Exploring the abundance of summer

This article originally appeared in the Oxford Times

The summer is here – the abundance of life is clearly all around us – nature is busy doing its thing! It is a time when we perhaps feel more connected to the earth. Delights for our senses are everywhere, from the sweetness of freshly picked strawberries and peas, to the wonder of so many shades of green around us.

It is a time of year when we might start to sense and know more fully that we are all connected to nature. It isn’t just something that we watch on TV, or that we venture into to walk the dog. In fact it isn’t something we go into at all, rather we are part of it. Really we are indistinguishable from nature.

This realisation can be profound. It has the potential to help us change the way we view nature, and also how we look after it. It is also good for us! Growing evidence suggests that embracing nature connection boosts our physical and psychological well-being and deepens our ecological sensitivity.

Nature connection is also central to the Forest Church movement that has been steadily growing over the past two years (now with over 13 groups in the UK and a presence in four countries) and is asking the question of what ‘being church’ whilst participating with nature might look like? There are a few Forest Church groups in the Oxford area exploring this question and connecting with their local nature in different ways. In Carterton a group has, for example, been exploring bushcraft skills and orienteering at Kilkenny Country Park, whilst Wychwood Forest Church started with a sponsored walk in the Charlbury area.

Oxford Forest Church recently met at Wytham Woods again (we are wanting to see it in every season for a year). It was a week before the Summer Solstice, so we reflected on the gifts of the sun, the light, warmth, colour and abundance it brings. It was also a week after Pentecost, so we celebrated the presence of Spirit who gives life in all its fullness. Thanks to Dr Andy Gosler (a University Research Lecturer in Ornithology & Conservation) we were treated to a close-up encounter with a nest of Great Tit fledglings – and we took time to engage with nature silently. We closed our time with a tea ceremony, using tea made of three plants from the summer’s abundance – chamomile for peace and rest, dandelion leaves for cleansing, and elderflower for strength of voice and song. We passed the tea around with the words “may the blessing of God’s abundance be with you”.

As you enjoy the abundance of summer why not take time to purposefully head outside to appreciate nature, and how you’re part of it? Use all your senses. You could walk outside barefoot, like St Francis did, so he would experience no disconnect between himself and “Sister Earth”.

May the blessings of God’s abundance be with you, wherever you find yourself this summer.

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Find out more about Forest Church groups in the Oxford area here.

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

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.

Church and Energy Management Workshops – March 2012

sMeasure and the Diocese of Oxford will be running a Church and Energy Management Workshop in three venues during March. The workshop will be run by sMeasure and provide a walk through their software, which is being offered to churches in a pilot scheme, and explain how to analyse and use the data it provides, as well as discuss good energy management practices for churches.

The workshops are open to churches registered in the energy monitoring pilot on a first come first served basis, and up to two people per church can attend. They will start at 7.30pm and finish by 9.30pm and take place at the following:

  • Wednesday 21st March in Oxford at Diocese Church House, North Hinksey Lane
  • Thursday 22nd March in Reading at Trinity Church, Earley
  • Wednesday 28th March in Aylesbury at Church of the Good Shepherd, Southcourt

To register for one of the workshops please complete the online form.

Resources

New resources for the energy monitoring pilot are also now available, including a number of guide sheets to help churches understand how sMeasure works and how to use the data it gives, these cover for example analysing your data, understanding weather as a driver for your heating demand and how performance benchmarking works. You can download all the guideson the Diocese of Oxford’s website here.

2012: Celebrate Making a Difference

2012 is to be the diocesan Living Faith year of ‘Making a Difference’. We embark upon it knowing that ordinary Christians are busy transforming the lives of others, often in quiet and unsung ways. The aim in 2012 is to share together what we do, inspiring one another in new and different ways. We have begun by asking ordinary Christians across the Diocese to tell us how you are making a difference.

Here’s what some have already said:

‘I work in the international coal industry which puts more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other industry, so I take every opportunity to persuade everyone involved in the industry to reduce its carbon emissions.  This is part of caring for all of God’s creation and everyone on our planet.’

‘I am privileged to work as a Church Governor at my local primary school and have the opportunity of sharing my faith with young children.’

‘I visit the elderly some of whom have dementia. I hope my regular visiting helps them to retain the sense of their own unique value.’

As these sentences suggest Christians offer phenomenal gifts to the world, through activities that are local, national and international.

What do you do?
We are asking people to share a sentence, like the ones above, that sum up how you make a difference. Simply fill in the form below to send us yours.

2012 is an opportunity to celebrate what we are currently doing; inspire one another to embrace new things, and to remember that we are joining in God’s mission, so will find God there.

Here’s a few ways you can be part of the year:

  • Reflect and pray together, using the various written publications and resources that will be produced throughout the year, including a six session resource for personal and group reflection, ‘BE the Difference’ (due out March 2012), and ‘Passion for Real Life’, a resource for Holy Week.
  • Celebrate ‘Make A Difference Sunday’ during the ‘Month of Sundays’ that is October 2012. We will be producing resources later in the year to enable parishes to celebrate the activities of those in the congregation. Set aside an October Sunday NOW, and begin to think about who and what you would like to celebrate, and how you can thank God and inspire one another.
  • Attend the arts-based Making a Difference diocesan festival that will be held on Saturday 27th October 2012. Parishes will be invited to come along, bringing something with them that is symbolic of how they make a difference, so that we can gather these together and make a big celebratory work of art! Keynote speakers include Ann Morisy (author of many books on mission and social action), and Janice Price (Archbishop’s Council Adviser on World Mission).
  • Partner with your local school: the Diocesan Board of Education is focusing on Making a Difference too, especially in the academic year beginning in September 2012.
  • Revamp your church noticeboard to make sure you are communicating with the world about how you are making a difference in your local community and/or nationally/globally. We will be inviting photographs and running a competition for the best one!

Share what you do

Use the form below to share a sentence about how you are making a difference.

[contact-form-7 id=”3037″ title=”Make a difference form”]

Your Church and Heat Pumps

The Diocese of Oxford has published an information sheet to introduce how heat pumps could be used to heat your church. It will help you assess the suitability of your church and provides a list of things to consider as you develop a project to install heat pump technology and benefit from the government Renewable Heat Incentive.

Download the document or view it online:

Your church and Woodfuel (Biomass)

The Diocese of Oxford has published an information sheet to introduce how biomass could be used to heat churches.

It aims to help you assess the suitability of your church and provides a list of things to consider as you develop a project to install a biomass boiler and benefit from the government Renewable Heat Incentive.

Download the document or view it online:

Your Church and Solar PV

Information to help churches exploring installing solar PV.

The Diocese of Oxford has produced an information sheet that introduces how solar energy could be used to generate electricity in your church, as well as help you assess the suitability of your church and provides a list of things to consider as you develop a project to install solar panels.

There is also advice about how your church may be able to benefit from the government Feed-In-Tariff. Read more and download the guide…