestion he recoils from. Rather Dave argued that, like St Francis, we need to undergo a triple conversion, to

1. God: In conversion to God we recognize our fallenness in our idolatrous attitude to possessions (and remember that Jesus said more about money than anything else). The first great commission in scripture was to look after the earth and its creatures.

2. Earth: We need a Copernican revolution in understanding that the earth does not revolve around us – the earth was made for and by Christ. We need to reconnect with the earth, take up Rowan Williams’ challenge to go for a walk, get wet, dig the earth.

3. Other: As climate change causes millions of would-be migrants to our shores we need to put ourselves in their shoes and work out how to respond.

This summary of the panel first appeared on Joanna Laynesmith’s Blog – www.greeningstjohns.blogspot.com

Creation Stations

Guest Post by Jonny Baker

It’s easy to forget the beauty of the story of creation in Genesis because of arguments around whether it is myth or literal, how long it might have taken and evolution. That’s a shame because it’s a magical story! Creation Stations is a resource with eight parts that has been designed to let that story be told and experienced on its own terms and to help people regain a sense of lost wonder.

The world we live in is amazing – broken, yes, but still filled with incredible creatures and things to explore. Visiting Creation Stations in action for me was a reminder of the wonder of the planet. The final part of the journey, and my personal favourite part, recounts the story of creation in a playful fashion. I lay on a comfy bean bag with my eyes closed feeling a sense of excitement and wonder again at the potential God put in the creation for us to unfold or develop. Recovering lost wonder hopefully makes us all treasure the planet more and look after it. As well as exploring the wonder, one of the stations involved reflecting on our use of creation’s gifts and resources. It also had a confession. It made me think how complicated it is to know how best to look after God’s world. Is oil a good or bad thing? That’s too simple – it’s how we use the gifts that have been given, but with something like oil sadly there is lots for us to confess at how it’s been used to pollute and divide the rich from the poor.

Let me rewind slightly. In Creation Stations there are eight stations that tell the story. The first is called ‘void’ reflecting on the moment before creation, then there is a station for each of the six days of creation which takes a theme of that day to explore, and finally the last station, ‘rest’, is in the centre of the space. Each station has a designed poster, some things to reflect on and small rituals to do. There is an accompanying series of meditations with ambient music that participants listen to on headphones at each station. The track ‘Rest’ has become something of a favourite which creatively recaps the story as people sit on beanbags at the final station – this is the one that caught me up when I first experienced it.

Creation Stations can be set up and run much like an art installation that runs for a week in a venue. That was how it was first envisaged and has been run at Greenbelt and Grace and other places. But it can also work well as an event – for an event it helps if you have a café or space where people can relax while they wait to start the installation because you don’t want everyone doing it at the same time.

If you haven’t got access to music players for the meditations you could simply print the meditations out.

There is a set of photos of it in action at Grace here.

In our fast paced busy lives I increasingly find that worship that I can relate to is that which helps me reflect, slow down prayerfully, and reflect on my life and relations with myself, God, others and the world around me. If you are the same Creation Stations may be worth exploring…

The Creation Stations resource is available to download from proost.co.uk in two parts. Creation Stations includes the leader’s guide, posters, an interactive quiz and any files you need for the stations. Creation Stations Meditations is the album of meditation tracks.

Jonny Baker blogs at jonnybaker.blogs.com, is a member of grace, and works for cms helping reimagine church and mission.