Sharing Eden – a handbook to sustainable living

Sharing Eden is a new book that sets out to show how respect for the environment is at the heart of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. The handbook uses the teachings of the Abrahamic faiths to encourage a greener lifestyle.

The introductory handbook combines beautiful and enlightening texts from each faith’s religious teachings and worship to address some of the most prominent environmental issues faced today, such as waste, climate change and biodiversity. Drawing from both scripture and personal experience, each author brings a contemporary focus to the eternal challenge of caring for the Earth. The authors also hope to encourage further collaborative efforts and stimulate public awareness and debate on the book’s topics.

Editor Lindsay Swan explains: “Sharing Eden is a remarkable example of interfaith collaboration to reach a common goal – a more sustainable future for all.  The authors’ aim, as well as to build bridges between often-differing faiths, is to throw a green light on age-old traditions and practices. They provide clear, easy-to-follow advice on how we can all do our share to protect the Earth, whether we have a faith or not.”

The book is published jointly by The Conservation Foundation and Kube Publishing and is available to buy from KubePublishing.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Waterstones.com (RRP: £4.99).

For further information, visit www.sharingeden.org

Mystic Christ Wheel Of The Year

Bruce Stanley, Steve Hollinghurst and Stu McLellan have created a beautiful new resource designed to take people through the year, not with the 12 months but with 8 seasons of fire festivals, solar festivals and corresponding Christian and Celtic celebrations. Each plate gives information about the season, corresponding festivals and ideas of exercises to explore the themes, including exercises, meditations and reflections.

The eight-fold calendar is available from the Mystic Christ website, which is home of the Communities of the Mystic Christ, “a place for spiritual travellers of all traditions interested in exploring Jesus the Christ as a living reality and mystical guide through ancient practices and contemporary thought and experience.”

The Wheel Of The Year Calendar is available at the introductory price of £4.95 for the first 50 sold.

via Wheel Of The Year Calendar |:| Mystic Christ.

Report from July Gathering in Reading

Last Thursday, amidst a deluge, the second Earthing Faith Gathering was held in Trinity Church, Reading. With so many different aspects of the environment which could be tackled, this meeting was constructed to focus on issues surrounding buildings and projects; a topic guaranteed to create interest and questions. We had four excellent speakers and plenty of time to get into the questions.

Demystifing the role of the DAC

The first was Natalie Merry – DAC Secretary based at Diocesan Church House. She answered many questions and demystified the role of the DAC (the Diocesan Advisory Committee who advise on physical changes to church buildings and churchyards) and was refreshingly realistic and extremely encouraging to all churches who wished to reduce their carbon footprint and investigate larger scale energy projects such as solar PV panels on the church roof.

Find out more: DAC | Churches and renewables resources

George going green

Next we heard from Tom Linley from St. George’s Church in Newbury who spoke about their work to put on 129 solar panels on the nave roof, along with roof insulation and secondary glazing. He spoke also spoke about fund raising and their next project to install a ground source heat pump.

Find out more: George Goes Green website

Greening St Johns

Joanna Laynesmith from St John and St Stephen church in reading spoke about their smaller scale projects to move a community and school towards environmental awareness, and it was great to hear the very human journey that a community must go on to make change real and lasting.

Find out more: Greening St Johns blog

Going green at Park United Reformed Church

Our final speaker was the Revd. Rob Weston, the leader at Park United Reform Church, also in Reading. He spoke about their fundraising and community ownership of a solar panel installation on the roof and a wood pellet boiler in their basement. There was a great deal of interest in the latter, as their church is one of the first in the country to install such technology. He also told us about their next project – a community orchard!

Find our more: Park United Reformed Church website

There was a great buzz in the room, with questions and conversations going on long after the speakers officially stopped.

Thank you to everyone who spoke and to Trinity Church and Richard Cocks for their hospitality and welcome.

The next Earthing Faith gathering will focus on theology and the environment. 7-9pm, Thursday 8th November 2012 at St Andrews, Chinnor (map) – you can register now.

The spirituality of nature and children

Fewer than one in ten children regularly play in wild places; compared to almost half of children a generation ago. In the following article Matt Freer, Environment Advisor to the diocese, explores the growing gap between children and nature, and asks what roles can the church play in response?

Nature Activities to use with children can be found here.

Earlier this year the National Trust launched a report entitled Natural Childhood, which explored ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ – a term first coined by US based writer Richard Louv, in his bestseller Last Child in the Woods, to describe a growing dislocation between children and nature. For example, in the UK less than a quarter of children regularly use their local patch of nature compared to over a half of all adults when they were children.

In a single generation since the 1970s children’s ‘radius of activity’ or ‘home habitat’ – the area in which children are able to travel on their own – shrank to one-ninth of its former size. In 1971, 80% of 7-8 yr olds walked to school, often alone or with their friends, whereas two decades later fewer then 10% did so – almost all accompanied by their parents.

The reasons for this gap between children and nature are numerous. Changing attitudes to risk are cited. More gadgets, TV channels, the internet and probably more comfortable bedrooms, make it easier and more appealing for children to be indoors. Increased traffic, fewer parks and green spaces, larger school catchment areas (so friends live further away), as well as greater fear of crime and media coverage on ‘stranger danger’ – all make it harder and less appealing for children to be outdoors, and start to paint a picture as to why children are not outdoors as much as they might used to have been.

But does a disconnect with nature matter? Growing evidence suggests it does. Researchers have attributed, at least in part, increasing rates of obesity to a decrease in the time children spend outdoors, as well as an increase in Vitamin D deficiency. Childhood behavioural ‘disorders’ have also been linked to an absence of time in nature. Other less tangible consequences include declining emotional resilience and a declining ability to assess risk – both vital life skills. There are also implications for wider environmental issues. People don’t tend to protect what they don’t care about, and you don’t tend to care about what you have never experienced.

But are there also spiritual implications of this disconnection with nature? An important characteristic of the natural world is that it doesn’t come with an instruction manual, or a set range of possible outcomes; instead it holds infinite possibilities. Through nature, we are introduced to transcendence, in the sense that there is something more going on than the individual. All of which is important to spiritual growth.

Research into spiritual experiences of childhood has perhaps unsurprisingly found that many transcendent childhood experiences happen in nature. And it isn’t just exposure to the natural world in its vast beauty – majestic mountains, wild forests, vast sea views – but also far more ordinary natural surroundings, for example, in the back garden, staring at the sky or watching animals.

I’m sure many readers can recall significant moments when something that amazed you has affected your spiritual journey. Wonder and awe are often sources for our spiritual growth – and often that wonder and awe stems from our relationship with nature. Most people are either awakened to or are strengthened in their spiritual journey by experiences in the natural world.

In light of that what are the implications of a growing nature gap on our spiritual development, and that of our children? Are we in danger of loosing, or at least missing opportunities for, the sense of awe and wonder that is so important to spiritual growth?

What role can the church play in providing space to encounter nature? We would love to hear your ideas and responses – join in the discussion below and share your ideas.

First published in the July 2012 edition of The Door.

Matt Freer is the Environment Advisor for the Diocese of Oxford. He and his wife have bought together a range of Nature Activities aimed at nurturing a sense of awe and wonder to use with children (and adults) – you can find them at: www.aeker.co.uk/blog/nature-activities/

Nature Activities to use with children

In support of our article exploring the impact of the growing gap between children and nature below you’ll find a few activities to try out with children  – you can find more activities and download them all to print at: www.aeker.co.uk/blog/nature-activities/

Follow the trail

Awaken the senses and follow a trail of mysterious smells, strange sounds and interesting textures.

You can do this in your garden, a nature reserve or churchyard. Mark a trail using a rope. Tie a knot in the rope to indicate something interesting. A smell to notice.  An object on the ground. Something overhead.

Before you start do a quiet activity. A quiet, receptive mind will increase the enjoyment of the activity. Look at a leaf together and count the veins. See if you can get your arms all the way round a tree. Smell a flower.

If your child is comfortable with it, put a blindfold on them. Then help your child to hold onto the rope and walk along with them. You can walk one after another, but give the person in front enough space to stop and listen.

Encourage your child to feel things as they go along. Changes on the ground. The texture of grass. Something overhead.

If you smell something stop and see if they can smell it too. And of course, guide their steps to keep them safe. Do it as silently as possible, with just gentle observations.

Finish by lying on your backs – if they have had a blindfold on, take it off – and look up and see what you can see. Ask your child to tell you what they see.

Nature table

Making a space at home where you can put your finds from nature is a great way to share it with others, remind you of being outdoors on wet days and inspire craft projects.

A place where you walk by often is good, as you and your children will see it in the day to day of life. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple wooden crate on the stairs. A bowl on a sideboard. A plate next to the telephone.

Collect things as you go for walks and make that an activity. Leaves, seeds, stones, twigs, shells…

Scavenger hunt

Choose some things to collect from the list below. Guide the children in thinking creatively and looking closely, and in only collecting appropriate, safe things.

– A feather
– Exactly 100 of something
– Three different types of seed
– Something round
– Something fuzzy
– Something that reminds you of yourself
– Something soft
– Something beautiful

More nature activities

Find more activities, and to download the above, visit: www.aeker.co.uk/blog/nature-activities/

Resources to explore

www.outdoornation.org.uk | www.50things.org.uk | www.goingwild.net

Community Hall Energy Use Workshops – July & Oct 2012

JUMPERS AND SCARFS – GETTING TO GRIPS WITH HALL ENERGY USE

Free energy training workshops for village halls and community centres

Would you like your community hall to be more energy efficient?
Are you worried about energy bills spiralling out of control?
Is your hall underused and sitting empty because it’s too cold in winter?
Are you on the management committee of your local community hall?
This FREE energy training workshop is for you.

The Environmental Information Exchange (EiE), funded by the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE2), is running 4 half-day workshops on energy efficiency in village and community halls in Oxfordshire. The first workshop will be held in South Oxfordshire on 12th July from 9.30am and the second will be held in the Vale on 10th October.  There will be subsequent workshops in Cherwell and West Oxfordshire.

Workshop on 12th July
All Saints’ Youth and Community Hall in Didcot hall is a newly built hall and incorporates a ground-source heat pump to feed low energy/cost under floor heating and rain-water harvesting to reduce water usage.  There will be a chance to see the energy efficient features of the hall.

Workshop on 10th October
Wootton and Dry Sandford Community centre was refurbished and extended in 2010. It incorporated under-floor heating, sensors and timers and has introduced tight management practices to control energy costs.  There will be an opportunity to tour the hall and talk to a member of the hall committee.

These two energy training workshops will be morning sessions finishing with a locally sourced light lunch, and they are FREE for the first 2 delegates per community building.  Each workshop will include information and advice on reviewing energy use, identifying problems and finding solutions.

If you would like to attend the workshop on 12 July or 10 October please go to the following link and complete an application form: http://tinyurl.com/toe2workshops or contact Fiona Danks at TOE2 on 01865 883488 or toe@oxonrcc.org.uk.