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.

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.

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/

Fossil Free Future – 31st May 2014

On Saturday May 31st Fossil Free Oxfordshire’s disinvestment campaign will be marching from the Radcliffe Camera to Bonn Square in support of a fossil free future!

The Rev Hugh Lee, former Rector of St Michael’s at the Northgate, will be speaking at the Rally.

The University of Oxford and Oxfordshire Councils both invest millions of pounds into this the fossil fuel industry – and the campaign is calling on them to join the international movement to divest from fossil fuels, and invest in a fossil free future.

Saturday 31st May 2014 – 11am at Radcliffe Camera – Walk to Bonn Sq for 12pm

This will be a family-friendly, music filled action  – register at www.facebook.com/events/713467618706023/

It makes no sense to invest in companies which undermine our future” – Desmond Tutu

For details of a campaign in support of Fossil Free Churches see: http://www.operationnoah.org/fossilfueldisinvestment

 

Hope for the Future campaign

Hope for the Future is a UK wide campaign aimed at getting realistic climate change policies into the manifestos of the main political parties ahead of the next general election, May 2015. 

The campaign has been started by the North East and Yorkshire Anglican Diocesan Environment Officers Group, and is being put forward as a national and ecumenical initiative.

Hope for the Future encourages church congregations to run ‘Climate Write-ins’ – encouraging people to write individual letters to their MP’s and prospective parliamentary candidates, asking the politicians how their party will incorporate into their manifesto the legally binding carbon budgets to reduce emissions in the UK up to 2027, and plan investment in a low-carbon future for the UK, as recommended by the government’s independent advisor, the Committee on Climate Change.

They are also recruiting and deploying ‘Climate Ambassadors’ to visit churches and encourage them to hold these ‘Climate Write-ins’, strategically targeting key constituencies.

After the ‘Climate Write-in’ people are asked to write follow up letters responding to MP’s replies and lobby them at their surgeries.

For further details and resources visit www.hftf.org.uk.

Renewing ourselves for a changing climate

This column first appeared in the Oxford Mail

The climate has been much on our minds recently. With weeks of rain and flooding causing distress and disruption across the country. Local churches in Oxfordshire and beyond played their part in providing support and refuge, with St Luke’s, Canning Crescent, becoming known as the community’s ‘Noah’s Ark’.

These extreme weather events and consequential floods have bought climate change back into the media spotlight. Politicians have again started talking about the seriousness of climate change, with David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions recently responding to prompting from Ed Milband by saying he believes, “…man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces.” Such attention to the issue has been worryingly absent for some time, and this renewed focus is welcome.

The church has also been reaffirming its commitment to play a leading role in the effort to prevent dangerous climate change. In February the General Synod of the Church of England voted overwhelmingly in support of the Church strengthening its work in this area, and made clear Synod’s desire to see this include the Church’s ethical investment activities and ensure the investment policies are ‘aligned with the theological, moral and social priorities’ of the Church on climate change.
Closer to home the Diocese of Oxford last month joined Low Carbon Oxford, the pioneering city-wide programme of collaboration between private, public and non-profit organisations, which aims to ensure Oxford’s future as a sustainable and low carbon city.

On the ground the diocese, working with the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, has been helping churches access expert energy efficiency advice tailored to their building, aiming to help PCCs reduce carbon footprints and run buildings more sustainably, whilst also creating buildings that are warmer, more welcoming and cost less money to run.

The recent Earthing Faith network gathering, which the diocese runs to encourage and resource churches to connect our faith with environmental issues, in Oxford looked at how churches are developing eco-friendly parishes. Whether it’s hosting events and courses to explore the issues, managing churchyards for biodiversity, changing heating systems or installing solar PV panels, there is lots happening.

As we approach Easter Christians are preparing spiritually in Lent, a season for repentance and renewal. Following the wake-up call of the the recent weather events, repenting for our impact on climate change and renewing our response to its impacts should be part of that preparation. Some are choosing to ‘fast from carbon’, others may intentionally go for a walk to notice the world around you, to catch the first signs of spring and take time to reflect on our impact upon it. However, you choose to mark it, this season of Lent provides an opportunity to reflect on what has been, and, in the waiting, to renew and inspire ourselves for how we might respond to a changing climate.

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This column first appeared in the Oxford Mail

Matt Freer is a freelance project manager and Environment Advisor for the Diocese of Oxford, where he co-ordinates the EarthingFaith.org network