Hope for the Future Event: Talking with MPs about climate change

PARTNERING with other people in care for creation can be an important part of a church’s witness and outreach, a way of practically showing the love of God and neighbour. But how can we work effectively with partners in the community? And how can we build positive relationships with local politicians?

Recently in Oxford, Christians from different churches came together to think through these questions. In the morning Alice Hemming, coordinator of Oxfordshire’s Community Action Groups network, and John Clements, from the Parish of North Hinksey with Botley, spoke about the way in which community sustainability groups operate and how churches can start their own or get involved with them.

Inspired by examples like the Botley Community Fridge, participants brainstormed about activities their churches could undertake and community partners they might work with. In the afternoon, leading environmental charity Hope for the Future ran a session on how to build a constructive relationship with your MP. Using – for the first time – their newly published workbook, which brings together expertise gleaned from research and dozens of MP meetings, Director Jo Musker-Sherwood and Assistant Director Sarah Robinson discussed how parliament works, techniques that are effective in meetings, and how to continue a relationship beyond a single meeting.

The afternoon culminated in a role play exercise in which a group of participants planned and carried out a meeting with Jo standing in as their MP. The response to both sessions was enthusiastic.

If you’d like to find out more or want to receive a Hope for the Future workbook, contact the diocesan world development adviser maranda@ccow.org.uk.

Creation Care and your local church – an Autumn of opportunities…

This Autumn, we have a special opportunity to share our love for God’s creation and for each other … will you join in?

You may have seen the new “For the love of …” campaign. It’s a way of sharing with each other the many different things that we love – people in different parts of the world, our seasons, farming in Somerset, the wonderful majesty of the Great Barrier Reef –  which are threatened by climate change … and because of which we take climate change seriously. Anyone can share what they love online … would you join in, and ask other people in your church to do so, too?

Then there are three opportunities for us to pray and act together as churches, bringing our loves and concerns before God, and putting pressure on politicians to take climate change as seriously as we do.

  • From 1 September to 4 October, many churches will be observing “Time for Creation,” an annual chance to celebrate God’s goodness in giving us this wonderful earth and to explore our role in caring for it. This year the theme is “God Whose Farm Is All Creation,” and the resources (which contain sermon starters and prayers for each week) focus on family farming as well as more generally on creation care and climate issues. If you’re doing something on farming, you might also want to consult the wonderful resources of the Arthur Rank Centre or to talk with our diocesan rural officer, Canon Glyn Evans.

If you’re only choosing one week to celebrate, you might want to pick 21 September, which is the closest Sunday to the UN Secretary General’s special summit on climate change.

  • On the weekend of the 18th and 19th of October, the focus switches to sharing our concern with politicians. Christian Aid’s Hunger for Justice campaign is asking churches during this weekend to invite their MPs to an event or service, and to ask them to speak about their commitments to international development and their responses to climate change. It’s a powerful time offering the chance to pray and to help politicians to see that this is an issue about which we care. If you’d like more information, email Jess Hall at jhall@christian-aid.org or ring 01865 246818. If you can’t invite your MP, you could also use the Hope for the Future letter-writing materials to let him or her know your concerns. Hope for the Future is an initiative of some of the northeastern Church of England dioceses, and it offers a useful pack that you can use to write letters in church or as an individual.
  • Finally, on the 1st of November, you can bring all the Autumn’s events together in a day that involves prayer and fasting (the fasting being in whatever way is appropriate for you and your church). This is the initiative of Faith for the Climate, a working group that brings together a huge number of Christian agencies (Christian Aid, Tearfund, A Rocha, CEL, Operation Noah, CCOW, etc) and churches working on climate change. They’re asking churches to hold a brief time of prayer – and providing service materials if you want them. You’ll be joining people all around the country … and indeed, all around the world. The idea is that we’ll then pray and fast every 1st of the month for a year … praying that God will bring about genuine progress on climate justice at international, national and local levels. If you’d like more information, contact Maranda St John Nicolle.

Church Energy Efficiency Conference

The Trust For Oxfordshires Environment (TOE2) and the Dicoese of Oxford invite you to a day conference exploring how we can make our churches warmer, more welcoming and cost less to run.

Building on the Church Energy Audits Project with TOE2 and Sustain, the day will look at how churches can do their own energy audits and make their own action plans, as well as expert content on:

  • electricity use – covering billing, procurement, efficient lighting.
  • heating systems – how to make your system more efficient, and how to answer the ‘heating on all the time, or only when occupied’ dilemma?
  • renewable technologies for churches – what renewable technologies are suitable for churches?
  • what will the DAC allow?
  • funding – how can you raise the money for your project?

There will be specific issue clinics over lunch so that you can get answers to your particular questions.

We will be joined by staff from Sustain, the DAC Secretary and other experts.

The venue will be St Thomas of Canterbury Church in Goring, which was lovingly repaired, extended and refurbished in 2009. It is light and airy, with a breathable limestone floor with underfloor central heating – and given the use of sustainable materials, such as, blown recycled glass, sheep’s wool insulation, PEFC sourced European Oak and lime render for the facade, it will make an ideal venue for our gathering.

Date: Saturday 4th October 2014
Time: 10.15am – 4pm
Location: St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Goring

– Tickets are free but spaces are limited and registration is essential –

Full details at: www.energy-efficient-church.eventbrite.co.uk

 

Speaker opportunity – Why didn’t you save the forest?

Church Mission Society mission partner, Dr Andrew Leake, is visiting the UK from  September 14th to September 28th 2014.  Andrew works with the indigenous peoples in the Chaco region, and is engaged in pioneering work to protect the environment and prevent deforestation there. If your church would be interested in hearing from Andrew, please do contact Katie Jenkinson at CMS on 01865 787522.

Listen to Andrew speaking about the environment.

Living out our love of God and neighbour

This article first appeared in the Oxford Mail

Maranda St John Nicolle shares some thoughts and reflections on responding to impacts of climate change:

As I write, we’re in the midst of some glorious summer days. Rooftops are crisp against blue sky; evenings are bathed in a golden glow; and plants seem to grow as you look at them.

About this time last year, I was experiencing quite different weather. I was in South Africa, looking at the work that congregations around our link diocese are doing with people in need. It was their wintertime and freezing, but the visit was awe-inspiring. I met women who pooled local donations and the contents of their kitchen cabinets to make meals for vulnerable children; care-workers whose passion for fighting poverty moved them and me to tears; and young people who were working with local leaders to tackle issues of crime and substance abuse.

A teacher in a small town was especially inspiring. Horrified that children with learning disabilities were considered unteachable and kept out of school, she’d trained as a special needs teacher in her “spare” time and gone door to door, seeking out excluded children. She then went to the provincial government and said: Here are the students; I can teach them; will you build a special needs school? The province did, and now dozens of pupils were coming from miles around to be taught skills that would enable them to live with dignity and, in at least some cases, independence.

But I don’t just remember that teacher; I also remember her husband. He was a quiet, undemonstrative farmer and churchwarden. At the time, he was dealing with a multi-year drought. For small farmers, it had been disastrous: their parched land was overgrazed to the point of being barren, and their cattle were skin and bones. The market for all farmers was plummeting. The parish priest said that when the churchwarden came back from a cattle sale, he was crying.
Our link partnership aims to help people in both dioceses grow as disciples of Christ. I came back inspired by Christians who were both living out their love of God and neighbour and moving others, including the government, to action.

But I was also challenged. How can I join in with what the church is doing here to address need? And I just can’t get that drought – the hard earth, the bony cattle – out of my head.

As a Christian I believe that the earth – in all its glorious variety – is the Lord’s, a gift we’re asked to steward in ways that safeguard it for us, neighbours near and far, our children and our grandchildren.

Scientists are clear: if we keep emitting carbon as we do now, extreme rains are likely to increase. Paradoxically, droughts are also likely to become longer and more intense in many areas. And we know the poorest will be hit hardest.

And so I find myself wondering: what can I do to help? I’m resolving to pray, to take personal action (Walk more? Avoid unnecessary flights? Divest from fossil fuels? Turn down the heat? Eat less meat?) and to ask politicians to take policy actions that enable large-scale change.

It’s only a start, and I’m struggling in some areas. I’d like to cut out all flying, but don’t see how I can do that with work and family commitments. But it is a start – and we’ve all got to start somewhere.

And if the next steps are harder? Well, there is still hope. Because God doesn’t just command us to love; God is love. And when God asks us to care for this earth, with all its summer beauty and its challenges, God also offers to love and help us along the way. Thanks be to God.

St George continues to go green…

St George’s Church in Wash Common, nr Newbury have been busyover the last few years making their building more welcoming and warmer.

Through their innovative George Goes Green project the church has been creating a warm, welcoming, usable, sustainable, community space by:

  • Ensuring the church building is accessible, flexible, affordable and widely used for local events
  • Installing a cost effective heating system with low running costs to benefit future generations
  • Lowering our carbon footprint; using green energy and moving away from fossil fuels
  • Flexible hire rates according to means What have we done so far…?
  • Replaced and insulated the church ceiling
  • Installed 129 solar panels plus control systems, and connected to the national grid
  • Added secondary glazing to high windows
  • Created a thermal lobby at the cloister entrance with independent accessAdded a welcome area and re-worked the north car park
  • Resolved pre-existing damp problems

“So much has already been achieved. And now it’s time for the final push; to install a sustainable heating system and open up the church to community use.”
Revd Paul Cowan, Vicar

The project is now moving on to renewable heat through a ground source heat pump.

What’s left to do?

  • To harness ground source heat, requiring 5 boreholes in church grounds
  • To replace the old and inefficient boiler with a ground source heat pump
  • To replace the church floor and install under-floor heating
  • To glaze the north transept to enable its use as a multipurpose meeting space

To help the church to realise the final phase of the project they are asking people to:

  • Use, and recommend, St George’s as an events venue to your friends and neighbours
  • Donate to the project – collect a green form from the back of church
  • Organise a fundraising event
  • Keep your eyes peeled for external funding opportunities
  • Spread the word – raise our profile!
  • Pray for the church community and this project

For more information about the project visit:

www.georgegoesgreen.org

www.st-george-newbury.org

For more information about renewable energy options and your church visit the Diocese o Oxford website.

For the love of …

Have you taken part in the Climate Coalition’s latest campaign For the love of…?

For-the-Love-Of_Abod_tcm15-77960This is a simple platform to engage others in your church in taking action on climate change. It enables people to speak about what they love that is threatened by climate change. This will be presented to politicians this summer as well as during key political moments over the next two years to demonstrate the huge growing concern about climate change across the UK.

You can add your voice and encourage others at http://fortheloveof.org.uk/