Sustainable work and lifestyle – 10 February 2014

Reading at Work Presents

Sustainable work and lifestyle – Exploring sustainability and work, on world, local and personal levels

With Revd Dr John Weaver, Chairman – The John Ray Initiative

Date: 7:45pm, Monday 10th February 2014

Venue: Bill’s Restaurant, Chain St, Reading RG1 2HX

The evening will start at 7.45 with a time of networking and the opportunity to order food and drinks from the restaurant menu (http://bills- before John speaks and leads a discussion.

There is no charge to attend, other than the cost of your food and drinks

To book or for more information email

Conference on Sustainable Communities – 1 March 2014

The annual Redcliffe College / JRI Environment conference is on Saturday 1st March 2014. There is a discount rate of £36 for early booking (by 31st January). The ordinary price is £42. The conference theme is “Sustainable communities: what has the church got to offer?”

Three keynote speakers:

  • Tim Gorringe has taught theology at Madurai (India), Oxford, and St. Andrews. He is the 
St. Luke’s Professor at Exeter University, and author of many books including A Theology of the Built Environment (2002). Together with his wife Gill he runs a 15 acre smallholding with sheep, bees, poultry, fruit and veg.
  • Molly Scott Cato is Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at Roehampton University. She is author of The Bioregonal Economy (2012), Environment and Economy (2011), and also Green Economics (2009). She is the Green Party’s economics spokesperson.
  • Ruth Valerio is Theology Director for A Rocha UK, and runs Living Lightly. She is involved in a pig-keeping social enterprise, and also in Transition Chichester. Ruth has a doctorate from King’s College London on simplicity and consumerism, and wrote L is for Lifestyle.

Plus lots of seminars.

The venue: Redcliffe College, Gloucester.

Further details and booking > brochure and booking form at Redcliffe College website.

Joy in enough – 29 March 2014

Christian Ecology Link Day Conference at the Carrs Lane URC Centre, Birmingham B4 7SX, on Saturday 29 March, 2014 (11am to 5pm).

Keynote speaker: Dan O’Neill – Lecturer in ecological economics at the University of Leeds; chief economist at the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE); and co-author of Enough is Enough.

Economic growth has turned toxic – but there really is an alternative. And God’s people are called to the cutting edge of change.

What might a genuinely sustainable economy look like? And how can the churches make it happen? Join us to map out the journey to a happier, healthier, and holier world.

Details and booking at

Causing a buzz at St Thomas’s

by Jo Duckles

First appeared in the Diocesan newspaper, The Door

THOUSANDS of honey bees have been given a home in a church yard in central Oxford.

Since last spring the sound of buzzing could be heard in the grounds of St Thomas’s Church. Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Jonathan Beswick, has wanted to keep bees since he was a boy and is delighted with the occupants of the hives. They were introduced last spring after a conversation with an enthusiastic PCC and advice from a local bee keeping expert. In their first season alone they produced 100 lbs of honey.

Environmental Bee Summit

Jonathan, who will be going to Oxford Friends of the Earth’s Bee Summit as Bishop John’s representative on 7 February, says: “The churchyard is like an acre of the most gorgeous countryside. It feels like a village churchyard in many ways.

“One of the figures in the glass at St Thomas’s is St Ambrose, one of the fathers of the church, holding a bee hive in his hands. When he was a baby in his cot a swarm landed on his face. When they left, they had just left a drop of honey on his lips, foretelling of the sweetness of his future teaching and preaching.”

Jonathan says the bees and the Christian faith go hand in hand in many ways, from the beeswax traditionally used to make church candles through to parallels with individual bees forming colonies to individual Christians making up the body of Christ.

“I lived in a monastery for five years when I left school. Some of the older brothers were committed to keeping bees. Over the years people who keep bees have interested or intrigued me,” he says.

2,000 eggs a day

In the right conditions, bee colonies can grow very quickly, with a queen laying 2,000 eggs a day at the height of the season. Jonathan, who describes keeping the stripy insects as a life changing experience, says: “One amazing moment was a friend taking a swarm and letting them out next to the hive, seeing them find their way into their new home, especially taking my glove off and putting my hand into the hive. Contrary to a lot of people’s expectations when bees swarm they are unlikely to sting anyone. They are not aggressive. If you put your hand amongst them they will walk over it without hurting you. It was an experience putting my hand into 20,000 bees and feeling all of those tiny feet tickling but going about their business.”

Another memorable moment last year was encountering a swarm of bees on Holywell Street. Jonathan was told that pest control were going to remove them, so offered to give them a new home in the church yard. “My beekeeping friend, who has done this before, very carefully broke them off the gutter into a box and we took them to St Thomas’s. I see them as Beckett’s Bees.Thomas Beckett, our patron saint, used to walk through the church yard. It’s good that our patron saint was familiar with the area.”

The Revd Jonathan Beswick is buzzing with enthusiasm for bee keeping.

The Revd Jonathan Beswick is buzzing with enthusiasm for bee keeping.

Jonathan admits to a few stings in his first few months as a beekeeper but believes the pain has been worth it. “Historically clergy have been beekeepers. Keeping bees speaks of a different pace of life in a society where we are encouraged to run ever faster on the treadmill.”

And the hives have attracted plenty of attention from people who use the churchyard as a short cut, with interested passers-by even leaving notes on the hives asking Jonathan to get in touch.

So, as Jonathan prepares to go along to the bee summit, he has been reading up on the plight of this declining species. Watching More Than Honey a 2012 film by Markus Imhoof, hammered home the sobering thought that if bees die out, a third of the world’s food supply will disappear. It highlights how in China, where bees have died out due to excessive use of pesticides, migrant workers collect pollen and have to go around with paint brushes, pollinating plants.

Another film on bees is 2009’s Vanishing of the Bees by George Langworthy and Maryam Henein. For more on bee keeping contact the British Bee Keepers Association,, 0871 811 2282.

Swifts and churches

Swifts nest under the eaves of St Etheldreda’s Church Horley.

Swifts nest under the eaves of St Etheldreda’s Church Horley.

Swift numbers in Britain have decreased by up to 40% in the last 20 years. There are several likely reasons for this, but one is the loss of nest sites. Swifts return to the same nest hole every year, and so when buildings need repair or are demolished, nest sites can be lost. Also, almost without exception modern buildings do not have the gaps and crevices which are essential for Swifts to nest. So largely it is older, less well-sealed buildings with a few gaps under the eaves or tiles or in the pointing, which are favoured by Swifts – like some of our churches.

We are trying to encourage people to notice Swifts and where they are nesting. If local people know where the nest sites are, it’s easier to look after them, and to encourage Swift-friendly building work.

This is as relevant to churches as to other buildings, because churches are still important nesting places for Swifts. There are at least 10 churches in the Cherwell District which have nesting Swifts.

Swifts nesting in a church can easily go unnoticed. Parties of screaming Swifts may be obvious, but they are extremely adept at entering their nest holes; add the facts that nests are not visible from the outside and that Swifts leave no mess, and it’s not surprising that the nests are often overlooked.

There are several ways in which parishioners, PCCs and church authorities can help.

One is by being alert to the possibility that Swifts may be using the church for nesting.  Screaming parties of Swifts seen regularly near the church, are an indication that they are nesting in the building or very close by.

In the period when Swifts are actually nesting, the nest hole it is illegal to disturb it. The same applies to all birds. At other times the ideal solution is to leave the particular space alone if at all possible. If this cannot be done, advice should be obtained about Swift-friendly building work and about providing alternatives (see below*).

Also if Swifts are found to be using the church for nesting or if screaming parties are seen nearby, it may be possible to install a nest box behind the louvred windows in the tower. This would need the support of the PCC and approval from the Diocese, but it is relatively cheap and simple to do, and it does not involve drilling into the masonry. It has been successfully done in several churches in Cambridgeshire and local churches in Oxfordshire are now following their example.

The Cherwell Swifts Conservation Project has these aims:

  • to protect Swifts’ nesting places
  • to encourage the creation of more nest places and
  • to raise awareness of the reasons for Swifts’ declining population and what people can do about it

*For more information see the following websites:

or in Oxfordshire contact Chris Mason (

Divestment Discussion – 22 Jan 2014

How Should the Church respond to the threat of Climate Change?

 A Discussion concerning the call to disinvest from Fossil Fuel Companies

The campaign to disinvest from fossil fuel companies is gathering strength with universities, businesses, banks and religious groups choosing to respond to Climate Change by redirecting their investments away from fossil fuels.

Bracknell Deanery Synod recently considered a motion to disinvest.  It came to the conclusion that the issues were complex, and arguments for and against multifaceted.  To help its members to come to a considered decision, it elected to arrange an evening in which experts could set out various positions in some detail.

We are pleased to announce that on Wednesday, the 22nd of January 2014, at 7.30pm at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Warfield, four distinguished speakers will present arguments for and against disinvestment – including  David Atkinson (former Bishop of Thetford), Mark Letcher (Director of Climate Works) and Dr James Corah (Secretary for Church Investors Group).

Further details from Revd. Dr. Darrell D. Hannah of All Saints’ Church – |