Celebrating biodiversity in a church service

Recently at St John and St Stephen’s Church in Reading we marked Environment Sunday with a service celebrating biodiversity, and followed the service with a cycle ride and picnic lunch beside the canal. Here is what we did in the service in case you would like to use the ideas in your own service:

  • The service began with an explanation of biodiversity, citing the vital roles of plankton and bees in the web of life. The theme was chosen because this is the UN International Year of Biodiversity – a crucial issue at a time when it is estimated that every six hours another species of plant, animal or micro-organism becomes extinct.
  • The first part of Adam and Eve’s story was read out from a beautifully illustrated children’s book by Jane Ray: The Garden of Eden. There followed reference to the valuable role of our own gardens in preserving biodiversity as well as bringing us closer to God. The congregation divided into groups to look at exhibits borrowed from Reading Museum – each was a case containing an animal that lives in an oak tree, ranging from squirrels and a jay to a stag beetle and many moths. The groups were invited to think about where their specimen belonged in the web of biodiversity and what it might reflect about its Creator.
  • At the confession the taking of forbidden fruit was compared with taking too much of the earth’s fruits today. Finally it was remembered that God has a habit of choosing those seemingly least fitted for God’s tasks, giving us hope that despite past form we humans can care for our planet: a meditation on Psalm 104 concluded with references to recent conservation successes. Meanwhile many of the children present had been fashioning wonderful creatures out of ‘magic maize’.

After coffee seventeen of the congregation set off for a ‘gentle and sociable’ cycle ride. Apparently several had not cycled for years and found this an encouragement to consider cycling more. They were joined for a picnic lunch by a similar number who had shared cars to reach them.

Could you use these ideas in a service about biodiversity – or do you have ideas and resources that could be included in such a service, share them in the comments section.

Joanna is a member of St John and St Stephen Church in Newtown, Reading. She blogs at http://greeningstjohns.blogspot.com/

The ecocell journey

Guest post by Tony Emerson of Christian Ecology Link

The ecocell programme, organised by Christian Ecology Link (CEL), is a toolkit to help people go on a journey or pilgrimage towards sustainable living in our personal lives. It can be travelled by groups of friends, neighbours, or church members. There are three stages to the journey.

In Stage One you learn further about the main issues that give rise to ecological damage, discuss the influences on our collective and individual behaviours, measure our personal impacts (footprints) and take action to minimise those impacts. This stage can be completed within a few months, but each group sets its own pace. Stage one of the programme can be downloaded from our website.

Stage Two (to be launched in November 2010) will be for those who are willing to take on the very demanding commitment of completing the journey to sustainability. We will commit ourselves to getting our carbon footprints down to the actual level required for sustainability. We will also ensure that we respect the laws of nature (in which we see the hand of our Creator) and the needs of the natural world, in all aspects of our lives.

Stage Two is for people who have completed Stage One. It will involve significant further learning, very committed action at the personal level, and at the local political level. Like in Stage One, we are supported through prayer, poetry, stories and group activities, and by a range of resources organised by CEL. We anticipate that this stage will take a period of about five years, to make the necessary changes in our lives. There are now forty participants on this stage of the programme.

Stage Three will take the form of on-going support groups for those who have concluded Stage Two.  Participants continue to be supported through an on-line community.

You don’t have to commit to the whole journey initially, just to Stage One, and perhaps go on from there.

If you would like to embark on the journey – or to join us at the second stage of it – and for more information contact me at CEL.

CEL are building up a team of people who can offer support in technical or organisational areas, or with spiritual guidance. Contact CEL if you can offer help in developing the programme.

Tony Emerson is the ecocell Programme Co-ordinator for Christian Ecology Link. For further information visit: http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/ecocell

O you Sun and daylight long, bless your Maker

Today we mark Midsummer – a time to be grateful for the daylight long.

Photo credit: Matt & Polly

O you Sun and daylight long, bless your Maker.
O you Moon and Stars in short night-time praise.
O you Planets that circle the Sun bless your Maker.
O you Earth where I belong praise.
O you Continents and Countries bless your Maker.
O you Place where I live praise.

© Tess Ward 2007, from The Celtic Wheel of the Year.

Fancy ‘more’ daylight? Why not support Lighter Later – a campaign that shows cutting carbon and making life better can and should go hand in hand.

Find out what a difference an hour could make: www.lighterlater.org.

Cohousing meeting in Oxford

Guest post by Fran Ryan

On Wednesday 23rd June there will be a meeting to explore the idea and possibility of cohousing in and around Oxford. Please join us.

  • Where? Garden Room at Oxford Quaker Meeting House (http://www.oxfordquakers.org)
  • When? Wednesday 23rd June 2010, 7-9pm.
  • How do I book? Email: f@peopleincharge.co.uk (click on 3 blue dots to get full email) or telephone fran on 07889 209448
  • Cost? Admission will be £3 to cover room hire costs.

What is cohousing?

Cohousing has been around in Europe (in particular, in northern European countries such as Denmark) since the 1980s and is just now beginning to emerge as a serious option here in the UK.  The hallmark of cohousing is that, unlike the vast majority of housing developments which prioritise privacy over community,  cohousing is designed to give opportunities for both a healthy communal life AND a private life too. In cohousing developments, each family has its own house/unit and also has access to considerable shared space often in the shape of a common house which houses a large kitchen/diner, workshops, utility space, meeting space, and often in the shape of a common garden/grounds. So when a family buys or rents a house in a cohousing community, it is also buying into/renting the common house and other common assets as well.

A cohousing development is usually designed to maximise the opportunities for people to move around and meet and develop as a community, so cars are often kept to the perimeter of the site. The design ensures that people can chose how much they want to mix or remain private at any particular time.

Cohousing is generally organised around general cooperative and democratic principles rather than any ideological principles (some intentional communities for example might be organised around religious or educational principles). Cohousing is essentially an approach to housing. The development is organised and managed by the group themselves.  The founding members initiate and make it happen and thus decide everything about the design and build of the development.

We are hoping to find a small group of people who would be interested in forming an active group to make things happen in the next two years in or around Oxford. The meeting on 23rd June (http://www.cohousing.org.uk/node/298) is also an opportunity to find out about cohousing and to meet and make links with others who may have similar interests to you. You may wish to form your own group to focus on a different geographical area or with a slightly different emphasis!

Learn More:

The best known and highly successful cohousing development here in UK is at Springhill in Stroud: http://www.therightplace.net/coco/public

There is now a national organisation here in UK where you can also read about other groups across the country in different stages of development.  http://www.cohousing.org.uk

Further Reading:

Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett (1998) ‘Cohousing A contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves’  Ten Speed Press .

Diana Leafe Christian (2003) Creating  a Life Together New Society Publishing

Fran Ryan is a granny who earns her living as a freelance chartered occupational psychologist working in human resources in the private and public sectors.  She has been interested in cooperative housing for many years and is now at the point where she’d like to have another go (last time was in 1980) at getting a project going in Oxford.

She is also (in a completely separate project) interested in using the community land trust mechanism to develop permanently affordable housing across the county and following a housing conference in Oxford (which she facilitated for Oxfordshire County Council) in 2003, she joined with Jock Coats and Tony Crofts to initiate Oxfordshire Community Land Trust. OCLT is now working to build a small development of affordable homes for local people in the Botley area.  (www.oclt.org.uk).

Fran likes low carbon architecture and in 2005, completed a self- built straw bale office in her garden which also serves as OCLT’s office and meeting place.