Exploring Creation Spirituality

Photo: lars hammar

During Lent this year StillPoint – a project I co-run aimed at nurturing spiritual practice from within the Christian mystical and contemplative tradition but also engaging with other spiritual traditions and the arts – ran an experiential course in Creation Spirituality, a theology that can be helpful to understand and explore when responding to environmental issues.

Creation Spirituality is a phrase originally coined by Matthew Fox (but now in popular usage) to denote a form of spirituality that is based on an understanding of, a relationship with, and an immersion in, creation. Fox – formerly a Dominican monk until silenced by the Vatican and now an American Episcopalian – developed his ideas in his infamous book ‘Original Blessing’.

His basic premise is that much of the western Christian tradition has been based on what he calls a ‘fall-redemption’ paradigm. This has resulted in a hugely under-developed theology of creation, an obsession with guilt and sin, an anthropocentric cosmology, and countless other problems. So instead of Genesis 3 as a starting point for our meaning-making, Fox asserts that we need instead to begin with Genesis 1, with what he calls ‘original blessing’ (as opposed to ‘original sin’).  This is the understanding that at it’s heart all of life is good and sacred. The universe is fundamentally benevolent and to be trusted. This is the essence of the first of the 4 pathways that make up Creation Spirituality – the Via Positiva. But this doesn’t mean that Fox doesn’t acknowledge darkness and broken-ness. The second pathway – the Via Negativa – deals with these themes but also opens up the great apophatic tradition (which finds its roots in the Orthodox tradition) – that God is also to be found in darkness as well as light. The third pathway – the Via Creativa – flows from the second. From this place of trusting in the darkness great creativity emerges in the same way that a seed grows in the darkness before bearing it’s fruit. Fox encourages us to believe that we are all artists. Art is so often thought of in elitist terms. Fox calls instead for its democratization. Lest this be seen to be too self indulgent, the fourth pathway in Fox’s model is the Via Transformitiva – where our creative energy is put to work to address injustice and see change come to our world.

If you’d like to explore Creation Spiritulaity, and the work of Matthew Fox in this area, further you can hear audio recordings and download course notes from the 5 sessions I led in during Lent at the Resources page on the StillPoint website (www.thestillpoint.org.uk). The course will run again at some point so to be kept informed of when that might be sign up for the StillPoint monthly newsletter.

Matt Rees is a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Oxford, a leader of a small spiritual community called ‘Home‘, one of the founding Directors of ‘StillPoint‘ – a project aimed at nurturing spiritual practice, and a member of the Diocesan Fresh Expressions Oversight Group.

Greener cars

Photo by yuuka1

With darker evenings and the colder weather we are all likely to be picking up the car keys more often, so this week we are highlighting a few car-based ideas to help you explore making your car use greener.

Smarter driving

How fuel-efficient is your driving? Some simple changes to the way you drive could cut the fuel you use and save money. Known as smarter driving this involves using your gears, acceleration and powers of anticipation to adopt a more fuel-efficient driving style. The Energy Saving Trust has produced a top ten of smarter driving tips and they also provide businesses with training courses for their employees.

Share a lift

Why not lift share? Find someone else going your way, make new friends, cut your carbon emissions, and save money. Car-sharing can be used for any type of journey at any time. It can make boring solo journeys sociable and fun, and you don’t even need a car to sign up.

There are plenty of schemes that will match you safely up with potential people to share with – either as drivers or passengers, and resources that help calculate the costs, making it easier than ever to share lifts:

Liftshare.org – national website – just sign up for free, add your journeys and find someone to car-share with.

Carplus – national charity promoting responsible car use, with information on car sharing and links to local schemes

For those people in the Diocese of Oxford there are the following council area schemes: Oxfordshire Car Share | Bucks Car Share | Reading Car Share

Car clubs

We’ve mentioned car clubs before, where members get access to a fleet of cars parked in designated bays in local streets without any of the hassle or cost of ownership. There are car club schemes springing up all over the place – and if there isn’t one in your area yet, why not explore starting a community car club in your area, or offer a parking space to an existing club?

Once a member, you can book a car, online or over the phone, for periods upwards of half an hour, and you’re charged according to the length of booking and distance travelled. Members each get a smart card to open the car when they have a booking, so there’s none of the hassle of collecting a conventional hire car.

Commonwheels – a national car club operator that runs community car clubs, and has a  ‘member car scheme’, where members convert their cars into car club cars, and Commonwheels then take on the costs and hassle of maintaining the car and in return, the member gets free use of the car. In the Diocese of Oxford Commonwheels currently operate clubs in Oxford (in association with a local community Car club, Oxcar: www.oxcar.org.uk), High Wycombe and Reading.

StreetCar – a national car club operating in Brighton, Cambridge, Guildford, London, Maidstone, Oxford and Southampton.

Connect by Hertz – is a national car club, which runs the University of Reading Car Club.

For general information about car clubs, and a searchable map of clubs in your area, visit the CarPlus website.

Ever wanted to drive a neighbour’s car? Now you can.

WhipCar is a neighbour-to-neighbour car rental service, that enables you to rent the cars that are sitting idle on your street. It’s like a car club, but makes use of the cars already on your street. Useful for car owners wanting to make the most of your car when it is not being used, or would-be car users looking for a car to use.

WhipCar takes care of all the details (like insurance, screening of drivers, breakdown cover and payment) – to find out more take a look at whipcar.com.

Thinking of buying a new car?

The Greener Car Guide from Start, helps you look for the best driving option for your lifestyle. It goes through all the key options, from hire cars to hybrids, drawing on the wisdom of climate experts, and giving you advice on what would be the best option for your pocket and the environment. The Energy Saving Trust also have a Car Buying Guide, from looking at buying a new or used car, with expert tips on how to buy cars that are better for the environment and why that matters.

top ten smarter driving tipstop ten smarter driving tips

Lighter Later – Write to your MP

Every year the clocks get set in a way that means we get less light in our lives, sleeping through the sunlit mornings while we use expensive, polluting electric light in the evenings. The Lighter Later campaign is calling to move the clocks forward by one hour so that we are awake when the sun is out.

This December a Private Member’s Bill supporting the Lighter Later campaign is going to Parliament. Those supporting the campaign includes RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), the AA and Sustrans.

People are asked to support the Private Member’s Bill by asking for their MP’s support. Find out more here.

Keeping warm this winter

As the cold weather starts some people in our communities will be struggling to keep warm. To help combat this, a free phone helpline has been set up to advise residents in Oxfordshire how to cut their fuel bills. The service is offered by the United Sustainable Energy Agency in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council, the five district councils and the Primary Care Trust.

If you have struggled to stay warm in previous years or are struggling with your energy bills, or you know of someone that is, you can call the helpline for free, impartial advice on:

  • Improving the efficiency of your property through cavity wall and loft insulation including the grants available
  • Warm Front grants to help with heating system replacements
  • Switching energy suppliers to find the best deal
  • Social tariffs provided by the energy companies for vulnerable customers
  • Advice on fuel debt
  • Home Improvement Agencies who undertake minor repairs for vulnerable home owners
  • Sign posting to other active support organisations
  • Information on improving your energy efficiency to cut your energy bills

The phone number is 0800 1070044 and is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Solar panels for a Saxon church in the Diocese of Oxford

ULTRA modern solar panels are being installed one of the UK’s finest Anglo Saxon churches. The £50,000 project was inspired when the congregation at All Saints, Wing with Grove in Buckinghamshire decided to look into becoming more environmentally friendly. They began by deciding to support Shrinking the Footprint, the Church of England’s national environmental campaign.

The solar panels were inspired by St Denys Church, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, which was featured on the BBC’s Songs of Praise programme. The PCC asked former church warden Martin Findlay to visit Sleaford and find out more.

Martin said: “We realised that all churches face east and therefore are likely to have south facing roofs. This is ideal for solar installations.

“In light of the current global climate change crisis, we felt that in addition to praying
at services for Christians look after God’s creation. The Church should take action to reduce its carbon footprint.”

The PCC began a feasibility study into the scheme and then began to raise funds, get a ‘faculty’ (special permission from the Diocese to carry out the work), and planning permission from Aylesbury Vale District Council.

This month the 54 Solar Photo Voltaic panels will be ready to be installed on the nave and south aisle roofs.

The Church will benefit from the government’s new Feed-In tariffs which were introduced in April 2010. Feed-In tariffs mean energy suppliers have to make regular payments to householders and communities who generate their own electricity from renewable or low carbon sources. It will also be able to sell the energy it produces to the National Grid.

Martin added: “It has taken a lot of hard work by the PCC and the congregation but it has paid off and we are delighted that we are now in a position to install these solar panels. We are now developing plans for further action to become carbon neutral as soon as possible.”

Solar panels for a Saxon church – Diocese of Oxford.

Churches that are part of the Diocese of Oxford and interested in exploring putting solar panels on their buildings can contact the diocese for further information: click here.

Big Lottery Fund launches £75m grants scheme for buildings

The Big Lottery Fund is opening a £75m community buildings grants programme that some churches could be eligible for. Not-for-profit groups will be able to apply for sums of between £100,000 and £500,000 each from the BLF’s Reaching Communities programme from early December.

via Shrinking The Footprint – News Item.

Reading area event: How to use your community building to generate clean energy – 23rd November

An information evening for voluntary, faith and community organisations to explore how you can use your community building to generate clean energy and get paid for it.

On the night there will be:

  • Impartial advice from an Energy Savings Trust expert plus local project study from Park United Reform Church
  • How to save money making your building more energy efficient; a case study from Friends Meeting House
  • Don’t own your building? Expert advice on how to convince your landlord to help

Please book a place by emailing chair@gren.org.uk or call 07828 498 315

Time: Tue 23 November 2010 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Venue: Friends Meeting House, 2 Church Street, Reading, RG1 2SB

Organised by GREN (Greater Reading Environmental Network)